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Long-armed, chick-magnet guitarist Ben Ashley has a sort of Hendrix/Ry Cooder thing going on. His melodies are as sympathetic to the song as is his exercise of restraint; here is a guitarist who truly understands the concept of air. Ashley also understands the concept of pop star; his subtle posturing and bounce make him a kind of blue-collar Mick Ronson. Drummer Doug Jackino and bassist Bryan Martin demonstrate that pockets ain't just for air and pants; the duo is the Revival's in-house groove merchant. The horn section blows in blips and spurts, taking counterpoint cues from choruses and vocals in a way that gives the songs a kind of underlying sexuality.
Glory Revival's originators, Paul Lamb and Bryan Martin, have an essential and sentimental grasp of rock 'n' roll history, and because of that, no drink-bewildered night can go without a debate. The tiffs span the trivial gamut. The two will spout for hours on why Free/Bad Company mouthpiece Paul Rodgers hasn't been worth his weight in Wotsits for years; they go on about why Detroiters like The MC5, Mitch Ryder, The Stooges, and The Rockets were left for the glue factory; they'll spar over which is a better record, Bill Withers' Live at Carnegie Hall or Johnny Winter's Still Alive and Well.
Lamb and Martin are also dedicated students of rock's ivory-towered mythology. Their days are never unworthy of a hangover, particularly if it's borne of the preceding night's debauchery. For Glory Revival, life really is all about gigantic spliffs, Thin Lizzy and 6.5 percent beer. At a recent post-gig soiree at the band's spacious central Phoenix home (a faux ranch house with a middle-class-gone-stoner/milk-crate feel), Lamb was last seen at sunup floating in the backyard swimming pool. With beer in hand, his usual verve had been replaced with a thousand-mile stare; he was wearing nothing but a cowboy hat.
Back in '95, Lamb and Martin relocated here from their hometown of Harper Woods, just outside Detroit. It's a place better known for having the highest crime rate in the country than spawning rock 'n' roll outfits. "Brian and I grew up together in a little blue-collar community that sits with three sides of Detroit around it," recalls Lamb in his ragged but sturdy tone. "Brian lived in a slightly different neighborhood than me, and therefore there was the thing: If I rode through his neighborhood on my bike, they'd beat the shit outta me and steal my bike. And vice versa. But as you got older, your neighborhoods got bigger than you, and your friends became like a unit."
Their move to this sun-charred valley had more to do with the boys buying into the PR-puffed idea that Tempe had blossomed into some hipster launch pad for budding rock stars. For a short spell, it did seem like record deals were being doled out along Mill Avenue like plastic cups to happy drunks standing in line for free keg beer at some frat party. But Lamb and Martin quickly realized that the Tempe "scene" was really just a desert mirage that had spawned a couple of ephemeral pop stars and some heavily funded bands that were sadly mishandled by moronic A&R types.
"We thought Tempe was gonna be the place to be, and we had to get out of Detroit," says Lamb, laughing. "We came out here to the Tempe scene in '95 seeking rock 'n' roll fame and glory." Talk about glory; currently Lamb and Martin are employed as toilet-bowl cleaners, window washers and floor waxers for a low-maintenance cleaning service.
Martin's white-trash image, replete with handlebar mustache, lamb-chop burns and wife-beater tees, belies his articulate and well-read disposition. "My image is a mix of Rollie Fingers, Smokey and the Bandit-era Jerry Reed and Lemmy from Motörhead." Upon arriving in Tempe, the lads, of course, found girls who were in possession of a house. Martin secured a cozy closet as living space in the back while Lamb took to the floor in the front room.
Next, they coerced members from their last Detroit band to move west. The group -- including some girlfriends -- all moved into a house together in Phoenix. And it was a time for love. "There was nine of us living in this fucking house; it was an absolute catastrophe," says Lamb. "Because of the girlfriends, the house instantly was separated. Then the girlfriends were fucking the other people in the house, even fucking the other girlfriends. The whole house was fucking everybody."
