On the follow-up to his 2015 album, Lights On, David Patillo, aka Strange Majik, steps back from that album’s wild and glorious sonic experimentation, returning to his blues/rock roots. The strange thing about rock and roll is that it confounds expectations and defies all attempts to contain it to a particular sound, and Patillo does just that.
The opening track, “Going to Miami,” lays down wicked grooves and firmly establishes itself as a first-rate funk song. It hearkens back to the Godfather of Soul, James Brown. (And if anyone tries to tell you that James Brown is not rock and roll, just walk away because it is a waste of time to argue with fools.)
“Listening to Leon” tempers the funk with a bit of the blues, and does so in a manner that is at once unexpected and deeply satisfying.
“Don’t Mess with the Girl from Texas” is a remake of a song from the 2012 album, Relovolution, by Patillo’s old band, the Dead Exs. This updated version retains the original track’s blues-rock swagger and drips the whole thing in a fuzzy, funky glaze. Another song by the Dead Exs, “Nolita Strut,” from their 2011 album Resurrection, gets a horn-driven overhaul that evokes late night in the city. The socially conscious “Workingman 99” is a reprise of a track from Strange Majik’s Lights On.
Raised on Rock ‘N’ Roll is a true album — not a concept album, but a cohesive singular piece of art. Strange Majik draws upon an impressive repertoire of styles, moods, and genres, while staying true to the overarching themes and spirit of the album as a whole.
This is never more clear than on “Cocaine Kisses,” which hits like a bolt from the blue. Introduced by a barrel-house piano riff, the track instantly transports the listener from the city to an out-of-the-way roadhouse somewhere along a dusty highway. The song wouldn’t sound out of place on The Rolling Thunder Revue. It is that good.
“If You Got the Time I Got the Love” is at-once traditional and contemporary, good-time blues music at its finest. It is a sexy celebration of love, and a welcome pause from some of the heavier moods on the album.
There is a tendency in music to avoid “going big.” There is, of course, a danger of coming off bombastic or absurd. But great music takes that risk and reaps the reward. So it is with Raised on Rock ‘N’ Roll. The album’s title track is a majestic musical history lesson which manages to touch upon the best of 1970s classic rock sounds while firmly establishing itself as a product of the 21st Century. The soaring background vocals are a stand-out element of this track.
Album closer “Pull the Trigger” may well be the defining set piece of this remarkable collection of songs. Driven by Strange Majik’s deft slide guitar work, this sprawling number astutely defines these turbulent and divisive times in a musical language that anyone who was raised on rock ‘n’ roll can readily understand.