I have loved Swedish Classic rock band Diamond Dogs since I saw them live for the first time some time in the 90’s. Their brand of swinging 70’s Rock with a slight glam-touch with clear influences from 70’s Rolling Stones and The Faces but also reminiscent of “newer” bands such as The Quireboys and Black Crowes really hit home with me. Live, their swing and groove was out of this world. But I had almost given up on them when it came to new music. Ever since Black River Road (2004) the quality had gone down and the attitude and grit had been transformed into safe sounds and songs more reminiscent to Swedish oldies dance-band music than Rock ‘n Roll. New hope was given with 2012’s Set Fire To It All and their last album Quitters And Complainers (2015) showed a band that had found their old spark again. A rocking album with a whole bunch of great tunes gave me hope for the future.
When it comes to the members, I have lost count of all who has been in and out of the band – Whitesnake and Rainbow come across as stable units compared to the Dogs – and with the release of their new album a new line-up is once again present. When keyboard-player Henrik “The Duke Of Honk” Widen and lead singer Sulo decided it was time for the band to get back together, it was time to find some people to join in – and this time some interesting names decided to show up. Guitarists Lars Karlsson and Martin Thomander (ex- Electric Boys), bass player Stefan Bellnas and drummer Thomas Broman (Electric Boys, Great King Rat) are the guys that has rounded up the band behind Sulo and Honk – and this time I had some big hopes for yet another round of rough and swinging rock and roll that should bring the taste of beer in my mouth without even having one.
The opening track “Recall Rock ‘n’ Roll” is classic Diamond Dogs that shouldn’t disappoint anyone who has ever had a weak spot for this band. The band is on fire and it feels like the new members has brought in yet a new spark. It’s in uptempo, kicking and swinging like the 70’s never went anywhere. It’s also full of hooks which makes me want to yell along for all my lung’s worth. I love this. “Valentina (Queen Of Broken Hearts)” puts The Quireboys and The Faces in a blender with a gritty outlook and the tune swings like crazy on a raw beat and crunchy guitars. The chorus brings on a bluesier vibe but also with an intense catchiness that makes the song stick right off the bat. “Singin’ With Elvis” is the album’s first ballad in a mellow, melancholic way – very bluesy. It’s earthy and organic with a saddening touch where the soulful harmonies and the Hammond brings on another level of dynamics. Good one.
“Heavy Swing” really does justice to its title – a heavy swing is exactly what we’re being treated with here. Classic Diamond Dogs with a big party-vibe, upbeat and in-your-face with raunchy guitars, a sweaty rhythm-section where the classic 70’s Rock ‘n’ Roll is given a slight Hard Rock touch for good measure. It’s energetic, it reeks of fun and a youthful appetite for rawk and rawl. Of course, the refrain hits right where it should and this should work like a charm live. “There Is A Fire Down There” is slower in pace, heavier with a more sullen twist and a rawer edge. This is stripped and earthy blues-rock, not a far cry from early Black Crowes, with a dirty touch. I dig this. “Small Town Girl” is an upbeat, groovy stomper, slightly pop-laden on a Classic Rock note. It’s a fun-loving, good-time rocker with a positive sound where the boys totally breathes their rock and roll full-on. It’s impossible not get caught up by this.
With that, the Recall Rock ‘n’ Roll part of the record is done but before we get to the The Magic Soul part where the band takes on a bunch of Sam Cooke tunes, we get a re-recording of “Soul Folks”, a song that first appeared on Sulo’s solo album Hear Me Out (2008). The tune comes across like a late 60’s / early 70’s Rolling Stones rocker, full of swing and stomp with a happy-go-lucky party-on-dude attitude – very positive and catchy as hell. Very good, indeed. On the first Cooke-cover “Good Times”, Quireboys singer Spike guests on vocals where he duets with Sulo. It’s a groove laden pop-rocker with the focus on Pop music right from the 70’s. Handclaps, a saxophone and catchy female backingvocals takes the song to party heaven. Damn good. “Don’t Fight It, Feel It” is short and concise, in-your-face and quite rowdy on a boogie-rock like rhythm. Sure, it’ll make you move, but I’m not fully down with the tune. It’s ok, though.
The 1960’s meets the 1950’s when the pop-groovy “Somebody Have Mercy” comes along. On a base of blues-rock, this stomper takes on a Classic Rock style and that this is really an old Soul tune isn’t really that obvious – it sounds like the Diamond Dogs all the way. I dig it. “Keep Movin’ On”, featuring Nicke Andersson (Hellacopters), is where Classic Rock ‘n’ Roll meets Pop on an upbeat and quite striking note. With some chunky guitars and a steady, swinging rhythm section the tune sure brings on a meaty crunch of the Diamond Dogs’ sound complete with an amazing refrain. A cover or an original, these guys really knows their shit – very good. The slow ballad “Nothing Can Change This Love”, with Danny Bowes of Thunder guesting on vocals, is 60’s retro and you get the feeling it’s the last dance at your local dancing place. It’s sparse and soulful but lyrically it’s a bit much on the cheese. Still a good one. Closing track “Sugar Dumpling” features Swedish rapper Papa Dee and the tune takes a faster pace and swings like crazy on a poppy note where the 60’s meets the 70’s. It’s catchy as damn with great memorable melodies everywhere. Great.
If you’re a Diamond Dog fan – or a fan of straight-forward, uncomplicated, raw Rock ‘n’ Roll – this album is clearly a no-brainer. Personally, I think Quitters And Complainers was better, but not by much. Again, it shows that the Diamond Dogs are back and has left the mainstream and quite streamlined latter day Status Quo like productions behind them and decided that it’s crunchy and raunchy Classic Rock that what they should be doing, the stuff that they’re so good at when they put their minds to it. Why half the album of covers then? And does it matter? Well, it’s a way for, especially Sulo to pay tribute to one of his biggest heroes and no it doesn’t. If you didn’t know these were covers you couldn’t have guessed as they sound just as much as Diamond Dogs as the originals. If you’re into The Stones, Faces, Quireboys, Black Crowes and the lot, then you can buy this album unheard.
More Diamond Dogs reviews:
1. Recall Rock ‘N’ Roll
2. Valentina (Queen Of Broken Hearts)
3. Singin’ With Elvis
4. Heavy Swing
5. There Is A Fire Down There
6. Small Town Girl
7. Soul Folks
8. Good Times
9. Don’t Fight It, Feel It
10. Somebody Have Mercy
11. Keep Movin’ On
12. Nothing Can Change This Love
13. Sugar Dumpling