Featuring SKIP MCDONALD (LITTLE AXE) and EVAN JENKINS …….Produced by SKIP MCDONALD
01 The First Degree 3:59
02 Athena BooBoo 4:09
03 Like Mercury (In My Blood) 5:06
04 Speak Of The Devil (Secets of The 24 Moons) 4:39
05 A Promise Is A Cloud 5:28
06 Silence In The House Of God 5:18
07 Be The Echo Of My Cry 5:14
08 To Live Again 3:47
09 Breathless 5:12
10 Living In Hell 4:20
11 Panic Will Be On 3:34
12 You Kill Me 5:30
@LASTRADA MAGAZINE FRANCE – GILBERT DALTO
@LASTRADA MAGAZINE FRANCE - GILBERT DALTO - May 19, 2019
Steve Tallis Nice ! Au Borghese ! Le sympathique tablissement
du Port reoit celui que lon surnomme le griot australien. Cet artiste, la fois rare et original, dcrit sa musique comme du tribal folk blues teint de gospel Difficile labliser donc. Ce qui est sr cest quil est fort apprci de ses pairs, et que des gens comme Joe Cocker, Bob Dylan,
Ben Harper, Tom Petty, Van Morrison, entre autres, ont fait appel lui pour assurer leurs premires parties. Artiste inclassable et fort talentueux, il reste nanmoins mconnu, car sa musique construite autour de rythmiques africaines,
indiennes, hatiennes ou arabes, et emprunte de spiritualit est trop personnelle pour les mdias de masse. Son blues est souvent considr comme trs dconcertant pour les puristes du blues, trop blues pour les aficionados de la world, et trop world pour le monde du rock. Ce concert, dans le cadre
intimiste et chaleureux du Borghese, est en revanche une aubaine pour les esprits ouverts et curieux.
@LaStrada Magazine France
(6 19 Mai 2019)
RADIO 101.FM ADELAIDE – BIG MIKE HOTZ
RADIO 101.FM ADELAIDE - BIG MIKE HOTZ - October 23, 2020
Big Mike Hotz @ Saturday Blues Online on digital radio 101.FM Adelaide
“Every new Steve Tallis album is a celebration of joy for me. My hands are rubbed together and anticipation builds until I have the CD cover in my hands and the disc in the machine.
His latest offering The First Degree is no exception, it is an absolute stunner. First thing I noticed was the cover with its androgynous figure with eyes downcast. Having known of Tallis and his music for some years, I get the impression that the figure on the album cover is representative of many things, uniqueness, solitude and mystery, much like the man himself. The figure also seems to ask if one is prepared to open the cover and explore the contents of the CD ..are you ready for this?. And the listener should brace themselves in preparation from what issues forth from the speakers let me assure you.
Musically its much heavier than any other Steve Tallis recording that I know of. Ultra strong electric guitar throughout, blistering bass riffs, and masterful percussion. These songs are Steve Tallis demonstrating his entire panoply of musical influences. One may hear many, many things in his guitar work, but it never reaches a point where it can be called a clone of anything thats been before. Its familiar, but its new.and totally exciting. Further guitar, bass, organ and tubular bells are provided by Steves friend Skip McDonald, a musician who has been around for many years issuing a string of superlative, critically acclaimed albums under the pseudonym Little Axe. I find his work on The First Degree to be as exhilarating as anything Ive heard him do. Theres an obvious synergy between he and Tallis providing that magical spark so necessary for a project such as this to work as beautifully as it does. Evan Jenkins provides sensational percussion throughout. As good a drummer as can be found anywhere these days, his work is not only rock solid, it is powerful and dynamic, along with being completely sensitive to what Steve Tallis himself is doing. Simply, a brilliant combination.
