About The Band
I was surprised when offered the chance to review a new album by Pavlov’s Dog as I hadn’t heard the name in many years and had no idea they were still going. Their last “new” album was over 8 years ago although there was one 4 or 5 years ago called The Pekin Tapes which was demo material from the early 70s. Checking things out there is only one original member in vocalist and guitarist David Surkamp who was responsible for many of the songs or lyrics so is an integral part of the history. Joining him in this new line up are his wife Sara (vocals/guitar), Abbie Steiling (violin), Rick Steiling (not sure if related through blood or marriage, not found anything out online to say, bass guitar), Mark Maher (piano/organ/synths), David Malachowski (electric guitar), Paul Hennerich (trumpet) and Robert Marstiller (percussion). The band were and still are progressive/AOR rock. They are not a band that does long songs with multiple time changes but rather focus more on melody and lyrics (which I cannot say I always understand) that are quite captivating at times.
About The Album
The new album Prodigal Dreamer doesn’t quite hit the heights of their first album (Pampered Menial) but stands up well when compared to everything else. The star of the show is violinist Abbie who is all over the album, showing the versatility of the instrument, by playing in a number of styles. In fact, she really leads the way by opening the first song “Paris” with gentle piano backing her up until the very distinctive voice of David Surkamp comes in. As a singer, he splits opinions. He has quite a vibrato in his voice (others would call it a warble) in a style that is a cross of Geddy Lee (Rush), Roger Chapman (Family), Burke Shelley (Budgie) and Feargal Sharkey (Undertones). The song builds along into a very sweet guitar solo before dropping back down again. Terrific opener. Another track that captures a very plaintiff vibe is “Hurting Kind” which opens with piano and violin and when the guitar comes it sounds like a steel one. It sounds quite country (not ‘and western’) as does “Winterblue” which made me think of both Bob Dylan and the late great Woody Guthrie.
Quite a lot of the album is low key but they do occasionally pick up the pace. For instance “Waterlow” has a rather catchy chorus with the violin singing out nicely. “Crying Forever” has been covered before by Savoy Brown and on “Prodigal Dreamer” David reclaims it for his own band. This is an up-tempo blues piece with lots of organ playing and sung by Sara.
“Easter Day” is 1960s Americana, the sort of song that would have been recorded by someone like Buffalo Springfield which is a compliment to how good the track is.
For folks who are happy to check out stuff that is a bit outside of straight rock or metal then this is worth checking out. It is more a late-night chill out album. Quality songs and lovely performances by all the musicians on it (a little mention for the drummer as his work is clever, effective and adds so much to quite a few tracks, especially “Shaking Me Down” and “Thrill Of It All”).
This is still progressive but is not just AOR as it covers blues, funk, folk, and country. An album for those with wide tastes!
Album out now on Rockville Music.