I discovered the Wanton Bishops late last year with their 2012 debut album “Sleep With The Lights On”, an excellent blues rock record that they themselves described as “a Delta blues record inspired by the likes of RL Burnside and Muddy Waters.
Their follow up EP in 2016, “Nowhere Everywhere”, showed a marked change in style away from the blues rock of their debut to a more eclectic mix of elements.
See my previous post on the group.
Fast forward to 2023 and the Wanton Bishops are back with their new album “Under The Sun”, and we at Sammy Plays Dirty were able to obtain an advance copy of the album for review.
At this point the group is essentially a solo effort; gone is guitarist Eddy Ghossein whose blues riffs really contributed to the debut album. The band is in fact essentially the “vision of one very eclectic man – Nader Mansour”.
Eclectic is definitely a good description of the album as Nader mixes elements of blues-rock, psychedelia, synth-pop, electronic, dance and traditional middle eastern flavors.
Below is a brief track by track review of the album:
DON’T YOU TOUCH THE RADIO:
The second single off the album has distorted vocals over an up-tempo guitar driven beat. The song does have a great harmonica solo which was present on the first album which is unfortunately missing on most of the band’s later work. I would prefer a harder guitar sound but overall this is not a bad song.
This song starts off with an Arabic sounding synth beat that merges into a more traditional synth rock realm. The vocals and melody remind me a bit of something the Smiths would do but with an Arabic influence. Lyrically the song is an ode to the city he loves, and which has seen so much pain and suffering over the years.
DO WHAT YOU’RE TOLD:
The first single off the album, is described by the artist as “a dance rock track with hard hitting riffs, a hip hop beat structure and vocal delivery, all sprinkled with a hint of the Orient”.
Distorted vocals over a synthesizer beat give rise to a slow electronic dance number. Something you might hear late at night at a disco in Beirut.
GOD’S OWN REMEDY:
The vocal delivery, tambourine and overall feel of the song reminds me of something the Doors would do. The song definitely has a 60’s psychedelic throwback feel. One of my favorites on the album.
WE ARE ONE:
This has a definite Arabic sounding electronic beat over a chant like vocal delivery. An interesting mix with additional female backing vocals giving it a rich sound almost like an Arabic Gregorian chant if that is even possible.
GONNA BE FINE:
This is a weird mix, starting off with an almost hip hop beat while intermixing vocals in Arabic with some nice harmonica accompaniment. Not sure what he is going for here.
This also has a strong Arabic feel, with a galloping drum beat conjuring up images of the middle eastern desert. The bridge is sung in Arabic which also leads to the overall nomadic feeling to the song.
Another change in styles, this is a more guitar driven rocker with some surf rock overtones and a nice organ solo. Another song with a strong 60’s psychedelic vibes. One of the better songs on the album.
Finishing the album is another interesting proposal, a ballad that sounds like it could be taken out of a Sergio Leone film. The vocals and horns give it a western movie vibe that mutes into an almost psychedelic finale. I could see this song fitting in nicely on a low budget western movie. One of the better songs on the album.
While I understand an artist wanting to experiment or “evolve” over time, what I find here is that the album is too disperse, there is no cohesion of styles or direction. There are too many changes to styles song over song to give the album an overall unified feel.
Gone is the blues rock of the debut album. What you have here is a very personal and emotional album reflecting the life of a single individual. Rather than calling this a Wanton Bishops album I would have called this a Nader Mansour album.