But as good as all the contributing factors are, the highlight of the album, is Tallis songwriting. Just listen to what he is saying in these songs and youll understand instantly why Steve has been called Griot and Sage and all those other things. Hes able to represent the collective consciousness of thinking people with his lyrics. He is saying what I want to say but dont know how to, mere mortal that I am. His words are deeply personal, on a primal level present in all of us but attended by only a very few. Why isnt this musician on the world stage presenting the truth to all?
Finally, its such a pleasure to hear Steves words delivered in that voice of his. I have written of his voices agelessness, timelessness and power in earlier reviews, but I must reiterate, his singing just gets better and better. I cant think of another singer capable of whispering and roaring with such majestic authority. If asked, I cannot specify a song as my personal favourite, even his reworking of The Panic Will Be On delivers much to smile about. But if the Sword of Damocles was hanging over my head, I would say that To Live Again does it for me. No wait..!!! Add it all up. Great voice, supreme writing, powerful musicianship, fantastic artwork, all result in an album Steve Tallis should be very proud of, and every thinking music fan should have in their collection.”
Michael Hotz (Big Mike)
Writer and Blues Presenter
BLUES MAGAZINE – NETHERLANDS – JAN HIGENBERG
Recensie: Steve Tallis – The First Degree
Blues From The Maylands Delta is de subtitel van dit het album The First Degree van deze in Central Avenue, de weg naar de Maylands, Australi geboren en getogen bluesmuzikant. Muziek is altijd al zijn ding geweest en dan vooral de blues. Vanaf zijn twaalfde wist Steve al wat hij met zijn leven wilde ondanks alle goede adviezen van zijn moeder om het vooral niet te doen. Hij had dan ook al bijna alle juke joints in Down Under bekeken en is in 1964 als 12-jarige dus begonnen met zijn muzikale carrire. Met een hele hort aan namen aan wie hij het album opdraagt welke helaas al in het hiernamaals zijn is het wel duidelijk van wie Steve Tallis zijn muzikale opvoeding heeft gehad.
Steve heeft een muzikale achtergrond die hij meekreeg van zijn Macedonische familie en de etnische muziek uit Griekenland, Joegoslavi, Bulgarije en Turkije. Hij leerde over de speciale ritmes in muziek vanwege de vele picknicks en dansuitjes met de hele familie. Zo raakte hij al op jonge leeftijd behept met muziek. Daarna ging hij luisteren naar Bob Dylan, Rolling Stones, Jimi Hendrix, Yardbirds en ga zo maar door. Vanuit deze muziek ging hij op zoek naar de oorsprong van de blues in Afrika.
Met een behoorlijke reputatie als bluesmuzikant in Australi maar ook in Amerika, Mexico, Europa en Azi heeft Steve al zijn invloeden zoals improvisatie, wereldritmes en verhalen vertellen verwerkt. Het levenswerk is behoorlijk groot. Een zestal solo albums en uniek voor Australi, een boxset van 8 albums van een solomuzikant met als titel, The Sacred Path of the Fried Egg From Maylands to the Gates of Hell (1962-2001), met allerlei alternatieve opnames van zijn eerdere albums en nooit eerder uitgebracht materiaal.
Dit laatste album is pas na vele jaren stilte tot stand gekomen. Enigszins door priv omstandigheden maar vooral ook door meningsverschillen met zijn vorige Franse label. De nummers van dit album zijn geschreven van zijn periode van bijna zes jaar dat hij in Parijs woonde. De nummers zijn echter in een paar dagen opgenomen zonder enige toevoegingen achteraf. Ondersteund door Evan Jenkins op drums en multi-instrumentalist Skip McDonald op bass en andere instrumenten begint het album met een liefdesverklaring aan de Hatiaanse Godin van de liefde en passie, Erzulie, The First Degree. De invloeden van zijn wereldreizen en Afrika in zijn leven zijn direct herkenbaar in Athena Booboo.
