Speaking to trumpet player and Manager Peter W. Kehl last February, the good news after the band’s super show at Bonn Harmonie was that a new Thorbjørn Risager & The Black Tornado disc was on its way. The bad news, that it wasn’t going to hit the shops/internet until much, much later in the year. Recorded at Viktoria studios Copenhagen between January and October, ‘Come On In’ has indeed been a long time coming – but well worth the wait.
Almost a third of the songs on ‘Come On In’ actually had an outing on that Febraury day. A Bluesier release than 2017’s ‘Change My Game’ was tantalisingly suggested, and indeed, has been delivered. In fact, even when things get funkier, as on ‘Nobody but the Moon’, there is still very much of a Blues fundament. Not that other genres don’t get a look in. There’s a fine Rock ‘n’ Roll outing ala Chuck Berry in ‘Change in the Weather’ with it’s walking bass and trilling Berry guitar, there’s a rocker in the shape of ‘Love So Fine’ that starts courtesy of new man Joachim Svensmark’s guitar but could easily be a guest appearance from Billy Gibbons such is it’s sharp and bluesy hook.
I remember that Joachim Svensmark’s contribution to the concert at Bonn Harmonie in February was a pleasant surprise, his guitar playing was always bitingly spot on and despite his newness in the band, he found the right groove almost instantly. On that basis, if I do have a disappointment about ‘Come On In’ it is that this is the only track where he really gets a chance to show his chops. I would guess that the material was largely written before his arrival on the scene, so my hope is that his undoubted guitar talents will be more utilized on the next release.
It might actually be something of a conundrum that will face Risager on the next disc. Svensmark’s playing has the word ‘band’ written all over it, at the same time as the disc has a cover featuring Risager alone, and you need to hunt to the booklet end to find a band photo. When I first saw the cover I thought it was either an old disc I had missed or a stop-gap solo project before the new ‘band’ release.
Musically too, ‘Come On In‘ seems geared much more towards a solo release. Risager’s lead vocal is always high in the mix, and that’s no bad thing since the Dane is one of the best Blues/Soul vocalists around. Very often, there seems to be just a slightly muted, tasteful, backing from the Black Tornado where nobody seems to get an opportunity to stretch out their musical talents, and there are some excellent musicians on-board here as my many visits to TR concerts have taught me. Aside from Svensmark’s already praised guitar licks, Emil Balsgaard’s keys and the trinity of Kehl, Wagner and Nybo punching the music along are always a key to the band’s live success.
On the disc, it seems to be the rhythm section who get more chances to shine though and shine they undoubtedly do. Bojgaard’s bass and Seidelin’s drum/percussion work are the fundaments on most of the disc behind the ‘star’ that is undoubtedly Risager’s warm, part whiskey, part honey-soaked, voice. “Got a life to live, songs to sing – I’m not giving in” as he announces on ‘Never Givin’ In’ – which is certainly good news for lovers of quality Blues dipped in Soul with a brass band pop.
For those who, like me, think ‘Too Many Roads’ is still the band’s best work to date there are numbers to enjoy that could have fallen right off the same musical tree – ‘On and On’ marries the centre-point vocals with a simple but effective guitar riff perfectly and ‘Two Lovers’ makes the hairs on my neck tingle as much as they do with ‘China Gate’.
Whatever the band do, they do it with confidence and style. ‘I’ll Be Gone’ sees Risager together with just a steel guitar, both of them blue enough to be black. I can almost see Svensmark duckwalking to ‘Over the Hill’ and the pop music appeal of ‘Last Train’ nods once again to the best moments on ‘Too Many Roads’.
Audiophiles will love the smoothe production. Blues fans might have wished for a dirtier sound, and rock fans might have wished for more of the riffs to be found here only on ‘Love So Fine’. Fans of Thorbjørn Risager’s soulful voice will be in seventh heaven though, and I’m already looking forward to hearing how the songs sound live when the Band bring the new disc to Bonn Harmonie on 4 March next year.
‘Come On In’ will be released by Thorbjørn Risager & The Black Tornado on 31 January. If you can’t wait that long to hear what’s on offer, here is a ‘sneak preview’…