Big Chief

Face

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"Fresh Vines" doesn't merely resemble Black Sabbath, because it is Black Sabbath. Within the first minute, you hear segments of that band's "War Pigs" and "After Forever." Any band with the cajones to directly lift two songs from Birmingham's finest in the opening song of its first LP deserves some credit. Either that or they're asking for trouble. What the hell, you know? Hip-hop has its share of direct samples, so why not rock & roll? Big Chief is actually playing it, and if you're gonna steal, you might as well steal from the best. Is that "Lemon Song" heard on "The Ballad of Dylan Cohl?" Sounds like it. But more importantly, Face cleans up the sound from the early singles. The rhythm section of bassist Matt O'Brien and drummer Mike Danner is given more room to breathe, as everything comes across as more pliable, less cluttered. Just as importantly, Barry Henssler transforms from a vocalist to a singer -- his increased range no longer pins the band into a corner. The record seems to stick to two gears, toggling between charging and deliberate. With some furious soloing, "Drive It Off" introduces overt bluesiness into the band's repertoire, while the stomping "Desert Jam" matches the molasses-paced lurchers of early Soundgarden and Jane's Addiction. The CD adds two different versions of "Fresh Vines," a hip-hop mix with a walking bassline and an instrumental that gets a little too close to Spin Doctors territory for comfort.

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