Het vervolg van dit album laat de luisteraar kennismaken met zijn bijzondere stijl welke zich tussen de blues en rock maar ook jazz en wereldmuziek bevindt. De nummers zijn soms wat eentonig echter door de krachtige stem en alternatieve ritmes blijft het interessant. Naar het einde worden de nummers scherper en rauwer. Vooral het laatste nummers, Living In Hell, The Panic Will Be On en You Kill Me zal menig bluesrocker bevallen. De versterkers van Tallis en McDonald worden opengedraaid en het beginnen lekker te scheuren. In You Kill Me wordt het duel goed uitgevochten tussen beide heren.
Met het beluisteren van deze nummers speelt bij mij gelijk vergelijkingsmateriaal door mijn hoofd van onze Nederlandse blues-rock band Sjako!. Het spel op gitaar is nagenoeg gelijk en de stem is identiek. Maar dat geheel terzijde, je krijgt alleen een idee welke kant deze muziek op gaat. Donker, stevig, symfonisch maar nergens te. Aparte stijl, dus anders. Gewoon goed.
Steve Tallis – The First Degree
Format: CD. Label Zombi Music
By: Jan Hogenberg
Blues From The Maylands Delta is the subtitle to the album The First Degree from this Central Avenue, the road to Maylands, born and bred blues musician.
Music has always been his “thing”, and especially the blues. From the age of twelve Steve knew what he wanted in his life, despite all the good advice from his mother to leave it be. Thus he had by then viewed almost all the juke joints Down Under and started his musical career in 1964 at the age of twelve.
With a whole host of names to which he dedicates his album, many of whom have sadly moved to the afterlife, it is evident to whom Steve owes his musical education.
Steve has a musical background he inherited from his Macedonian family roots and the ethnic music from Greece, Yugoslavia, Bulgaria and Turkey. He learned about the specific rythms in music due to the countless family picknicks and dance outings. This way he became afflicted with music from a very early age. From there on he started listening to Bob Dylan, Rolling Stones, Jimi Hendrix, Yardbirds to name but a few. From this music on he started looking for the roots of the blues in Africa.
With a sizable reputation as a blues musician in Australia, but also in America, Mexico, Europe and Asia, he has weaved in all of his influences such as improvisation, world rythms and storytelling. His life’s work is pretty sizable. Half a dozen solo albums and, pretty unique for Australia, a boxset of eight albums titled The Sacret Path of the Fried Egg – From Maylands to the Gates Of Hell (1962-2001), including all sorts of alternative recordings and previously unrecorded material.
This latest album has come about after many years of silence. Partly to do with private circumstances but mainly due to dissagreements with his previous French label. The items in this album have been created during the almost six year period Steve lived in Paris, France. The numbers however were recorded in merely a few days without any additions in retrospect.
Supported by Evan Jenkins on drums and multi-instrumentalist Skip McDonald on bass and many other instruments, the album starts off with a declaration of love to the Haitian Goddess of Love and Passion, Erzulie, The First degree. The influences of Steve’s world travels and Africa are instantaneously noticable in Athena Booboo.
The continuation of the album offers the listener to get acquainted with his remarkable style which hovers between blues and rock on one side, but also jazz and world music on the other. The numbers can be perceived as somewhat monotonous, however through the strength of the vocals and the alternative rythms it remains compelling. Towards the end of the album the songs become sharper and rawer. Especially the last items, Living in Hell, The Panic Will be on and You Kill me will appeal to many a blues-rock lover. Tallis’ and McDonald’s amps are turned right up and then the grinding really starts. In You Will kill Me the duel is properly fought out between both gentlemen.
Listening to this album instantaneously the comparison with our Dutch blues-rock band Sjako! springs to mind. The guitarplaying is similar and the vocals are indentical. But that’s beside the point, just to give an idea about the direction the music will take you. Dark, feisty, symphonic, but never too much. Distinctive style, therefore different. Simply good.
