Phil Collen of Def Leppard has enlisted Rob DeLeo (bassist/Stone Temple Pilot), Forrest Robinson (drummer/TLC, India Arie, Engelbert Humperdinck) and Debbi Blackwell-Cook (who formerly sang background vocals for Michael Buble and Gregory Hines) for his socially-conscious blues-rock-n-soul project Delta Deep. The band uses their diverse musical background and astonishing musical pedigree to explore, meld, and showcase a variety of original soulful melodies that merge rock and blues music into a colorful array of unforgettable songs. Eight of the eleven songs featured on Delta Deep’s new album were written by Collen, his wife Helen, and Debbi Blackwell-Cook. The album also features special guests such as drummer Paul Cook (Sex Pistols) and bassist Simon Laffy (GIRL) on ‘Black Coffee, David Coverdale (Whitesnake) on ‘Private Number’, and Collen’s Def Leppard bandmate Joe Elliott on ‘Mistreated’. CJ Vanston, who produced Tina Turner, Joe Cocker and TOTO, lends his impressive organ playing skills as he special guests on ‘Burnt Sally’. The album was engineered by Russ Fowler (with additional engineering by Phil Collen, Ryan Williams and Rob Elfaizy) and mixed and mastered by Ronan McHugh. The album was recorded between three different studios: Phil’s Sweat Shop, Robert DeLeo’s Homefry Studio, Stage ONE Recording Studios. Says Collen: “There’s a type of ‘blues style’ but not actual blues music. I just don’t hear true blues anymore unless I go back and listen to really old music”. Phil decided to create what he wanted to hear, keeping it as true to its organic form as possible. As a result the bluesy-soulful-rock sound of Delta Deep was born. Enjoy our review of Delta Deep’s spectacular inaugural offering in full below.
‘Bang The Lid’ opens Delta Deep’s self-titled effort with Collen’s guitar sliding adeptly overtop a pounding kick drum. Female vocals are performed well throughout but especially in the verses, complimenting Collen’s exceptional guitar tone nicely. The bass play in the choruses has great feeling, keeping similar movements in the verses, too. The song’s title is emphasized over and over in the chorus before a broken down section introduces a guitar solo that then leads into a dynamic final chorus. Contained within this recording are copious examples of soul and emotion, both vocally and instrumentally. A clean, skillfully-played guitar part opens ‘Whiskey’, and drums are delicately played as a shuffling background feature. The guitar chords chosen are extremely complimentary and intriguing, while vocals are again performed well, this time with even more soul and emotion. The instrument performances are stellar all-around; DeLeo’s and Collen’s parts work especially well, the bass and guitar runs cooperating magnificently before another searing guitar solo enters and plays out. There isn’t ever a dull moment on this track; the song has a jazzy feel and an easy-to-follow storyline. ‘Down In The Delta’ is hard-hitting and rawer with distorted guitars. The intro is incredibly punchy, with a huge, grooving bass presence and an intriguing alternate tonality. ‘Down In The Delta’ is impressive from the very beginning; alluring vocals are performed skillfully and group vocals in the choruses add depth overtop new, interesting drum fills. A staccato second verse is highlighted by exceptional guitar tone and perfectly accented guitar parts. The whole song is memorable and energetic; the chorus lyrics are noteworthy and move smoothly with feeling and heart. A big bridge after another expertly-played guitar solo takes us to the peak of the song leading into a big final chorus. The song features exceptional work from DeLeo; his playing is outstanding throughout and truly moves the song. This is an amazing recording, precisely capturing pristine performances from each instrument.
