If you watched the movie Almost Famous, you’ll remember the fictitious band Stillwater, whom a 16-year old Cameron Crowe followed during their 1973 summer tour (note: there was an actual band by the same that was active at the time but the movie isn’t based on them). That band created rock ‘n roll that echoed of The Allman Brothers, Led Zeppelin, and Peter Frampton, who just so happen to co-write the songs sung by Stillwater in the movie. Now imagine that band brought to real life in contemporary times. That’s what you get with The Legal Immigrants. From Grand Rapids, Michigan, The Legal Immigrants’ rock ‘n roll is unabashedly retro. It resonates with the power of the great rock bands and artists of the 1970s, such as those listed above. Even their name is likely a nod to one of the all-time great songs, “Immigrant Song” by Led Zeppelin.
The blistering rock is heard throughout their new album, Drugs to Roses. The opening two tracks, “Drugs” and “Bludgeoned” are barn-burning numbers that echo of Zeppelin. The guitars wail and scintillate while frontman Joe Bockheim’s voice hollers above the hooks. However, Bockheim doesn’t have Robert Plant’s screech. Instead, his voice is more akin to Andrew Stockdale of Wolfmother, the Australian rockers who too have been inspired by the ’70s. On “Bang” and “Freak Out”, The Legal Immigrants spice things up, as the tempo is accelerated, the guitars shimmer a bit more, and Bockheim’s voice rises to match the sonic flurry. The guitar solo on “Freak Out”, while brief, is awesome and would make for a feverish guitar jam live.
When hearing “Bily Goat” and “Temptress”, another big name comes to mind, but not a band or an artist from the ’70s, although maybe he should have been from that era. With the masterful guitar work, a higher pitch in the voice, and observations about the crumbling of society and deceptive individuals, you would think Jack White was singing these tunes and not The Legal Immigrants. “Bily Goat”, in particular, is fantastic and arguably the highlight of the album.
On the more “melodic” tracks, “Fork in the Road” and the closer “Roses”, there is a familiarity to The Districts, another young band making old-fashion rock ‘n roll relevant once again. The guitar flourishes, the building tempo, and the thoughtful lyricism are common characteristics of these two emerging bands.
Drugs to Roses is a great album, and a must listen by rock ‘n roll enthusiasts. It recalls the decade that has defined the genre and replicating some of the great artists of the time while adding a modern touch. And after spinning the album, put on Almost Famous just to be transported back to the time when rock ‘n roll ruled the airwaves.
The Legal Immigrants currently are Joe ‘Boots’ Bockheim (lead vocals, guitar); Ben Taber (lead guitar); Kevin Kitsch (bass); and Anthony Lubenow (drums). Trevor Reidsma was the original lead guitar player, who played during the recording of the album and contributed to the songwriting.
Drugs to Roses is out now on Amazon.
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