The Black Keys – In Their Prime

Music Reviews – 2014 – The Black Keys – Turn Blue

black keys - turn blueNashville’s own, The Black Keys, featuring guitarist Dan Auerbach and drummer Patrick Carney, have just released their 8th studio album, entitled Turn Blue.

The Keys once again teamed up with Brian J. Burton, aka “Danger Mouse,” who produced their last three albums (2008’s Attack and Release, 2010’s Brothers and 2011’s El Camino). All three of which were critically acclaimed and commercially successful–perhaps most aptly affirmed by the multiple Grammy’s awarded to the two most recent albums.

To my ears, each of the last three records was among the best albums from their respective years.

Predictably, Turn Blue is also a tremendous record~! It has that rare quality of being both brand new and sounding like it would have fit in on rock radio 40-50 years ago. Nobody does that these days.  Yet, the Keys are making a cottage industry of that psychedelic-tinged, spacey-sounding, neo-retro vibe.  From start to finish on Turn Blue, there isn’t a dud song in the bunch.

Several songs are reminiscent of a bygone, better music era. Fever features a Ray Manzarek-like keyboard lick. I could easily hear Fever sandwiched between The Strawberry Alarm Clock and The Doors, circa 1967.  And the title track, Turn Blue has the same, slow-motion, churning bass-lick that the Alan Parsons Project used in I Wouldn’t Want to Be Like You, from 1977’s I Robot. It worked well then…and it works even better now.

My personal favorite song, hands down, is In Our Prime. It is written and sung in the past tense….oft repeating the refrain “We had it all when we were in our prime.” At my age, it is becoming an increasingly more familiar sentiment. But the last 90 seconds of the song, with its fuzzy, primal, lead guitar and accompanying bass drum thump, are manifest evidence that the Black Keys remain very much on top of their game~!

Auerbach and Carney are a long way from their Akron roots…but still play with the hunger and authority that made them famous and immediately recognizable, some 10+ years ago. And contrary to Jack White’s view that they are a derivative rip off of others (particularly him, as articulated in Rolling Stone issue 1210, dated June 5, 2014), I personally believe they are as original as anyone can get.  Their arc remains upward….and they are, no question, very much “in their prime.”

This record was clearly the one I needed to hear to break my music review drought. For 18 months I had been largely underwhelmed and mostly disappointed by the available new music. The Black Keys – Turn Blue has relit my pilot light. So to Dan and Pat, I say “thanks for that.”

And for your part, I say, “you should totally check it out, bro~!” JDPF

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