I’ve regarded Moxy as one of my favourite bands for years now. They proved at many points during the height of their popularity in the 70’s to be the quintessential no bullshit hard rock band, with surprisingly large success that saw them headlining shows that included opening acts such as AC/DC. I say “surprisingly” because that popularity has unfortunately dwindled ever so much to where Moxy is back to being a bar band playing for the devoted fans that stayed with them for the past forty years. It’s for these fans that Moxy guitarist and head honcho Earl Johnson decided to re-record some of the bands favourite tracks on the newly released 40 Years and Still Riding High.
It comes to no surprise that all but one song from Moxy‘s self-titled debut album appear on Still Riding High, as just about every fan would regard it to be their finest. That was where people were introduced to the enthralling voice of Buzz Shearman who not only had a voice like no other, but an attitude behind his voice that was incomparable. Current vocalist Nick Walsh seems like a good fit for the long deceased Shearman. He lacks the charisma that Buzz had, but makes up for it in talent, and songs like “Can’t You See I’m A Star”, “Out of the Darkness”, “Time To Move On” and “Still I Wonder” sound more than exceptional in these re-recordings, some of them with slightly different arrangements on some tracks that make getting this album of re-recordings a little more worth the while.
It’s obvious on the track “Moon Rider” that Earl Johnson wants Moxy to sound even heavier than before, which is fine I guess. I mean all the more reason to make Still Riding High more worth it, though I’ll always prefer the sound of the original cuts and how for their time they were heavy in a way not many hard rock bands were doing. Another obvious difference, particularly in the re-recordings of the tracks from Moxy is the guitar solos, and for the obvious reason that Earl didn’t play the guitar solos on most tracks from the debut album. Due to disagreements in production, the late great unsung hero and one time Deep Purple guitarist Tommy Bolin was brought in to record the solos. This time around Earl got to record his own solos, which aren’t bad, but when it comes to songs like the original cuts which had some of my favourite solos of all time, I just can’t help but notice the difference between the smooth bluesy leads that Tommy put down on the original album, and also the similarly great solos Earl would put on later tracks, are replaced by fast picking heavy metal solos that just about anyone could play.
My main disappointment lies in the tracks “Fantasy” and “Sail On Sail Away”. The fact that the former being one of my favourite songs of all time may have something to do with my utter dislike of the faster tempo that completely takes away the emotion that was put into the original Moxy cut. Though there is an added guitar sound during the chorus that I do really love. In the case of “Sail On Sail Away”, I don’t want to single out Nick Walsh because it’s not that he does a bad job – in fact if you’ve never heard the original cut I’m sure you’d find Still Riding High‘s version to be solid – but it’s this song where Buzz Shearman showed the best amount of emotion in his voice, making this one track the best example of just why Buzz was such an innovative singer.
It’s understandable that there are only two tracks from Moxy II present on Still Riding High. It’s personally my least favourite of Moxy‘s main three albums (they have five, but it’s the first three that feature Buzz which directly makes them the classics in fans eyes) however it still has a lot to offer. Plus, in regards to Moxy in their prime, “worst” is still pretty great and miles ahead of other hard rock bands from the time. The two chosen tracks this time around are “Midnight Flight”, which is the track that opens Still Riding High and for good reason with its loud and crunchy rhythm. The other track being “Through The Storm” which is where I believe Nick Walsh does his best vocal job on the entire album. The b-side “Trouble” is also included on this album, which if I’m not mistaken was recorded at the time of Moxy II.
Perhaps the hardest of Moxy‘s albums is Ridin’ High and I’m pleased that five tracks were chosen from that album to be re-recorded on Still Riding High. Tracks like “Young Legs”, “Nothing Comes Easy” and “Rock Baby” really sound great with Moxy‘s new even harder sound while the bluesy ballad “Another Time, Another Place” thankfully doesn’t lose much of the feeling that was put into the fantastic melancholy melodies of the original recording. It seems fitting that Still Riding High ends with the hardest track of them all. The re-recording of “Ridin’ High” is just wild enough and Nick Walsh does as valiant a job as ever emulating the crazy vocal performance that Buzz Shearman recorded almost forty years ago. I do wish they included “Sweet Reputation” on this album, but I guess they only had so much room.
There have been a lot of these albums of re-recordings lately. I’ve reviewed three of them now and I will say the same for 40 Years and Still Riding High as I said for Uli Jon Roth and Whitesnake‘s albums, which is that I would take the original versions over these re-recordings any day. All three Moxy records were arguably ahead of their time. All three of these mentioned bands seem to have re-recorded their hits for different reasons. In Moxy‘s case it would seem that they felt their fans deserved something new and they wanted to prove that they are still worth the concert ticket, which I feel was accomplished pretty successfully.
The album can be purchased here.
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“Ridin’ High” – It guess it seems like the obvious choice. It’s such a classic track to Moxy‘s fans that this album was practically named after it. But it’s also the best track to show what the current incarnation of Moxy sounds like and how they measure up with the classic recordings, as this is one of, if not the best sounding of the re-recorded tracks on Still Riding High.
FINAL RATING: 6.5 (Out of 10)
“Can’t You See I’m A Star”
“Out Of The Darkness”
“Another Time, Another Place”
“Time To Move On”
“Nothing Comes Easy”
“Through The Storm”
“Sail On Sail Away”
“Still I Wonder”