Sunday, 20 December 2009

Bernie Tormé - Electric Gypsies (1983)

1. Wild West
2. 20th Century
3. Lightning Strikes
4. Too Young
5. Call Of The Wild
6. D.I.S.E.
7. Presences
8. I Can't Control Myself
9. Go Go

If Mick Jagger and Jimi Hendrix had ever bumped uglies, and were able to conceive a child who was then adopted by the Sex Pistols - Bernie Tormé would have been the result. Bernie Tormé has spent most of his career as a vagabond - pistol for hire, even citing “boredom” as the main reason he moved around so much. The fender bending flying Irishman was born 1952 in the city of Dublin, initially starting out with local band Urge, before a short stint in London’s Scrapyard. Eventually he wound up in Ian Gillan’s post Deep Purple solo outfit, debuting on 1979’s “Mr. Universe” and becoming an instant guitar god in the eyes of the British rock community. After scoring a #2 charting album (UK) with “Future Shock”, Bernie got fed up and walked out on Gillan, playing brief session work with Atomic Rooster until he wound up replacing the recently deceased Randy Rhoads in Ozzy Osbourne’s band. For Bernie it would be shoes that were too big to fill at that time….

“I didn't know too much about Ozzy, I hadn't really kept up with what he was up to. And I didn't see my playing as being stylistically much like Tony Iommi, who was the only guitarist I knew of in the context of Ozzy. But, anyway, I was talked into giving it a try late afternoon on the 23rd March: I had about two days to sort myself out before going to audition for Ozzy in LA. So, first thing I did was go out and buy copies of Blizzard Of Ozz and Diary Of A Madman: I was totally blown away: by Randy's playing, by the great songs, and by Ozzy's performance: two totally brilliant albums. From this you can also see that I did not have much time to learn what was, quite a body of material.” Bernie Tormé

Feeling that he couldn’t spend the rest of his career as an imitator of the now legendary Rhoads, Tormé left the Ozzy tour after 3 weeks to be replaced by Brad Gillis. He decided to focus on his own group (taking up guitar/vocal duties), releasing their first record “Turn Out The Lights” (with Everton Williams on bass - Frank Noon on drums) - later in 1982, leading swiftly to the follow up LP “Electric Gypsies” – with the collective musicians carrying the same moniker.
Electric Gypsies” came out in 1983 on the Zebra label and is in my opinion, the only essential recording by Bernie Tormé. None of his solo outings before or after this album have matched up to the same level of searing rock ‘n’ roll fury. “Electric Gypsies” is just pure and simple undiluted energy. The songs are all venomous hard rock numbers, sprinkled with touches of punk rock, a style that Bernie was playing was also rooted in.

Opening salvo “Wild West” will leave you saddle sore for sure. It’s a jaw-dropping, raucous track delivered at full pelt, the guitar screaming out of the speakers. It conjures up scenes of cowboys and Indians, saloon brawls and double-barrelled smoking gun-fire. Bernie’s guitar gallops and bucks like someone shoved a V8 engine up a horses ass and through the raw production; you can almost feel the Irishman channelling the spirit of Hendrix, yet doing so with all the control and class of Jeff Beck – one of his many other influences. The thing I really respect Tormé for is that he sounds fresh, totally expressive and original all the time. He doesn’t sound like he’s trying to emulate his idols and this benefits each song greatly, being that the performances come across as vibrant, exciting and free.

20th Century” is Bernie’s nod to the Stones or Yardbirds it seems and it’s a good track, giving the record a late 60’s, early 70’s retro vibe and slowing the pace down after having literally unleashed the Kraken on track one! The other hugely impressive songs on this album are “Lightning Strikes”, “Call Of The Wild” (which sounds like a Hanoi Rocks tune) and the spookily spiritual “Presences”. The first two of those songs I mentioned contain cracking riffs, a haunting feel and superb steel strangled fret-work from Mr. Tormé. “Can’t Control Myself” could’ve been a massive punk anthem had it been created five or six years earlier. “Too Young” doesn’t seem too memorable no matter how many times I play it and “D.I.S.E.” is a bit short considereing the amount of tracks and running time. I was happy to discover that this album had been re-issued on CD finally back in 2006 – Tracks; “Shoorah Shoorah”, “Star”, “Search & Destroy”, “Possession”, “New World” being added from the “Shoorah Shoorah” EP.
If your bag is hard rock, punk or even heavy metal – whatever umbrella you put your steel and iron stylings under, this is one lost classic you may want to strongly consider.



© Flash Metal Circus

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