Veteran singer-songwriter Rick Shaffer recently released Misadventure, his fifth solo album via Tarock Music. The well-regarded songwriter’s storied career began in the late 70’s when he fronted the Philadelphia based New Wave band The Reds®, whose self-titled debut album was released on A&M Records to great praise from critics and fans alike. The band also went on to release records for Sire/Warner Brothers Records and had their music placed in several episodes of the originalMiami Vice television series and movies like Nightmare On Elm Street 2. Additionally, Shaffer and keyboard player, Bruce Cohen, got into composing film scores and music for soundtracks which led to Shaffer writing/composing, “Looking For Right,” for Michael Mann’s 2004 film,Collateral. Recently, Universal Music reissued re-mastered versions of The Reds®’ classic albums as many of them had been long out of print.
Alongside reunion albums from The Reds® and more film scores, Shaffer has set out on a solo career, releasing his debut solo album in 2010. Over the years he has crafted a brand of grungy 60’s garage-rock that incorporates touches of howling blues, backwoods country and snarling punk rock that remains planted in his past yet simultaneously fresh and modern. He also takes great pride in the production and sound of each album, utilizing influences like Phil Spector to create a thick wall of sound as well as the raw and classic Nashville blues sound of Excello Records. Altogether, his strong songwriting and keen ear for timeless production gives his music a nostalgic pull that pays homage to his influences without even a hint of pastiche. Misadventure was written, produced and performed entirely by Rick himself, save for additional drums and percussion from guests Les Chisholm, Del Robinson, Anna Burne and Boo Boo Spencer.
The album opens with the dueling guitar melodies and scuzzy blues rock of “Fooling Me” that recalls hair metal’s sleaze-filled glory days. The first single, “Some Say” follows with Shaffer’s growling vocal presence set to a sinister, whip-cracking rhythm and guitars drenched in Link Wray-inspired surf rock reverb for a standout moment. Shaffer heeds his own advice on the rollicking and aptly-titled “Turn It Up,” with its loud, ringing guitars, swaying vocal melodies and fun, sing-along background vocals, it gets the party started. As a change of pace, “Out Of Time” offers a shuffling country rhythm, old timey harmonica and some southern vocal twang. Next, the catchy “Falling Down” adds some David Bowie-esque 70’s glam rock to Shaffer’s blues-drenched garage rock sound to great effect. With buzzing guitars that veer off into a high-pitched twang and a swaggering 60’s rhythm “Commotion” sure causes one, sounding like the Rolling Stones in a back alley blues club for another standout moment.
“Get It” follows that up with a hip-shaking rhythm and some distorted blues rock guitar riffs complete with a melodic guitar solo as Shaffer adopts a slurring vocal swagger. As a nod to The Reds®, “Listen Now” features a propulsive New Wave beat, punk-informed gang vocals and several blistering guitar solos. Another testament to Shaffer’s clever arranging and songwriting is “To The Top,” a rip-roaring blend of British Invasion, classic rock guitar heroics, Ramones-like energy and bluesy harmonica. On paper, those things should not work as well as they do in his hands. Help Me Now” blends blues rock riffs with surf rock rhythms and the strutting “Gone Gone Gone” boasts slinky slide guitar and an anthemic, sing-along refrain for a nice late album one-two punch. Closing out the twelve track album is “Another High” which rides out on a wave of noise-addled distorted guitars and wailing harmonica, leaving you stunned, yet wanting another hit.
With his latest album, Misadventure, Rick Shaffer has crafted yet another great album of diverse 60’s-inspired garage-rock that only adds to his long list of great accomplishments.
∎ Justin Kreitzer
(After years of playing in various bands, and managing a record store, Justin Kreitzer turned his experienced ear and lifelong passion for music into Atlas and the Anchor, the ever-growing indie music blog. He’s also a contributing writer for Fabricoh Magazine, the Dayton City Paper, New Noise Magazine, and does PR for Misra Records.)