Gooding | The Return (S3)

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“No more talk, no more waiting on the side/ the lights are up and it’s showtime.” The boys are back, indeed.

Gooding’s latest release is aptly titled. Four years ago and after countless releases, the band—fronted by and named after its singer/guitarist/songwriter—the band decided to try a new direction. Rechristening themselves Angel/Devil (the name of the last Gooding release), they switched from a melodic rock sound to a full-on rock ’n’ roll assault. They played those cards for a couple years but, apparently, success was not to be found in what may have been considered a sellout. Thankfully, things have come full circle, as Gooding is back, and better than ever.
The back story is this: From an early age, young Gooding was heralded as a guitar virtuoso. His big-name guitar teacher walked away when Gooding was barely in his teens, claiming, “I have nothing left to teach you.” Self-releasing albums—and cassette tapes, actually, when the young musician was in junior high school—he built an impressive following without the help of a label or big promotional machine. The band—which has for years included longtime friend and drummer Jesse Reichenberger and bassist Billy Driver—tore it up coast to coast, stage to stage. And now, thankfully, Gooding is back.
Heavy-hitting, blues-inspired guitar riffs drive opening track “Make the Devil Cry.” A swarm of music descends, and Gooding’s slightly manipulated vocals draw the listener in. The refrain is pure rock ’n’ roll…and I mean that in the best way. Definitely a song to get the blood pumping. Up next, “Go Kid Go” feels like a pep talk from the singer to himself…at least that’s how I choose to interpret it: “No more talk, no more waiting on the side/ the lights are up and it’s showtime.” The boys are back, indeed.
Following the requisite oh-so-upbeat love song—aptly titled “Love Will Rule”—is “Winter in Chicago,” with strings and keys it’s a gorgeously textured song, a rare foray for the trio. Though Gooding’s built his reputation on his stunning guitar skills, it’s nice to hear his repertoire expand in this way. Those mad guitar skills are back front and center on “No One Gets Out Alive”; still, added instruments continue to assert that this is not 2005’s Gooding. “Please,” another yearning number, gives way to the galloping “Vagabond.”
The Return loses a little steam in the final third. The songs are by no means bad, just not as memorable as those preceding it. “Animals All” is a nice closer; at first understated but with layers of sounds eventually vying for attention, it ties the album together nicely. Overall, this is a welcome return to form and more than worth a few listens. Go, kid, go. B+ | Laura Hamlett
RIYL: Jeff Beck, Beck

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