Y’know five years back we reviewed the EP by Bitzer titled Oz Rock Six pack…you can hunt down that review on our blog – but I do wish to highlight a comment which my brother ended that review with – which stated ‘If you wanna taste of the glory days of Oz rock in 2013 – Bitzer deliver the goods in no uncertain terms. 10 out of 10′. Top marks there from my brother and high praise indeed – and if you one of those who purchased that EP, I’m sure you’ll be in agreeance that it was very well deserved. The good news is folks that in mid-2018 we have brand new material from Bitzer out and about and I gotta tell ya – this bunch of seasoned musicians have absolutely nailed it again. ‘Pedigree Mongrel’ is the name of the new album, a 10 song collection of some of the coolest and most iconic rock n roll tunage to ever come out of Australia.
Before we move on – I must highlight the fact that the players involved in this project are all top shelf, have a wealth of experience and boy does it show. Steve Mulry, Mick Arnold, Lucy De Soto, Steve King, Mick Adkins, Skenie, Mick O’Shea, Steve Edmonds…..
The names that are listed on their individual rock n roll resumes detailing their past outfits or bands they’ve played, recorded or been involved with – read like a chapter ripped straight from the Who’s Who of Australian Rock publication: Rose Tattoo, The Rogue Sharks, Billy Thorpe, Rose Carleo Band, The Poor, Black Label, Judge Mercy, Dragon, Choirboys, Judge Mercy, Kevin Borich, Swanee, TMG, The Pete Wells Band….I could go on but there’s no need as I’m sure you’ll agree – there’s some real heavyweights of Australian music namechecked amongst that gathering.
Countrymen, friends, lend me your ears because the song St Louis – which happens to be one of my all time favourite Easybeats tunes – kicks off ‘Pedigree Mongrel’ with great force and I cannot think of a better way to open the album. For me – it’s also a wonderful way to honour the great George Young who passed away in October of last year.
Bitzer tackle ‘Down Payment Blues’ next with some raw, and inspired vocals by Skenie. It’s that very same sound – from that throat – which hooked me back in the very early 90’s when I first heard him and The Poor Boys on ‘What I’d Do (To get A Piece Of You)’. Love it. As a few of you out there might know drummer Mick O’Shea was apparently short-listed to replace Phil Rudd on the drum stool for AC/DC’s Rock Or Bust tour. The boys obviously went for the tried and tested and well credentialed Chris Slade – no complaints there. And no point in looking at what could’ve been but just let me state that if you listen to O’Shea’s thumping autodrive on ‘Down Payment Blues’ – he is on the beat and in the pocket. It’s there.
Superman – an ace, lifted from the Vanda and Young deck was made famous by Alison McCallum back in 1972. It’s not an easy tune to tackle – yet on this version by Bitzer – Lucy De Soto’s vocals are spot on. Lucy’s got a strong voice – my brother at one point in time owned her two mid-80’s releases – it’s great stuff and she really makes this amped up version of ‘Superman’ her own. It’s Time – more people out there were aware of her.
Paul Hewson wrote or co-wrote some of Dragon’s best material – with many music fans considering Sunshine his finest moment. For me, this interpretation was the real surprise of the album – Mulry’s vocals, Steve Edmond’s lead guitar – I found the whole track downright mesmerising. Spend a quiet moment alone with this one via decent headphones and you’ll hopefully get what I mean. I just love this.
A faithful and tough-as-steel rendition of AC/DC’s ‘Bad Boy Boogie’ is up next and it cooks. Skenie again gives his all on this track and it’s great. So great that I’m calling this one of the most faithful takes of this song that you’re gonna hear. It’s pretty darn authentic yet it doesn’t in anyway ape the original found on Let there be Rock. Much of that authenticity is in part due to the well-oiled rhythm unit of King and O’Shea – a pair who know eachother’s playing inside out and it shows.
If you’ve always wondered what a heavied up version of Australian Crawl might sound like – then listen up. Bitzer once again hit the volume on Aussie Crawl’s ‘Things Don’t Seem’ – taken from their 1981 album Sirocco and crank the absolute hell of it. And that’s also what I love about an album like this – it makes you hear songs which you thought you knew so well – from a completely different angle – love it. Who knows, maybe Bitzer will take a stab at James Reyne’s Fall Of Rome in the future ?
Another of the highlights on ‘Pedigree Mongrel’ is a wonderful rendition of Spectrum’s I’ll Be Gone. Lucy De Soto’s vocals – combined with Mick Adkins stinging guitar give this a thumping country rock flavour and the results are what I’d call – catchy as all hell.
And this is just what I was just alluding to when looking over the Australian Crawl song…. you think you are familiar with a song like ‘I’ll be Gone’ and let’s face it, it gets played a helluva lot on the Golden Oldie stations here – but think again. Because the players in the Bitzer outfit will make you sit up and take notice of a song we all know so well. And in my book – that’s a pretty cool thing and I sure hope Mike Rudd gets to hear this version.
The tune – ‘I Remember When I Was Young’ written of course by Matt Taylor – is a track that suits Steve Mulry’s vocals so well – and it’s as if Taylor penned it with him in mind. John Farnham may’ve highlighted the tune on his 2005 songbook album, yet he didn’t do it justice like Bitzer do here and it gets the green light from me.
There is one further ‘Young, Young and Scott’ tune to check out and it’s a rollicking take of Dog Eat Dog. No need to reach for a thesaurus – this take kicks arse plan and simple and I reckon this foursome of Adkins, Skenie, King and O’Shea as a live unit could blow the doors off any live venue they played.
The album closes out with a blazing and heavy-as-lead take of The Angels – Run For The Shelter, lifted from their often ignored 1984 album Two Minute Warning. If ever a song highlighted the vocal strength of Steve Mulry it’s this one – note perfect and in fine form on this gem penned by Rick Brewster and Brent Eccles.
To summarise – Blitzer once again have delivered the goods, breathing new life into some wonderful and well-known songs with an energy and passion which more people need to hear.
There is so much music being released these days – and it’s often the case that red hot rock n roll releases like this – often get lost in the frenzied world of social media. Once you check this material out – I just know you’re gonna want to spread the word about this album, because it really is damn good – and is deserving of more attention. Excuse the pun but ‘Pedigree Mongrel’ is ‘top dog’ amongst most other releases you’re gonna hear this year – highly recommended – and an album you need to ad to your rock n roll collection.