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The Key To The Universe
- Michael Des Barres


Michael Des Barres is a guy that's famous for a little bit of everything. You may know him from his role as super villain Murdoc from the popular 80's television series MacGyver, or perhaps one of his many movie roles. It may be his early music work with Silverhead or Detective you know, the latter of which was signed to Zeppelin's Swan Song label. Or, well, you just might know him as the ex-husband of world famous groupie Pamela Des Barres. However you might be familiar with Des Barres, if you're a fan of straight forward rock and roll, his latest album, The Key To The Universe, is worth wrapping your ears around.

 

I'm not going to tell you that the production is top notch here, and I won't tell you that this is an artistic masterpiece, because it's not. I will tell you that this is a raw and real rock and roll record. This is a record made up of simple songs that utilize the verse-chorus-verse, guitar-bass-drum formula of yesteryear to its fullest ability. There's something organic and gritty about Des Barres' voice inside of this formula, too. Sounding a bit like a cross between Neil Young and Rod Stewart, Des Barres keeps his singing simple, too. These songs don't call for any vocal acrobatics, and Des Barres recognizes that and doesn't over-sing them.

 

The musicians Des Barres has around him for this record are definitely top notch. With Hendrix aficionado Dani Robinson on guitar and Robert Plant/Portishead drummer Clive Deamer lending a hand it's difficult to fail, but it's bassist Nigel Harrison (Blondie) that takes this set to another level. Harrison reunites with his former Silverhead bandmate and really lays down a deep groove with some adventurous fills. Harrison sounds extremely comfortable inside these songs and his free spirit shines through.


"I Want Love To Punch Me In The Face" kinda says it all. The heavy groove and simplicity of this foot-tapping rocker is what this whole album is all about. The irony of this song is that it sucker punches you in the gut. "Maybe Means Nothing," "Liberty Train," and "I Can't Get You Off My Mind" are all songs with this same groove and power. "I Can't Get You Off My Mind" was written by the brilliant Linda Perry, who's written songs for everyone from Christina Aguilera and Pink to Cheap Trick and Courtney Love. There are quite a few sounds going on within these tracks, though.
"Yesterday's Casanova" has an early David Bowie feel to it. "Black Sheep Are Beautiful" has a Zeppelinesque guitar and drum sound in the verses. "Burning In Water, Drowning In Flames" is a Paul Rodgers-influenced vocal performance inside of an excellent blues track. Perhaps one of the simplest tracks on the album and one of the most appealing to me was "Room Full Of Angels". Coming across as a more radio friendly, Tom Petty-like radio song, this is yet another simple ditty with great appeal.




This album is a great example of less being more. No big production magic. No complex instrumentation. No bullshit. This is a simple album of rock songs that have been stripped naked and spanked by Des Barres, and you can hear each of them moan with rock and roll pleasure.






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