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Review for Nikki Sudden's album "Treasure Island" (Rockwood 001/2004)
by Phil Shoenfelt, published in "Ptolemaic Terrascope"
Treasure Island, Nikki Sudden's latest musical offering, is a high class affair imbued with the mythology and legends of Blues and Rock & Roll, both metaphorically and literally. This time around Nikki has pulled out all the stops and has surrounded himself with a group of musicians who include such legendary figures as Mick Taylor, Ian McLagan and BJ Cole, to name but a few. Together with regular collaborator Dave Kusworth, and ex-Jacobites Glenn Tranter and Carl Eugene Picot, Nikki and his present band The Last Bandits have cooked up a pot-pourri of musical excellence guaranteed to refresh the most jaded of listeners. Even the humble CD booklet has, in this case, been turned into a work of art. With its stylish reproductions of old Blues labels, comic book illustrations and adventure story scenarios, it harks back to the halcyon days of the gatefold sleeve when the artwork and design were almost as enthralling as the

Nikki has been dancing his way down the Rock & Roll highway for over twenty-five years now, starting with independent legends Swell Maps in the mid-seventies and continuing with The French Revolution and The Jacobites through the 80's and 90's. With the new album he seems to have reached a high point in his fabulous and varied musical career, and the songwriting and production values have never been better. My favourite track is Russian River, a magical, romantic tale of the love affair between a Russian Princess and a down-at-heel musician; but really, there isn't a duff song on the whole album. Nikki's ability to create a hermetic world of his own is evident throughout the CD, and he somehow manages to take the murkiest of Blues and Rock & Roll legends and transmute them into his own mythology. A master storyteller, no less, and a guitar player who has been quoted as an inspiration by such renowned musicians as Thurston Moore of Sonic Youth and Peter Buck of REM.

Other standout tracks include Kitchen Blues (with Mick Taylor's evil-sounding guitar recalling The Stones at their satanic best), and Sanctified, which harks back to Nikki's collaboration with Rowland S. Howard on Kiss You Kidnapped Charabanc. Fall Any Further brings a change of pace, with a Tamla Motown bass line and sexy backing vocals from The Girls, while the song Treasure Island kicks in with a killer guitar riff that is so dirty that you have to wash it out of your ears afterwards.

Produced by the great John Rivers at WSRS in Leamington Spa, Treasure Island is a labour of love from a man who lives it as he speaks it. Whether he's playing prestigious venues in the USA or smoky kellar bars in east Berlin, Nikki Sudden just keeps on doing what he does best-snatching victory from the jaws of defeat, while creating his own magical world of great, kick-ass, independent Rock & Roll music. (Phil Shoenfelt)


Review for Nikki Sudden's album "Treasure Island" (Rockwood 001/2004)
by Phil Shoenfelt, published in "Bucketfull Of Brains"
What is there to say about the latest album by a man who has already released about thirty of them (not to mention innumerable singles, compilations, collaborations and limited editions)? Nikki Sudden is nothing if not prolific, but Treasure Island marks a high point in his long and varied musical career, one that has led him from the sonic experiments of Swell Maps back in the 1970's, through the melodic grunge pop of The French Revolution and the Jacobites in the 80's and 90's, up to and including his present outfit, The Last Bandits. Not to ignore his collaborative efforts with artists as diverse as Rowland S. Howard, Peter Buck and Mike Scott, of course.

On Treasure Island, Nikki has pulled out all the stops. The first thing you notice is the booklet, a lovingly wrought artefact that really deserves to be released in its own right. Paying homage to pulp literature, classic record label designs, and the kind of advertisements for 'hot' new records that you might have found in the Melody Maker and Record Mirror of a bygone era, the artwork is a must for anyone with a sense of humour and an interest in the history of popular music.

The music itself is a beautifully produced selection of grungy rockers and heart-wrenching ballads, the kind of thing that Nikki is well known for but elevated here to a new level of accomplishment and execution. Surrounded by a host of great musicians-The Last Bandits, old stalwarts like Dave Kusworth and Glenn Tranter, plus international names such as Mick Taylor, Ian McLagan and BJ Cole-Nikki lives out one fantasy after another as he wends his way down that two lane blacktop to Rock & Roll nirvana. Right from the opening track-Looking For A Friend, a classic Sudden boogie in the tradition of Aeroplane Blues-the album never hits a false emotional note, and is a testament to the man's total immersion in the legends and mythology of popular music.

Standout tracks for me are Stay Bruised-a rich, romantic ballad that could make a navvy break down in tears-Kitchen Blues, Russian River and High And Lonesome. With Mick Taylor on guitar, Kitchen Blues cooks and percolates with the spirit of 666, while Russian River finds Mr. Sudden in mystical, magical, romantic mode as he tells the story of a Russian princess and a penniless musician. This one is a true classic, with aching, yearning lyrics and evocative pedal steel guitar from BJ Cole that grows on you more each time you listen to it. High And Lonesome, by way of contrast, is a brooding low-key blues for those retrospective moments at 5am when the party has ended, all the drugs and alcohol are gone, and the dregs of your life taste like poison. A kind of musical Maldoror imbued with the spirit of Robert Johnson, this is a hymn for all those lost souls who have taken the road of decadence and refuse to turn back, no matter what.

But to be honest, the whole album is comprised of standout tracks, a rare thing these days when most CDs contain three or four good songs at most. Produced by the mighty John Rivers at WSRS, Leamington Spa, and released on Nikki's own Rookwood label, Treasure Island is exactly that-a magical island of excellence in a sea of major label crap. The spirit of truly independent music lives on! (Phil Shoenfelt)


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