Gerry Lane’s New Album Shows There’s Still Some Life Left in Rock

Down on the Boulevard is Irish guitarist’s sixth solo album

Call me a happy camper. Gerry Lane is the second great artist I just “discovered” and write about during the same weekend. Like Minimum Vital, which I covered in my previous post, Lane popped up in the same “New Music Mix” my streaming provider served up yesterday. And like the French progressive rock band, Lane also doesn’t have a Wikipedia page, even though he has been active since 1970 and played with Noel Redding (yep, that bassist from the Jimi Hendrix Experience) and Gary Moore, among others. What’s up with that?

According to his website, Lane was born in West Cork, Southern Ireland. His first instrument was a button key accordion. He later progressed to guitar, and during his early teens he played in the family pub with whoever the visiting musician was. He played in many bands in the West Cork area, one of the most successful being a band called “SOUTHERN COMFORT”…

While in that band he met Noel Redding (Ex Bass player with the Jimi Hendrix Experience). Gerry and Noel played together in various bands around Southern Ireland. During the late 70’s Gerry played the showband circuit in Ireland and England with bands like, Stage 2, Tony Stevens Band and Discovery…In 1980 Gerry formed a band called ” DRIVESHAFT “. With that band he toured extensively in Ireland and England playing headline gigs…and supporting visiting international acts like: Rory Gallagher (also from Cork Ireland), Phil Lynott’s Grand Slam, ZZ Top, Def Leppard, Saxon and the Michael Schenker Group.

In 1983 Gerry moved to England and while living in London he got to work and record with Gary Moore, Cozy Powell (ex-Rainbow / Whitesnake / Jeff Beck / Black Sabbath), Neil Murray (ex-Bass player with Whitesnake / Brian May Band), John Sinclair (Keyboard player with Ozzy Osbourne / Uriah Heep)…In 1993 Gerry moved to the Canary Islands (Gran Canaria) where he now lives and works.

Gerry Lane

The singer-songwriter’s and producer’s vocal influences include Joe Cocker, Tony Joe White, Jimmy Barnes and Bob Seger. Lane’s website also notes Eric Clapton, Mark Knopfler, Rory Gallagher, BB King and Buddy Guy as guitarists who have influenced him. When it comes to songwriting, he cites Tony Joe White, Keb’ Mo’, Mark Knopfler, John Hiatt and Bob Seger. Okay, you might say, any music artist can name famous peers. At the end of the day what truly matters is the music. And the music on this album is a lot fun to listen to, so let’s finally get to some of it.

Here’s the title song and opener. Like all of the 10 tracks on the album, it was written by Lane. Down on the Boulevard also includes a new version of Meloneras Blues, the title track from what appears to be his solo debut from 2008. Check it out!

The album’s second track Kick off them Shoes has a cool blues and Stax soul vibe. It reminds me a bit of Cocker’s You Can Leave Your Hat On. This is some tasty shit!

Track no. 3 is called Cryin’ in the Rain. When the first three songs of an album are great, usually, it’s a good sign. Just like the previous tune, I dig the soulful vibe.

The Writing’s on the Wall features some nice slide guitar action.

Let’s finish things up with another tasty rocker: Solid as a Rock. With that cool guitar riff and sound, I could actually picture this as an AC/DC song. And guess what? It turns out the tune is a tribute to rhythm guitarist Malcolm Young, as the notes to the following clip point out.

Mal was a hard man/He was born into a clan/He was a guitar singer/In a rock & roll band/He was dynamite/He was TNT/He was out of sight/He touched the devil in me

He was solid as a rock/He took it to the top/He was solid as a rock/He never let it stop – that’s right/He was solid as a rock…

Yeah, baby!

Sources: Gerry Lane website; YouTube

What I’ve Been Listening to: Minimum Vital/Air Caravan’

Until a couple of days ago, I had never heard of Minimum Vital. Then my streaming music provider served up the catchy Air Caravan’ as part of a “New Music Mix.” The tune is the title track of the band’s most recent studio album released in December 2019. Interestingly, neither Apple Music nor Wikipedia provide any information on the group. So, who are these guys?

According to their website, Minimum Vital are a progressive rock band from France, which were founded in 1982 by Thierry Payssan (keyboards, percussion) and his twin brother Jean-Luc Payssan (guitars, percussion). Initially called Concept, the band adopted their current name in 1985. In addition to the twin brothers, the present line-up includes Éric Rebeyrol (bass, horn) and Charly Berna (drums). Since I don’t listen much to prog rock, perhaps this helps explain why I had not been aware of Minimum Vital. I’d be curious whether you had heard of them before.

Minimum Vital
Minimum Vital (from left): Jean-Luc Payssan, Charly Berna, Éric Rebeyrol & Thierry Payssan

Minimum Vital call themselves a “loyal heir from the classic progressive rock of the 70’s.” More specifically, they describe their music as “sailing between Rock music, Progressive, Celtic and Medieval: all of this reaching toward an imaginary folklore which melted recently with some oriental influences.” Based on what I’m hearing on Air Caravan’, this all sounds right to me. Let’s get to some music!

Appropriately, I’d like to kick things off with the tune that brought Minimum Vital on my radar screen: Air Caravan’, the album’s title track. All of the music was composed by the twin brothers, while the arrangements are credited to the entire band. I dig the instrumental harmonies, which are also dominant on the other tracks of the album. Most of the music is instrumental. Overall, their sound reminds me a bit of some of Mike Oldfield’s music.

King Gürü is a cool prog rocker with an oriental vibe. Unlike some other prog rock I’ve heard, I find Minimum Vital’s music pretty accessible. Check it out!

Here’s Sliman. I really like the keyboard sound and bass work on this track. The guitar ain’t shabby either. It’s obvious these guys are very capable musicians.

Let’s do one more: Hughes Le Loop, the closer. It also felt appropriate to acknowledge the band’s heritage with a French track.

Air Caravan’ is Minimum Vital’s eighth studio album, according to a review in Progressive Rock Journal. Altogether, I count an impressive 23 records that are listed on the band’s website. Their website also notes they have toured outside of France and overseas. Searching Setlist.fm, the only U.S. gig I found was Progfest 1994, a two-day event in Los Angeles in November that year. Since the content of the free wiki-like service depends on subscribers and their willingness to share setlists of concerts they attended, it’s safe to assume the site doesn’t capture all of the band’s previous gigs.

Strangely, Minimum Vital’s website only lists a handful of past events in the schedule section. That’s a pity! Unless the band is pretty well known among prog rock fans, they could do a better job of getting the word out about their music. As noted above, even to this music blogger who doesn’t listen much to prog rock, their music sounds pretty good!

Sources: Minimum Vital website; Progressive Rock Journal; Setlist.fm; YouTube