Rhett May – Creatures of the Night
Rhett May’s life and musical journey are inextricably intertwined. The journey to his latest release, Creatures of the Night, began long ago in the mid sixties when western music first made its way to such far flung locales like his birthplace of Calcutta, India. May felt such a surge of inspiration hearing acts like The Beatles, Cream, The Yardbirds, and Herman’s Hermits that it prompted him to form his first of many bands – The Wooly Bullys. The Bullys soon transformed into The Flint Stones and scored big with a hit single that made them, for a time, the most popular musical act in India. May migrated from India to Australia in 1969 and picked up his musical career there. His band underwent a number of transformations before finally settling on the name Lucifer and they soon enjoyed considerable success opening for legendary visiting acts like Ray Charles and Queen. Fashions change, however, and disco soon displaced May’s musical ambitions to the point where he left that world for over thirty years before returning in 2013 with the EP release Insatiable. Following releases have found his confidence as a musician and songwriter returning full force and the latest thirteen song release Creatures of the Night finds him working at the peak of his powers.
Many of the album’s songs are straight up rockers with varying degrees of nuance. “Somebody’s Watching You”, “Back Seat of My Chevy”, and “Latex Lady” mix up a straight forward rock and roll attitude with some subtle shadings and memorable musical turns. Other rockers, however, exhibit a sharp edge from the beginning. “Sandy Sweet as Candy” practically leers from the outset and “Bella My Baby” matches the aforementioned track’s energy while filling it with an added snarl that leaves a deep mark on the listeners. Rock fans will flock, as well, to tracks that combine these two approaches like the character piece “Lexxi Mccoy” and “Sing for Me”. May’s penchant for strong lyrical content comes through on each of these numbers and it’s a testament to his songwriting powers that he never eschews intelligent content in favor of simply addressing himself to the musical arrangements.
He stretches boundaries often and successfully. The first instance of this comes with the moody title track and the piano, especially, has a lyrical sway that’s well punctuated by the same stellar drumming we hear throughout the album. “Elixir of the Gods”, the album’s seeming centerpiece, and the later “Symphony of Sorrow” break with the album’s guitar-rock leanings while retaining the same moodiness coloring the title track. The album closer “When We Make Love” takes a 180 degree turn from the preceding dozen songs in its embrace of jazzy sounds and atmospherics that will draw in May’s audience immediately. May shows every bit of the same chops in this song that he does in the rock tracks while showing off his vocal chops in a wholly individual way. There’s no imitation and no short cuts on Rhett May’s Creatures of the Night. Instead, it burns with fierce creativity from the opening and guarantees listeners an entertaining ride.
9 out of 10 stars