BLUES MATTERS (UK) – STUART A. HAMILTON
BLUES MATTERS (UK) - STUART A. HAMILTON - October 23, 2020
THE FIRST DEGREE
Hmm. Seems like an appropriate response to this one, from Australian roots performer Steve Tallis. Now I know that Dave Hole really rates Mr Tallis, and I’m a fan of Mr Hole, but this one seems to be passing me by. It’s probably me, though, as both the words and music on offer, smack too much of hippydom to win me over. As you can probably tell from titles like Speak Of The Devil (Secrets Of The 24 Moons), Silence In The House Of God (which really gives the Church a lyrical kicking) and Be The Echo Of My Cry, there is a lot of spirituality on the go here. I say spirituality rather than religion, because I’m a God fearing man, who probably doesn’t approve of songs about Ezulie, the Haitian goddess of love and passion or lyrics that ask Athena BooBoo, give me some Ju-Ju. Musically, it’s a wee bit Dr John in it’s structure and performance, back in his Night Tripper days, and it is really well performed, with a rhythm section of Evan Jenkins and Skip McDonald. The closest thing to the blues is the aforementioned Be The Echo Of My Cry, but elsewhere it’s a mix of world music, jazz, pop and even dance. There are plenty of people out there who will enjoy this, even if most of them are polytechnic lecturers on holiday in France.
STUART A HAMILTON
LA HORA DEL BLUES (SPAIN) – VICENTE ZUMEL
LA HORA DEL BLUES (SPAIN) - VICENTE ZUMEL - October 23, 2020
De las lejanas tierras de Australia nos llega el nuevo proyecto del cantante, compositor y guitarrista Steve Tallis, que sigue la lnea de sus anteriores trabajos, es decir, una mezcla de sonidos variopintos y muy eclcticos que podramos denominar como rock oscuro, en ocasiones sinfnico, en otros momentos siniestro, pero siempre atractivo, subyugante e hipntico, donde el blues aparece de forma fantasmal y lleno de matices muy sutiles. Steve Tallis es un msico que no deja a nadie indiferente, sus canciones desprenden una magia csmica y etrea y sus letras nos revelan la visin de un poeta con una vida interior intensa y atormentada. Steve Tallis no realiza una msica que pueda asimilarse fcilmente, hay que sumergirse en ella con la voluntad de penetrar en los secretos ms escondidos de un msico que desnuda sus sentimientos en unas composiciones rudas pero a la vez llenas de inters y de un especial atractivo. Tallis est acompaado por unos msicos lo suficientemente competitivos y totalmente involucrados en su proyecto, por lo que todas las canciones del lbum suenan intensas y admirablemente sombras. MUY BUENO.
From the distant land of Australia comes the new project of singer, songwriter and guitar player Steve Tallis, that follows the path of his previous ones, that is to say, a mixture of a various very eclectic sounds, that could be defined as dark rock, sometimes with a quite symphonic atmosphere and other times with a rather sinister music, but always really attractive, fascinating and hypnotic, where the blues appears on a ghostly way in very subtle nuances. Steve Tallis is a musician who does not leave anyone indifferent, his songs communicate a cosmic ethereal magic and his lyrics give us the special vision of a poet with an intense troublesome inner life. Steve Tallis does not make a music that can be easily assimilated, it is necessary to dive into it with an open mind avid to discover the most hidden secrets of a musician who bares his feelings in rough but, at the same time, interesting and attractive compositions. Tallis is backed by some able musicians who are totally involved in the project, so they give an intense and remarkable dark sound to every cd song. VERY GOOD.
REAL ROOTS CAFE (NETHERLANDS) – JOHANNA BODDE
Steve Tallis, The First DegreeIn 2005 besprak ik zijn album Loko, daarna volgde nog een vriendelijke groet rond de feestdagen en toen viel het contact weg. Gelukkig is de Australische bluesmuzikant Steve Tallis helemaal terug met zijn album The First Degree! Zoals hij zelf aangeeft: opgenomen en gemixed in twee dagen en drie nachten, een live first take met overdubs van de gelaagde gitaren en toetsen. De twaalf songs componeerde hij voornamelijk tijdens de afgelopen zes jaren, die hij in Parijs doorbracht. De lange stilte schrijft hij toe aan grote veranderingen in zijn priv-leven en contractuele problemen met een Frans platenlabel.
