Age Against The Machine – Jim Keays (Purple Haze)
This album’s the second and final chapter for a project that had modest enough aspirations. Jim Keays just wanted to strip things back and rock out on covers of obscure and semi-obscure songs.
He and his crack band not only sound like they had a great time but produced a killer recording in “Age Against The Machine”, the follow-up to 2012’s “Dirty Dirty” set of garage rock covers.
You can hear the spirit bleed through the sound of this record - it's as clear as a bell. While it’s sad that Keays, the former Masters Apprentices singer, checked out tragically early and long before it was released, he’d be enjoying the applause. Apparently, Keays was struggling with his cancer at the recording sessions and had to rest up between takes. If you weren't told that you'd never be able to tell.
What’s not to love? You Am I’s Davey Lane leads a tough little combo through these 10 songs with a sure-footed confidence and willingness to rough things up. Bassist (and Sandman label honcho) Ted Lethborg and ace feel drummer Brett Wolfenden (Dirty York, The Pictures) get right in the groove. The star turn is, however, Jim Keays who delivers a stellar vocal performance. No surprise there, either.
Ex-GoBetween Robert Foster nailed it a few years ago when he wrote an essay extolling Keays as one of only six Australians who truly deserved the title Rock Star. The man could sing his arse off and had looks, presence, style and swagger to burn.
It’s a done deal from the get-go opening chords of first song “Shake Some Action.” It’s not an attempt to ape the Flamin’ Groovies’ original – more a stab at taking it somewhere new, keeping the hook but not replicating the soaring harmonies – and it’s the grittiest and best cover since the Hitmen tackled it live.
The scorch-marked guitar that sears “Hot Smoke and Sassafras” should be enough to endear this album to I-94 Bar regulars. There are a few songs that are unfamiliar – I’m not a Cheap Trick fan and Spirit passed me by entirely – but Bo Diddley’s “Cadillac” and Wreckless Eric’s “I’d Go The Whole While World” are another matter. Keays nails the pathos in the latter with conviction and nary a touch of irony.
“Age Against the Machine” is an unpretentious blast from go to whoa. A confirmation that Jim Keays was one of the few people with a full command of rock and roll's real essence. Track down a copy and see if I'm wrong.