Released: 2005, Screaming Ferret Wreckords
Reviewer: Lord of the Wasteland
Some old-timers might remember Crimson Glory, the late-80s U.S. power metal band who sported face masks to hide their identities and had a minor hit with “Lonely” in 1989. Ben Jackson was the guitarist in that group and has decided that launching a solo career (he left the mask behind) under an eponymous moniker would get him back in the game. ALL OVER YOU, recorded way back in 2003 but just released by Screaming Ferret Wreckords, is the second entry from Jackson’s band (2002’s HERE I COME preceded it) and fans of Crimson Glory looking for an extension of that band’s sound need look elsewhere. There are flecks of metal on ALL OVER YOU but in general, it is firmly entrenched in the hard rock vein. Jackson adopts the dual role of guitars and lead vocals here with mixed results. His voice is nothing to write home about—think a third-rate Kip Winger—and he handles the middle-of-the-road stuff well but wherever there is any variance in his register, Jackson falters. The addition of Rose Sexton on “backing vocals”—in reality, she harmonizes with Jackson on almost every song to fill in the gaps where he falls short—is a welcome addition to the band. Still, the fact remains that besides the naked girl on the cover and Rose Sexton’s dominatrix getup in the CD booklet (*NOTE: Be sure to shield your eyes from the hairy-chested guy with a vest but no shirt, the seductively-opened buttons on guitarist Mark Borgmeyer’s shirt and Jackson’s ridiculous hairdo), there isn’t much to get excited about here.
The chest-thumping groove of “Turn It On” gets things rolling and pretty much sets the tone for what to expect on ALL OVER YOU. The guitars are right up front and a solid rhythm section is present courtesy of bassist Dano Binz (who has since been replaced with Fabrizio Fulco) and drummer Rich Tabor. Jackson and Sexton work well together, their voices harmonizing into a cohesive unit. The heavy, but clichéd, “Mean Machine” is one of the standout tracks on the album, so don’t let the Depeche Mode-like drum machine intro throw you off. A chunky riff throughout and distorted bass line in the chorus make this one stick in your head. Unfortunately, the schmaltzy title track amounts to a throwaway power ballad that sounds like a Crimson Glory leftover and ruins any momentum built up to this point. The tribal drum sound of “Falling Down” is backed by a power chord-driven chorus that would not be out of place on a Ratt album. Likewise, “Eyes of Ice” draws heavily from Jackson’s work in Crimson Glory and the 80s-styled riffs sound a bit dated, as well, but the song definitely rocks. “Far and Away” is catchy in a sing-along kind of way and the vocal harmonizing is reminiscent of the material Bon Jovi is writing these days—safe, melodic choruses surrounded by a fluffy riff. The clichéd, cheeseball lyrics reach a pinnacle on “Heavy On My Mind” (“I’m hungry for a little taste/Let me get down to my knees/So you can rub it all over my face”), an ode to strip clubs that is dripping with sleazy innuendo and seems forced and out of place in context with the rest of the album. Jackson’s former vocalist in Crimson Glory, Midnight, shows up to add some backing vocals on “Rock & Roll Heaven (Or Bust)” and while hearing the two together again may be a treat for Crimson Glory fans, most of us will have already tuned out.
Lyrical atrocities aside, the music here isn’t bad by any means but it is just too familiar. Jackson’s sub-standard vocals are obviously padded by the addition of Rose Sexton and the terribly dated feel of ALL OVER YOU really leaves a bad taste in my mouth. I can appreciate a rock album that was released in 1988 and is filled with lick-my-love-pump lyrics because that was the norm at the time, but The Ben Jackson Group just cannot be forgiven for dishing this out in 2006 and expecting people to fall for it.
KILLER KUTS: “Mean Machine,” “Falling Down,” “Far and Away”