L.A.’s The Record Company, established in 2011, wrote and recorded their debut album in their bass player’s living room without any expectations, save probably just making great music to share with friends and family. But after playing at house parties, local record shops and intimate clubs – being signed by a label and thrust out on tour must have been a bit of a surprise. What they say about word of mouth must be true.
However, what this trio hadn’t realized was they created an honest, raw and infectious demo that their future label decided was perfect just as it was delivered and left it untouched before introducing it to the masses. The soulful and often gritty vocals of Chris Vos, who also plays guitar, lap-steel, pedal steel and harmonica is seamlessly matched with the steady bass playing of the stoic but funky style of Alex Stiff and the tasteful and smart drumming of Marc Cazorla. On Give It Back To You, this unique rock and roll trio demonstrates that they’re astutely aware of using the less is more in cultivating a impressive rockin’ freshman effort.
One would be challenged to find any flaws anywhere on these ten tracks. Highlights include the instantly infectious first track, “Off The Ground”. Stiff’s bass line is anything but. It’s a retro-fuzzed groove that gets the album started in the right direction. The space that the band allows is very intriguing. Though the bass is most prominent, it’s the tasteful inclusion of the subtle guitar riffs and slide fills that let the song breathe. Vos’ vocals have room to shine along with Cazorla’s work on the kit, which is always in-the-pocket. “Ground” is filled with hooks and a great choice for the opening track.
“Don’t Let Me Get Lonely” is a great boogie, but jump ahead to “Rita Mae Young”. Listen carefully. Did ex-Rolling Stones guitarist Mick Taylor make a cameo during the recording? The slide work could easily pass for Taylor’s work during the Let It Bleed and Exile days. The lyrics allude to the classic tale of heartbreak and for all we know, Rita Mae is probably a fictional character – but one that is easy to relate to. For a song of lament, this track is still heavy and worthy of a few swings of the hips on the dance floor.
The bass line in “On The Move” is hypnotic and seductive while Vos’ use of the harp is well placed throughout the track. Again, Vos shows that the band knows when not to play as well. The fiery lyrics and driving kick from Cazorla come together to pack a meaty punch before throwing a haymaker with the nasty “Hard Day Coming Down” that is primed to be the theme song to a TV show or movie. With “Hard Day”, listeners will be hard-pressed to hold back from stomping their feet and clapping their hands.
“Feels So Good” is aptly titled. This jumpin’ Rockabilly-infused track is killer. It could easily pass for a deep cut by the Stray Cats or a Reverend Horton Heat. The tasty guitar lead in the beginning of the song is a nice touch too. From here, the album mellows out slightly with “Turn Me Loose” – a groove that gives a not-so subtle nod John Lee Hooker. The groovy title track keeps the train rollin’ with more slide, harp and enough mojo to make anyone who’s left sitting around – stand up and join the party.
“This Crooked City” provides the only ballad on the album. Vos’ vocals are glorious and at times reminiscent of Skip James. Take out the slide guitar, bass and tambourine – you’ll envision Vos leading a gospel choir. The gorgeous backing vocals only add to this beautifully haunting track, which is vastly different from the last of the album’s offerings. Give ends with the flat-out, bluesy rocker “In The Mood For You”. Vos’ harp action is gnarly and the time changes are quirky and cool.
It’s hard to find a band today, which is truly doing their own thing, and ultimately producing something fresh. Give, being written and recorded with secondhand and yard sale-found instruments, lots of duct tape and creative recording practices – the Record Company proves to have great chemistry. Whether you play this album from front to back or on shuffle, it’s a win-win gamble. This album provides a solid helping of rock n’ roll that cuts right down to the bone.