Eric Bell – Exile
On The Edge/Cargo Records (2016)
Reviewer: Peter Scallan
Eric Bell is best known as the founding guitarist of Thin Lizzy and playing on the band’s first three albums. Just as the band looked like it might be breaking he left, mainly due to his excessive drinking. He has sporadically burst into action over the years and this is first album of new material in six years. Recorded in the UK, he wanted to take a different approach and capture the feel he captures on his song writing demos and plays most instrumentation apart from the drums and sings too.
The opening track ‘Deep In your Heart’ sounds a little like early Thin Lizzy. The song is quite sparse with guitar parts being simple with some overdubs in places to give it some texture. However, as much as I was excited to give this a whirl, there is just something lacking, with the track sounding like a demo in places. ‘Don’t Love Me No More’ opens with a good guitar riff but it seems to be delivered very unconvincingly. This is reflected in the vocals also, which for me just don’t cut it at all. For me the song doesn’t really go anywhere, although there are some nice guitar flashes. Eric then moves on to a jazz-infused piece called ‘Gotta Say Goodbye’. This works much more effectively with Eric’s guitar and vocal style with some pretty smooth playing and singing. We then return to a more straight forward blues style with ‘Vote For Me’ with its humorous pop at politicians. But again, despite his blues pedigree, this song again just doesn’t work for me at all and sounds very pedestrian. Next up is title track ‘Exile’ in which features just Eric singing and playing guitar. The song is okay, as are the vocals, but I would like to have heard this song played on an acoustic guitar as opposed to an electric guitar.
‘Little Boy Running’ continues the laid back feel and also features some piano. Again, there is some nice guitar in flashes but the song just doesn’t do it for me. ‘Rip It Up’ is next which is a cover version of the Little Richard song and very 50’s rock’n’roll and actually works really well. Both guitar and vocals give a slight modern twist on a very authentic sound and this is possibly the best song on the album. The next song sounds like a it could be a classic Lizzy-style song around Jailbreak/Johnny the Fox. Entitled ‘Concrete Jungle’ the Lizzy comparison holds until the breakdown which just stops the song in its tracks. With regards the lyrical content, I admire Bell’s passion to highlight some of the shortcomings of modern living, but he does so very literally and bluntly. The penultimate song is ‘Thank God’ and I can’t help but think so myself! Having said that, Eric at last gets the acoustic guitar our and treats us to some country and western with some nice lead guitar overlaid. It also has the first genuine hook-based chorus. The last song is ‘Song for Gary’ and the opening is a little reminiscent of Peter Green’s Fleetwood Mac. Needless to say this is a lament for the late, great Gary Moore. Opening with some spoken narrative with the chorus being sung, this pattern repeats through the song. Eric also has a stab at some rock lead as part of this homage but it doesn’t really come off, which is the case with the album in general.
Recently I have been getting more into blues and blues rock, which was my first love and I was really looking forward to this album. Maybe, this expectation has coloured just how disappointing this album was for me. In the promotional material, Eric stated that he wanted to capture the feel of the demos he does. He certainly has in this case as this album sounds like demos to me and is generally a little uninspiring. Just not for me at all!