Good Time Charlie – Ready to Rumble
Good Time Music
11 tracks/33 minutes
Good Time Charlie is a Norwegian band from Førde and Bergen on the west coast of Norway that has now produced 11 albums since getting together in 1982. The band has had many members over the years and vocalist and harp player Arle Hjelmeland is the lone original member. The rest of the band are younger musicians, with Steinar Karlsen on guitar, Morten Skage on bass and Einar Olsson plays the drums, successors to 15 prior members of the band. The style of music is self-described on their Wikipedia page as being called “garage soul,” a blend of 1960’s garage rock and the energy of soul music. The album was nominated for a Spellman Prize for blues, Norway’s version of the Grammy’s. This album is their second time being nominated over the years.
The CD opens with “Ready” where the band tells us they are ready to rumble. The song opens with a dirty harp blow and they shuffle through a really fun cut with a little more harp to spice things up. “In It To Win It” is a bouncy cut with a decent guitar solo and some harp thrown in for good measure. Next up is “Hunt,” a rocking cut, not really blues but still good. “Soul Up On Ice” is a slow, bluesy number with some nice guitar punctuation. “Line of Fire” offers up what sounds like 1960’s English garage band rock that came out of the blues. A driving drum beat and tastefully layered guitar, it’s more rock than blues but still it’s fun. “Pie In The Sky” is a down tempo, darker piece which also hearkens to rock more than blues.
“New Beat” is another similarly styled piece; a rock number with a bluesy harp solo that tries to bring things back to the blues until the lyrics start up again. “Hack” approaches the blues instrumentally but once again the vocals all sound like a rock song; not bad but not blues. “Mellow” has a late 1950’s rock sort of feel to it with a well-done guitar solo. ”Soulhawk” mixes rock with a little blues with an interesting beat. More restrained guitar work here in the latter portions adds to the cut. The album closes with “Freezing Penguin.” The cut opens with a nice guitar line and moves into a song that uses emperor penguins cold and lonely existence to compare to his life. Interesting and different for sure, and again more rock than blues.
There is a unique manner in which the vocals are delivered. It’s a little bit the accent, a little bit the manner of articulation of the lyrics and a lot of it the breathy and desperate feel to Hjelmeland’s delivery. It does not sound like blues when Arle sings, it sounds like progressive rock. Musically, the songs vary from blues to early rock and have a sort of poppy 1960’s UK feel to them. That’s not bad, it just does not say blues to me.
This album grew on me the more I listened. I would not call this blues in any traditional format. It’s kind of fun, though, and if you get past the lyrical style it’s really interesting. If you are looking for something completely different, then this might be something for you to try.