Steve, een zelfverklaard Australian Griot en Blues Shaman, maakt al sinds zijn twaalfde jaar muziek. Eerst benvloed door zijn Macedonische familie, de zestiger jaren radio en vervolgens door zeer diverse muzikale helden als Leadbelly, Captain Beefheart, Tim Buckley, Sun Ra, Van Morrison, Howling Wolf, Jack Bruce en The Gun Clubs Jeffrey Lee Pierce. Daarnaast verdiepte hij zich in wereldmuziek uit Afrika en India, maar ook in diverse religieuze en culturele uitingen.
Overal zijn sporen van terug te vinden in de zelfgeschreven woestijn blues. Steve heeft een krachtige stem met n klein beetje vibrato, een intense voordracht bij nadrukkelijk gitaarspel. Hier komt echter het GROTE verschil: Loko was een akoestisch album, met ongewoon gestemde snaren, bijzondere akkoorden en een voorraad exotische percussie-instrumenten. The First Degree is een stevig, elektrisch bluesrock album! t Is maar dat u het weet Steves mede-muzikanten zijn deze keer: Skip McDonald als sparring partner op gitaar, bas, orgel, tubular bells en tweede stem; Evan Jenkins op drums, tamboerijn, shakers, maracas en bullfrog guiro.
Steve noemt dit zijn meest persoonlijke album, met zn eigen opinies en emoties. Over de teksten is inderdaad nagedacht, achter de titeltrack staat tussen haakjes Erzulie de Hatiaanse godin van liefde en passie. Via Athena Boo Boo, dat aan Dr. John doet denken, arriveren we bij de mooie midtempo track A Promise Is A Cloud en daarna bij een felle aanklacht tegen misstanden in de kerk. Be The Echo Of My Cry komt in de buurt van klassieke blues, Breathless is net als Like Mercury (In My Blood) een toegankelijk nummer met wah-wah effecten. Living In Hell
als het misgaat in de liefdebevat een krachtig gitaar duel met n knipoog naar John Lee Hooker en dan worden de media nog op het matje geroepen in The Panic Will Be On. Blues from the Maylands Delta! (Independent)
In 2005 I reviewed his album ‘Loko’, a friendly greeting around the holidays followed and then the contact faded. Fortunately Australian blues musician Steve Tallis is now back with his album ‘The First Degree’! As heindicates: recorded and mixed in two days and three nights, a live first take with overdubs of the layered guitars and keyboards. He mainly composed the twelve songs during the past six years, spent in Paris. He attributes the long silence to major changes in his private life and contractual issues with a French record label.
Steve, a self-declared ‘Australian Griot’ and ‘Blues Shaman’, has been playing music since he was twelve years old. First influenced by his Macedonian family, the sixties radio and then by a wide variety of musical heroes likeLeadbelly, Captain Beefheart, Tim Buckley, Sun Ra, Van Morrison, Howling Wolf, Jack Bruce and The Gun Club’sJeffrey Lee Pierce. He immersed himself in world music from Africa and India, but also in various religious and cultural expressions.
From all of this, traces can be found in these original desert blues. Steve has a powerful voice with a little vibrato, an intense delivery accompanied by expressive guitar playing. But here comes the BIG difference: ‘Loko’ was anacoustic album, with unusual tuning of the strings, special chords and a load of exotic percussion instruments. ‘The First Degree’ is a sturdy, electric blues rock album! Just so you know… Steve’s fellow musicians are this time: Skip McDonald as his sparring partner on guitar, bass, organ, tubular bells and harmony vocals; Evan Jenkins on drums, tambourine, shakers, maracas and bull frog guiro.
