CD Review: Granicus “Better Days”

Throughout the musical history of Cleveland, Ohio there are many bands that have come and gone that have left their marks on the music world whether within the city limits of Cleveland itself or on a much grander scale. Bands like The Raspberries, The James Gang, Pere Ubu or even Nine Inch Nails all started here before going on to bigger and better things. And while these bands are well-known throughout the world, there have been plenty of other bands that have called the city of Cleveland home before moving on to other larger and greener pastures. One particular band that had had a connection to the city of Cleveland before relocating in order to achieve success was the Psychedelic/Hard Rock band known as Granicus.

It was in the city of Cleveland that Granicus founder and drummer Joe Battaglia brought together a band of four other individual musicians in order to create a Hard Rock band to rival the likes of Deep Purple, Alice Cooper, Blue Cheer and other bands that were around at the same time. Together with bandmates Woody Leffel on Vocals, Dale Bedford on Bass, Al Pinell on Rhythm Guitar and Wayne Anderson on Lead Guitar, Joe Battaglia brought Granicus to life. These initial five musicians would go on to create a self-titled record in 1973 under the Granicus moniker for RCA before falling apart because of several different circumstances that ended up driving the band members apart.

Many years after the initial era of the band, members of Granicus were brought back together again because of the rerelease of the band’s self-titled album and the discovery of initial tracks that would have become the band’s second release. Having control of their music, the band took the tracks that had been recorded during the era of the band’s heyday and created what would essentially become the band’s second album. The 2010 release is entitled Thieves, Liars, & Traitors.

Since the release of 2010’s Thieves, Liars, & Traitors, the name of Granicus has stayed alive within the city of Cleveland. The band has actually enjoyed a rebirth of sorts after the release of the second album. In fact, the band is still going strong performing for fans of the band, both old and new alike. But today’s version of the band is much different than the original lineup. While Granicus still performs the same music that got them signed to RCA Records in the first place, the musicians in the band are mainly a completely different group of guys.

Today’s version of Granicus consists of drummer and band founder Joe Battaglia, vocalist Gerry Schultz, guitarists Artie Cashin & hPr, and bassist Bobby Stephens. It is this newest lineup of the band that has recorded the latest release under the Granicus moniker, the 2016 album entitled Better Days.

Better Days from Granicus begins with the title track of the release. While the majority of the album has a definite Hard Rock vibe going through it, this track is slightly different. With “Better Days,” the band unleashes a strong guitar presence in the music that is a lot closer to Heavy Metal than your normal Hard Rock is. Guitarists Artie Cashin (who appeared on the completed tracks for 2010’s Thieves, Liars, & Traitors) & hPr create a strong groove that would easily have been found on any Heavy Metal album back in the eighties while vocalist Gerry Schultz has a voice that is reminiscent of someone like Ian Gillam from Deep Purple. In fact, Schultz even produces a scream that’s close to Gillam’s signature sound. Together, the track of “Better Days” lives up to what Granicus used to sound like while also kicking up the energy level quite a bit.

The new release from Granicus continues with the track “Southbound”. This track is a lot closer to the Granicus of old. The Hard Rock style contained within the track would easily fit right in with the music from the initial time period of Granicus in the mid-seventies. “Southbound” starts off with a slow guitar solo before the track picks up steam. The track continues to alternate between a slow pace to the music and a quicker tempo throughout the four-plus minutes of playtime. “Southbound” would easily belong on an Album-Oriented Rock station.

With the track “Walk Free,” Granicus slows the pace down a little but never lets up on the energy of the music. The steady pace of the music allows the musicians to create a musical groove that allows for a little jamming. The track features several guitar solos within the nearly six minutes of Rock And Roll. Together, the band combines all of their musical elements to produce a track that feels just like it should had it been created back in the seventies. “Walk Free” is one track off of the new Granicus that truly will make fans of Classic Rock very happy.

The band picks up the pace with the track “On the Road”. The track features not only a strong beat, but also a driving feel to the music. Like other songs about getting behind the wheel, you can just about imagine yourself speeding down the highway with the song blasting away. The song’s pace is made possible with the help of the guitars from Artie Cashin & hPr who create a two-guitar feel with the two players alternating between solos. The vocals from Gerry Schultz help add to the driving feel of the track. Ultimately, “On the Road” is one of the strongest moments on the Better Days album.

For the track “Take Me Back,” Granicus slow things down. The very relaxed track features an easy pace to the music, a much less intense feel to the song’s sound and even the inclusion of a keyboard that adds more to the relaxed feel of the song. As the track slows things down, the thing that stands out the most is the vocal ability of lead singer Gerry Schultz who adds not only the lead vocal to the track but also the harmony to add depth to the vocal on the song. “Take Me Back” is definitely the track that shows off the lighter side of Granicus; however, it also shows the band’s ability to create a more intimate musical scene when the moment calls for one.

Just like the first track of the release, “Better Days,” the final track of “Still Rockin’ It” finds Granicus creating a track that feels more like an older style of Heavy Metal than Hard Rock. The harder delivery to the music and Gerry Schultz’s stronger vocal delivery create a moment on the release that, once again, shows off the band’s range as musicians. This new version of Granicus seems to have created this song as a way of reminding new and old fans alike that, while the bandmembers may have changed over the years, this new version of the band is still out there to burn the place down, musically speaking.

Better Days from Granicus is a very solid release from a band that has had an extremely interesting history as a group. While it was not created by the same exact group that ended up getting signed to RCA back in the seventies, this version of the band has done a nice job creating a solid group of songs that create an album that live up to what had come before. Drummer and founder of the band Joe Battaglia should be proud of what has been accomplished on Better Days.

 

To hear the music of Granicus, check out the band’s song of “Better Days“.

For more information, check out the Wikipedia Page for Granicus.

For the music of Granicus, check out the band’s music page on their website by clicking on the album cover below:

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