North Carolina’s Space Apaches released earlier this month their 14-track album Smokin’ Voyages, a collection of alternative rock numbers with country and blues nuances. Jim Arrendell (drums), Rob Geisler (bass), Aaron Price (keyboard, piano, guitar), Andrew Reed (guitar), and Tom Leiner (guitar) make listeners who grew up in the late 1980s and early 1990s feel like they are children listening to the radio.
The introductory instrumental “Entry” is too short to set the tone for anything but gives listener the time to settle in for the ride. The classic rock sounds of the dynamic “Sunrise” features well-known and well-performed elements: enthused drums that lead energetic electric guitars and a throaty set of lead, male vocals. One can feel the band members enjoying playing every note of this number with a smile on their faces and a grin of pleasure at striking the last note together. “In My Mind” brings together these same elements, albeit with an extra flavour of country added.
The ballad-like “Empty” tones thing down, showing a softer, calmer side of the band featuring warm vocals and flirty electric guitars. But the Space Apaches can’t tame themselves for more than one song, as “Desert Life” kicks things into increasingly higher gear. The desert spoken about is the social one we create for ourselves when we turn away from meaningful relationships. It makes for a potentially great video clip with an important message.
“I Am the Six O’Clock News” sees the return of the same classic rock guitars that kicked off the album. There is again a country flavour added to the track but also an almost gritty and raw tone that reflects the conundrum it illustrates: Do we let the media’s portrayal of society define us?
The uplifting, dynamic, up-tempo instrumental “Breakin’ the Ice” is just one big jam session in which nothing seems planned and yet the tune flows smoothly. The same elements that appear in other places in Smokin’ Voyages come through here in a mish-mash of Space Apache flavours.
The blues-tinged, radio-friendly rock number “Smile” is yet another socially conscious contribution to the record in which the band explores the feeling of those of us who, despite pain and suffering, refuse let their smiles drop.
The first of two covers to be featured on this album is a laid-back, almost relaxed version of “Just Dropped In (To See What Condition My Condition Was In)”. The country-flavoured, toe-tapping, piano-led “I’m on My Way to Feelin’ Fine” is an uplifting and catchy track, with the optimistic and sun-drenched melody being quite the match for the message of hope for a better future.
The blues and rock ballad “A Song for the Rest of My Life” kicks off the last four tunes of the set. The guitar introduction makes it clear from the get-go that this is a blues-tinged number with some great instrumentation accompanying a message of living a good, strong, simple, and meaningful life. The foot-tapping and rolling blues number “Love Should Come Easy” ushers in some 1960s honky-tonk flavour. This is where all levels of instrumentation stand out even more (especially during solos), from the electric guitars to the drums and piano.
“Maybe” is yet another socially minded song; the pop-imbibed alternative rock track reflects some of the confusion that characterizes the individual’s relationship to society and how sometimes it’s just easier to stick one’s head in the sand because maybe everything will eventually be fine.
Closing the release is the Space Apaches’ version of “Ghost Riders in the Sky”, which at times has an almost jazzy feel due to some wild piano runs.
Smokin’ Voyages is a socially conscious album that brings together some great writing and musical talent and is well worth a listen. Tracks are available for streaming on SoundCloud. More information about the band is available on their Facebook page and on their official website.