While the opening hook of ‘Treat Her Like Candy’, which is revisited about halfway through the song prior to the guitar solo, has somewhat of a Nashville country vibe, the song itself reestablishes its natural bluesy inclinations quickly. A softer vibe is created here via a cleaner guitar tone in the intro before a trade off occurs between male and female vocals in the verses and ultimately throughout. Vocal harmonies in the pre chorus precede male vocals in the choruses; an easily-understood storyline, enjoyable electric guitar hook and more subdued guitar solo, distortion and tone-wise, are the high points. Each instrument is more subdued on this track, playing skillfully to the song and still giving of their unending emotion. This is professionalism to the max, an extremely impressive differentiation and variation. This is easy listening, yet with vocals that still let loose. The choruses are memorable, contain a bit of familiarity and are emphasized over and over again as the song closes. ‘Miss Me’ enters with drums, a moving bass and a bluesy, distorted guitar lead. The drums are expertly played while DeLeo carries the melody on bass during the intro and into likable verses with accented guitar hits that encourage listeners to bob their heads in agreement. Doubled vocals in the choruses, as well as some harmony vocals that are farther back in the mix, keep our attention moving forward. Everything is truly performed so well on this number. We’ve come to expect excellent guitar solos from Collen, and again Collen doesn’t disappoint. Blackwell-Cook’s vocal performances are outstanding throughout, especially in the verses, while the male vocals in the second verse are strong, almost aggressive. The song’s huge, long outro is carried instrumentally on the chorus progression for nearly a minute and a half. New group vocal parts enter, soon followed by another guitar solo before drums pick up and push the song to its close. ‘Burnt Sally’ is a strict five bar blues rendition set and drawn-out at a slower tempo. Its full sound and a rock tinge between each go are its notably unique elements; a wailing organ accompanies Collen during his expertly played guitar solo this time. A ‘Bad To The Bone’ style bridge goes from big to subdued with a minute left before a big, showy ending closes the song. The ‘All Along The Watchtower’ style intro of ‘Private Number’ transitions beautifully into the song’s softer yet exceptional first verse. The song is appealing throughout and progresses well to the song’s climax, the group gospel vocals in the final chorus playing out before fading to silence over time. ‘Shuffle Sweet’ is an in-your-face, harder rock effort with an awesome lead riff and tons of movement. Great production is evidenced by awesome choruses that transition immediately back into the verses; there is no wasted time on this track, as every part has its purpose. An awe-inspiring bridge featuring an amazing riff occurs before a huge guitar solo enters as the rhythm instruments switch back to the progression found in the choruses. A final pre chorus leads into the final chorus; never a dull moment, this is high-flying and full of intensity all the way throughout.
‘Black Coffee’ is much slower and more laid-back with lots of anticipation. A huge electric guitar is still present in the intro and the verses are led by the vocals and the bass. The pre choruses and choruses groove during an alteration to the feel/timing of the song. This part is big, drawn-out and revisited many times during the song’s runtime. While the phrases in the verses have 2 measures of 4/4 the pre choruses and choruses have 1 measure of 4/4 and 1 measure of 2/4. Excellent backing vocal parts are also present and memorable, especially in the choruses. The bass grooves with lots of movement while the song just gets bigger and bigger. Towards the close of the song, a slide guitar enters, placed far back in the mix; this track is exemplary of what we’ve come to expect from this group, really something, all around. During ‘Feelit’, DeLeo’s bass grooves over an electronic beat, male vocals and a bluesy, saturated guitar riff. Later, female vocals trade off back and forth with the male’s, again; instrumentally, the song is thorough with lots of bass movement, especially in the choruses. An intelligent, doubled and octaved guitar solo brings the song to its culmination before ending huge dynamically with a final chorus. Delta Deep has recreated and reinterpreted the same process for much, if not all of these songs, a process which has worked to perfection. The way that Delta Deep closed the album with ‘Mistreated’ was the most intelligent way to close the album, just like they’d close a live show. The song opens bare with riffing from Collen’s fuzzed-out guitar overtop a slow, pounding kick drum only to come in complete with bass, full kit, rhythm guitar and male vocals for the first verse. A slow groove sets the listener up for the extremely appealing part that begins at a minute and a half in. The song just gets bigger and bigger dynamically until three minutes in when it is broken down to a basic drum and bass groove complimented by harmonizing lead guitar parts and vocal inflections. Collen’s guitar work here is incredible, as he goes full out and covers a ton of musical ground; this is maybe his best work on the whole album. While ‘Mistreated’ is the longest track on the album, it is well worth it; the song varies dynamically before beginning to build and build and build as its final note nears. Delta Deep’s first endeavor is extremely impressive, errorless, outstanding…within it so much soul, emotion and feeling in each recording…it is a perfect display of showmanship and skill. This is everything you’d expect from a group of this caliber and more; these are true professionals accurately portraying and further representing a style, genre, a feeling. Each offering is impressive and memorable, an extremely thorough and honest exploration into the world of blues. These songs have everything you like to hear in a recording; each album cut is a memorable, significant one, integral to the whole but strong enough to stand on its own as well.