Beloved roots rockers Big Head Todd & the Monsters (BHT) returned July 20 with “Rocksteady,” their eighth studio album. “Rocksteady” was recorded in the band’s home studios in Denver, CO and Chicago, IL over the past year and consists of many tracks that were played and refined during their perpetual touring. After twenty-five remarkable years together, the band sounds more relaxed than ever; comfortable taking on any genre you can throw at them. Like most other BHT records of late, “Rocksteady” is a diverse buffet of musical styles. The listener will sample some soul, funk, and pop while devouring the rock base.
The title track kicks things off and is my runaway favorite: a fast paced and funky rocker that would make even the most stoic prude want to dance. Things suddenly get a little breezy with the mellow, but moving single, “Beautiful,” but the funk rock returns later with “Happiness Is.” “After Gold” is my favorite ballad on the record, sounding like it would be right at home on their “Sister Sweetly” release. “Back To The Garden” has a strong reggae beat that sticks out like a sore thumb for me, but I don’t despair for long because the next track, “Smokestack Lightning,” is a sizzling rocker with stinging blues guitar and a thick brassy stomp. “I Hate It When You’re Gone” is my second favorite next to the title track, and easily the most instantly memorable and radio-friendly cut off the record. It is a genuine feel good, soulful pop rocker – what I would do to hear an album full of tracks like this one.
BHT has a reputation for putting their touch on classic tunes and this time around we get their laid back interpretation of the Rolling Stones hit, “Beast Of Burden,” which is another winner. “Rocksteady” closes with “Fake Diamond Kind,” a gentle ballad reminding us that friendship and love go together.
While “Rocksteady” doesn’t quite capture the magic that made their 1993 breakthrough record “Sister Sweetly” a masterpiece, it continues along the general trajectory BHT has followed since the beginning. That is, to offer a little something for everyone. For late comers, “Rocksteady” serves as a fine introduction to the world of BHT. The thread that holds this diverse collection together is the masterful guitar playing and Todd Park Mohr is clearly one of today’s best. Mohr’s playing can be described in the same way that he sings on “Muhammad Ali”: He “floats like a butterfly, stings like a bee.”
iPOD worthy: 1, 2, 4, 7, 8, 10, 11