"The house was all issues and no [musical] chops," chortles Martin. "We kicked 'em all out and they found their way back to Detroit. We had no band, just agony."
A brief stint as a trio ensued with the arrival of guitarist Ashley. Lamb begrudgingly beat the drums and sang until drummer Doug Jackino signed on. "When I first heard Paul sing, I thought it was a white guy trying to sing like a black guy," chuckles Jackino. "Now I'm in this for the long haul." Through a series of fits and starts, the band found its horn section. Trombonist Burlon Anderson -- who graduated ASU magna cum laude on a euphonium (a tuba-like instrument) scholarship of all things -- came in bringing along his alto-sax-blowing sis, Brianna, and tenor saxophonist John E. Go.
The presence of the horn section immediately gave the songs more warmth and depth. Glory Revival's classic FM thud of bass/drums/guitar was now a memory. "The horns are addicting, the stage energy is ridiculous," raves Lamb. "But the drawbacks are many. Like keeping a three-piece band on the road is hell enough. Members exponentially add pressure, them and their girlfriends and their friends. Everybody's gotta get along with everybody else. It just grows into this monster family. But we're gonna keep this together."
After relentless gigging and small tours, Glory Revival landed a manager with the right amount of belief and chutzpah. They also started receiving a bit of promotional help from the Four Peaks Brewing Company in Tempe. A self-titled record soon followed on tiny Bag Daddy Records. The nine-song disc was recorded on a budget littered with such long-standing rock myths like good faith, favors and we'll-gladly-pay-you-Tuesday-for-roll-of-tape-today's.
Sonically, the band's essence was well-captured by producer Al Sutten of Kid Rock fame, an old friend from Lamb and Martin's Detroit days (a pair of Rock's band members also help out on the album). The disc is long on hooky horn lines, funked up riffs, B3 organ, and nods to everything from Exile on Main Street to Earth Wind and Fire to Joe Cocker. Lamb's voice mirrors his love of Tom Waits and the Temptations' Dennis Edwards.
"Just Wanna Sing" is a song Lenny Kravitz could snag; the blues charade of Bill Withers' "For My Friend" is soothing dive-bar juke fodder; "Everybody Get Up" is a hearty three-chord turn of Waits inspired storytelling with daily drudgery being the main theme; the Sly Stoneish "I Can't Stand," would be the record's best chance at airplay, if such things were possible for overlooked bands lost on puny indies. But at least they can tour, somewhat.
"We did the record partly in Detroit and partly here," Lamb says. "We would tour to Detroit, record, then come back. We overdubbed some of the tracks here in town." On tour, of course, the band's heady rock 'n' roll mythologizing rears its traditional head. At one show in St. Louis (played in the basement of an Ethiopian restaurant) Lamb claims to have been slipped a Mickey, this after many free rounds from a nubile waitress. After a long blackout, Lamb mysteriously awoke in somebody's front lawn.
Another gig saw the band stranded along with thousands of others at a rained-out festival in Minnesota. "It was hilarious. Old farmers with tractors making money hand over fist charging people five bucks to pull cars from the mud. Pissed-off hippies were yellin' at each other. I've never heard hippies say shit like that before."
"In Chicago at a place called the Beat Kitchen, we had our first incident of fans throwing chairs wanting to hear more songs," says Martin. "They were drunk and smashing beer bottles going, "Play sum moe fuckin' music.' We played for two-and-a-half straight hours. It was pure rock 'n' roll."
Both live and on record, Glory Revival is a dense wave of melody and groove. At its worst, it can lapse into that translucency common to bar bands. But, Glory Revival, by its own admission, is a bar band. And they sound so unbelievably out of date that it stands to reason they could be the next big thing, rock 'n' roll mythology and all. Glory Revival's horn section: From left, Burlon Anderson, John E. Go and Brianna Anderson."Blue collar Mick Ronson," guitarist Ben Ashley, foreground, and lead singer Paul Lamb.