14 December 2011

Review: Beggars & Thieves – We are the Broken Hearted

In 1989 Louie Merlino (vocals) called up his buddy Ronnie Mancuso (guitar) and convinced him to move from Los Angeles to New York where he was living at the time. They wrote half of their first album in a week. After about 6 gigs Beggars & Thieves landed a record deal with Atlantic Records. Their first single “Beggars & Thieves” made it to Billboards Top 40. After their A & R man left Atlantic the band was stuck in limbo. They signed on to Epic where they recorded their second album Look What You Create but Epic never released it.

By this time grunge had taken off and record companies weren’t interested in pop-metal anymore. In 1997 Look What You Create was finally released on MTM Music. The band released a third album, The Grey Album in 1999 also with MTM Music.

In 2010 Beggars & Thieves reunited to play at Firefest in Nottingham, England where they received great reviews and were voted biggest surprise of the festival.

Now on the momentum of Firefest, Beggars & Thieves have released their latest album, We Are The Broken Hearted. They have added Erik Gloege on drums and Blake Newman on bass to complete the band.

We Are The Broken Hearted starts strong with “We Come Undone”. It has a great driving bass line, nice harmonies and an array of little guitar sounds that you really need headphones to appreciate in its fullest.

“Oil & Water” is probably my favorite track on the album. It opens with some guitar that reminds me of AC/DC’s “For Those About To Rock” and then fades into a nice ballad with raunchy, distorted guitar sounds, precise bass parts and the steady drum beat with the occasional tasteful drum fill. I love this slow heavy feel. Over the top of this ocean of heavy is a nice acoustic guitar and “Robert Plant” style vocals.

In the middle of “Innocence” is a cool bridge where everything cuts out except the bass and drums, then leads into a jammin’ guitar solo. “Never Gonna See You Again” starts with a hypnotic acoustic guitar playing alongside a lonesome hi-hat. In come the vocals and then some really cool bass and drums kick in. About half way through the guitar solo some really nice piano work kicks in giving the whole song a different feel. The song then cuts back to just guitar and hi-hat, builds into one last chorus with everything and then ends with just guitar and the hi-hat.

Things change up a little when you get to “Beautiful Loser” with its dual slide guitar intro. This song is another great mix between acoustic and electric guitars. The pre-chorus reminds me a little of Slaughter. There are some nice arpeggios in this song and another spot on guitar solo. The vocals remind me of Chris Cornell. “Seven Sounds” is a little heavier with a wall of guitars and an Axel Rose style vocal. There is a great melodic guitar lick in the chorus that I like quite a bit. “Stranded” starts with Mandolin and acoustic guitar, everything kicks in and Merlino’s gruff vocals start to weave a story. “I remember, stranded in the streets of Brooklyn, all alone under the dark red sky, find a bar and go inside, demons must be fed, two shots of mercy fuel the gods their singing in your head”.

“Wash Away” reminds me of “All Night Thing” by Temple of the Dog. It’s a nice soulful slow song, with nice harmonies. “Midnight Blue” starts a lot different with some synthesizer sound effects and then into some slightly distorted guitars that remind me of the Alarm. The guitar solo in this one has the coolest flanger effects and the song ends with a beautiful piano part as all the other instruments fade.

The album finishes up strong with “We are the Brokenhearted”, an anthem that reflects the turmoil the world is going through, encouraging unity instead of despair.

We Are The Broken Hearted is littered with smart, well-crafted songs, with catchy melodies and great rock riffs. Merlino can still belt it out and Mancuso is better than ever.

Mancuso said of this release, “This isn’t just some guy’s trying to have a little fun reliving the past. We are very serious about this. We want to compete with the big boys!”

What they have created is great album. I hope this is the vehicle that finally propels them to the stardom that was stolen from them and is rightfully theirs.

4/5 stars

Key Tracks:
Oil & Water, Wash Away, We are the Broken Hearted

Kirk Bullough

1. We Come Undone
2. Oil & Water
3. Innocence
4. Never Gonna See You Again
5. Beautiful Losers
6. Seven Seconds
7. Stranded
8. Wash Away
9. Midnight Blue
10. We Are The Brokenhearted

: Beggars & Theives
Title: We are the Broken Hearted
Genre: Album Oriented Rock
Label: Frontiers Records

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