Tesla – Twisted Wires & The Acoustic Sessions (2011)

Posted: July 14, 2011 in Music

One of the better – and more influential – bands of the 80′s was Tesla.

2011 marks the 25th Anniversary of the band’s first release Mechanical Resonance, and Jeff Keith and the boys have again loaded up the gear and hit the road to celebrate the landmark, as well as their latest release Twisted Wires & The Acoustic Sessions. 25 years in the business is no small task these days, and considering the group has stayed relatively active with touring and albums over that stretch (minus a brief hiatus during the late 1990s), you’d be hard pressed to find a more cohesive, harder working band in rock and roll.

The band has deserved their longevity. Tesla’s unique style of blues-influenced rock/metal has been unmatched by any other band, and the sound has always been a nice departure both musically and lyrically from the other so-called legends of early heavy metal. Leaning on a more groove-inspired sound has given the band the opportunity over the years to experiment with a harmonica here, a slide guitar there, and a simple, personal style that has captured their audience time and time again.

So much so, that you really have to take the “heavy metal” description off of these guys. But that’s not a bad thing. For years and years they were lumped in with the hairspray and spandex scene – which they never really wanted to be a part of to begin with. After all, these were guys in cowboy boots and blue jeans. Guys who didn’t need a make-up artist on tour with them – because they didn’t wear it. All they were interested in was making powerful, emotional rock that people could relate to, and that’s exactly what they’ve been doing for 25 years running.

In a world where the “popular” sound shifts ever-constantly, Tesla has never strayed from its sound. They have an arsenal of both heavy anthems and soft rockers, the latter of which almost everyone knows the words to each and every one. Tell me “Little Suzi” isn’t one of the best rock songs ever, and I will call you a liar to your face. And that’s just a small sip of the bottle.

Instead of having one or two songs to carry them through the State Fair circuit, Tesla’s history is filled – to the brim – with great, memorable tracks spanning over all seven of their studio albums. That doesn’t even include the 1990 live recording of Five Man Acoustical Jam, which basically invented the “unplugged” concept that tons of artists have incorporated into their catalogs over the years. It’s because of this that the band has been able to continue touring and recording all these years, and with the release of their eighth studio album, it’s obvious they plan on making a little more history for themselves before they’re done.

The band has taken that acoustical approach to the next level with the new release. Twisted Wires & The Acoustic Sessions is a combination of some old stuff, some borrowed stuff, and some brand new stuff as well. But if you’re a fan of the band, or even just a fan of good music – it’s all good stuff.

But let’s break it down just a bit so you know what you’re getting with this release. We’ll start with the old stuff. Not completely dissimilar to “…Acoustical Jam,” the band has re-recorded a handful of their songs from previous albums and stripped them down to the bone. “Into The Now,” “Hang Tough,” Edison’s Medicine,” “What You Give,” “Changes” and “Song and Emotion” are all revisited here, but often with a completely different take. You’ll recognize the lyrics, but it comes across extremely fresh. A credit to the song-writing, undoubtedly, but just as inspiring is the rest of the band reinventing the tracks instrumentally. You can tell these songs are deep in the heart of everyone involved – and the end result is emotional, authentic and memorable.

Also part of the “old stuff” are a few tracks recorded in 2005 at bassists Brian Wheat’s J Street Recorders studio, which ironically was the last recording session with original member Tommy Skeoch. “Shine Away” and “A Lot To Lose” might not have been huge hits for the band, but the versions presented here only add to the atmosphere. Skeoch left the band after the birth of his child, but others claim that it was due to substance abuse problems. The band has kept mum about his departure, and the real reasons we may never know, but I thought it was very classy to include these recordings here – as Skeoch was every bit a part of the band during their peak of popularity.

The “borrowed” aspect of this album is only one track, but it’s an absolute gem. The band brought new life into the Five Man Electrical Band’s hit “Signs” twenty years ago, and are set to do it again with their rendition of The Climax Blues Band song “I Love You.” I can’t think of a better song for Keith and company to take on – and they really make it their own. The vocals are soulful, and it’s a great tribute to a piece of music’s history they obviously hold dear.

Lastly, we do get a couple of “new” tracks here as well. “2nd Street” and “Better Off Without You” were penned exclusively for this release, and while they are songs you haven’t heard before, they fit so comfortably in the flow of this album that you might just miss them if you’re not careful. “2nd Street” is a soulful romp that keeps the acoustic vibe going and represents everything good about Tesla. The vocals and lyrics are powerful and the music – even dialed down – leaves its mark with great structure and form. It’s no “Modern Day Cowboy,” but this isn’t the album for a hard rocker like that (we’ll get that on the next one, I bet.)

The second fresh track, “Better Off Without You” is a slow-crawling ballad that, again, suits the record perfectly. Soft strumming and crooning give way to an electric guitar/piano instrumental solo that is the heaviest thing on the album, but it reels itself back in to finish the song off. Both cuts were solid – albeit softer than expected – but when combined with the rest of the album add just the right touch to what may be Tesla’s most definitive release since The Great Radio Controversy.

The lesson here is that when you have great song writing, over-the-top musical talent, and a dedication to staying true to yourself, you can withstand the music scene – no matter how awful it gets from time to time. Tesla is a testament to what is right in rock and roll, and while their past is storied and memorable, their future is as bright as ever. Happy anniversary, guys – and here’s to 25 more years of great music…

8/10

Tracklist:
01 – Into The Now
02 – Hang Tough
03 – 2nd Street
04 – Edisons Medicine
05 – What You Give
06 – Better Off Without You
07 – Shine Away
08 – I Love You
09 – Changes
10 – A Lot To Lose
11 – Caught In A Dream
12 – Song And Emotion

http://www.amazon.com/Twisted-Wires-Tesla/dp/B0052EVAIU/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1310675135&sr=8-3

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Comments
  1. Jingles says:

    2nd stree was the best addition. I am just addict to it.

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