After a stint in the late 70s and early 80s, the bluesy duo The Reds® faded into obscurity only to revive their garage rock/blues-laden career in 2007. A follow-up album came in 2009 and saw keyboardist Bruce Cohen release a solo album. Not to be outdone, Shaffer has released his own solo LP, Necessary Illusion—a 10-track DIY, distortion dynamo featuring Shaffer’s trade reverb blues guitar and throwback vocal delivery.
Title track “Necessary Illusion” gives you a snapshot of the album ethos . . . dirty, drone blues combined with tons of guitar fuzz and 60s garage elements. The “tin can-ish” percussion keeps the simple backing beat and allows the guitar wails and Shaffer’s hard luck vocal delivery to stand at the foreground. “Burnin’ Hell” opens to stomping percussion and Shaffer’s wailing tremolo and slide work. The fuzz is tuned down on this track but is laden with string bending (if not “string busting”) fills and intermittent bent backing howls and moans. “Shakin’ Hips” simply put is the dirtiest of dirty blues. The guitar sounds soaked in lament and turmoil. The lyrical content reeks of defeat and their delivery is downtrodden. The true mood-changer of the album, this track almost hurts.
Forget everything you know about Jon Spencer and his Blues Explosion. This Rick Shaffer and his “Blues Annihilation” and he’s the real deal. A true product of the era, Shaffer combines 60s garage with the lowest of lowdown blues to achieve a sound that no one is pursuing. His guitar work is uncanny and sounds more like he’s conjuring demons from it, rather than playing it. So that being said, congratulations Rick, you just garnered the first 4.5 rating that this writer has ever given (EVER). Buy it, listen on repeat and love the raw dirt of the sound is the only advice I can give. Because that’s what I intend to do.
• Chris West
Rating: 4.5 (out of 5)