BluesPillsLiveThis week sees blues rock aficionados Zodiac and Blues Pills both release an album of live material. The former have their Road Tapes, Vol. 1 for sale whilst Blues Pills have the simply-named Blues Pills Live for your delectation.

If you fancy a journey into your soul and psyche then the bell-bottomed, warm retro melange of Blues Pills should certainly do the job. Their live recording is the feistier, fresher and stronger of the two. Naturally, it is taken is from their performance at the Freak Valley Festival in Germany, run by their friend Jens Helde, the man responsible for giving them their name.

Bursting with energy it kicks off with a glorious, spine-tingling rendition of “High-Class Woman” before heading on into the heart of the material from their debut self-titled album – the remainder comes from their few EP releases. The production is full and meaty – vocalist Elin Larsen gives your ears a good work-out whilst the great lumbering bottom line tickles your toes. Somewhere in the middle of their set, they settle down and begin to extend tracks like “Black Smoke” and the superb “Dig In” with honeyed, bluesy jams. The focus of the crowd turns here to Larson to help them through and by throwing a few vocal sweeps and crescendos in, she manages to hold their attention as plenty of appaluse, wolf-whistles and howls of joy fly back at her.

ZodiacRoadZodiac, rather, take that classic Stateside rock n’ roll template yet give it a contemporary feel by infusing elements of pop, funk and blues. Their Road Tapes release is well-knitted together and comes from parts of their 2014 Fall Tour. With three albums-worth of material to sift through, only 4 of the 10 tracks come from their latest release.

What they do tracklist makes their “set” feel a little sluggish although a quiet crowd don’t help their cause. Sadly, they miss out their pièce de résistance, “Sonic Child”, but they do reach for their trusty Neil Young cover, “Cortez The Killer” and the groove-laden “A Bit Of Devil”. The recording is also a little muddy in places, but the twin guitar attack of Nick van Delft and Stephen Gall stand out nicely. Certainly, the groove of “Diamond Shoes”, the shape-shifting beauty of “A Penny And A Dead Horse” and the 15-minute jammed-out “Coming Home” give this enough variety to warrant your attention.

For those intending to splash the cash, I’d recommend buying Blues Pills Live, leaving Road Tapes by the verge and getting a piece of Zodiac’s mind-blowing third album, 2014’s Sonic Child instead.

(John Skibeat)

Blues Pills Live = 8/10
Zodiac – Road Tapes, Vol.1 = 5.5/10