Russ Ballard, for those who aren’t familiar with his prodigious output, is a musician and songwriter of many years standing and a reputation bordering on the reverential within music business circles. As well as being a ‘rock star’ in his own right thanks to his time in ‘70s rockers Argent, he has written genre-spanning songs for some of the biggest names in music such as Anni-Frid Lyngstad of Abba, Roger Daltrey, Rainbow, America and, ahem, Hot Chocolate, to name but a few.
‘It’s Good To Be Here’ is Ballard’s 10th solo release, featuring 13 tracks over the course of 50 minutes or so and it contains a mixture of song types. There’s up-tempo rocky numbers such as the album opener ‘My Awakening’, which is very catchy with a heavy riff than the song is built upon; and ‘Kicking The Can Down The Road’, the first track to be aired from the record and also very catchy.
There’s also mid-tempo tracks without quite the same rocky edge; for example, ‘Colliding’ which is an effective power ballad, and ‘Tidal Wave’ which has a nice ‘60s vibe to it, somewhat reminiscent of the Faces or Kinks.
There are also pure ballads, a couple of which are included in the triumvirate of tracks that close the album, each a reworking of one of Ballard’s best-known songs. First up is a neat revamp of ‘New York Groove’, made famous by Hello and then Ace Frehley. This is followed by a brace of ballads with a stunning piano-led version of ‘Since You’ve Been Gone’, which highlights Ballard’s lyrical mastery, and another ballad in the shape of ‘You Can Do Magic’, the original being famously performed by America.
All in all, this is a very competent release, as you would expect given the decades of writing and performing that Ballard has under his belt. Not every song has the magic touch in evidence but none are to be found wanting either. Those of you familiar with Ballard’s capabilities will no doubt need little persuasion to check this release out, but for anyone who may be wavering, rest assured that there’s plenty here worthy of investigation.
IT'S GOOD TO BE HERE
Review by Dave Uphill
21st February 2020
1) My Awakening; 2) Time Machine
3) Kickin' the Can
4) Annabel's Place
5) Wasted (The Last Ride)
6) Colliding; 7) Tidal Wave
8) The First Man That Ever Danced
9) The Misunderstood
10) Proud Man
11) New York Groove
12) Since You Been Gone
13) You Can Do Magic
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN:
"...a very competent release, as you would expect given the decades of writing and performing that Ballard has under his belt. Not every song has the magic touch in evidence but none are to be found wanting either."