Steve calls this his most personal album, with his own opinions and emotions. He did think thoroughly about his lyrics. The title track shows in brackets ‘Erzulie’ – the Haitian goddess of love and passion. After “Athena Boo Boo”, which reminds us of Dr. John, we hear the pretty midtempo track “A Promise Is A Cloud” and then we land ina fierce indictment of wrong proceedings at the churches. “Be The Echo Of My Cry” comes close to classic blues,”Breathless” and “Like Mercury (In My Blood)” are accessible songs with wah-wah effects. “Living In Hell”
if thingsgo wrong in lovecontains a powerful guitar duel with a wink at John Lee Hooker and then the media are confronted in “The Panic Will Be On”. Blues from the Maylands Delta!
DOCTEUR BLUES FRANCE – CLAUDE DANNIC
The First Degree de Steve Tallis
Steve Tallis The First Degree Autoproduit
En 2004 dj, lartiste dont il est question en ces quelques lignes, tait chroniqu dans Docteur Blues. Plusieurs albums plus tard, Steve Tallis reste fidle lui-mme en ne proposant que des compositions originales, en ne prsentant aucune reprise. Il soffre mme pour laccompagner la basse, la guitare, lorgue, aux percussions et aux vocals, la prsence de Skip McDonald plus connu sous le pseudonyme de Little Axe qui volue ici, il faut bien en convenir, dans un registre qui nest pas le sien mais lintress sen sort haut la main.
Et pourtant, la musique de Tallis est au-del du blues exprimental de Little Axe. Ici, lon est dans un chant/champ dclamatoire mais non moins dnu dinvention et de crativit hors des sentiers battus. Lexcellence est tous les niveaux commencer par lexigence iconographique avec une photo de 1951 prise Bahia et qui voque la magie que lon pourrait, sans jeu de mot, qualifier de noire et dont il est question tout le long de lalbum. Le premier titre qui porte le nom de lensemble, The First Degree, est un blues lancinant, le chant ponctu par une guitare dont les riffs rptitifs scandent et dcrivent la transe avec des paroles vocatrices dont le somptueux, I want to fly to the moon . Le second titre, Athena Booboo, est parcouru dincantations rappelant le vaudou mais nous sommes ici en terre de blues australien. Le morceau qui suit parle dun poison dans le sang avec des guitares tortures. Celles, entrelaces, de Steve Tallis et de Skip McDonald. Le CD continue sa course mystique. On y parle du diable. Des secrets des 24 lunes. Le charme agit. Hypnotique. Puis, lon apprend quune promesse est un nuage. La posie devient insistante. Quand lamour nest pas de la folie, ce nest pas de lamour.
Le fantastique prend le relais. Le silence est dans la maison de Dieu. Il faut loigner le malfice, le sortilge. Steve Tallis demande son auditeur dtre lcho de son cri. On y croise alors un certain dterminisme, une exaltation, une frnsie. Le fabuleux devient captivant. Limaginaire dbrid.
Et toujours ce mysticisme qui nest pas sans rappeler Jeffrey Lee Pierce et son Gun Club. Steve Tallis mle de manire habile ses rythmes vaudous un style propre mais fondamentalement blues. Outre le premier titre, lacm de lalbum est, sans conteste, dans Breathless qui voit se croiser les influences de Captain Beefheart et celles de Tom Waits. Le disque de Steve Tallis demeure un assortiment singulier de signatures rythmiques, mouvantes, et de paroles surralistes. Attention, chef duvre.
NOVA MAGAZINE – PHIL BENNETT
The First Degree
Review by Phil Bennett
Steve Tallis new album, The First Degree, sees him joined by multi-instrumentalist, production wunderkind, Skip McDonald from Little Axe, and percussionist Evan Jenkins.
And what strikes you immediately about the recording is the muscularity of the sound.
Guitars are more upfront, the tones sparkling, the separation just enough to give real depth to the sound. So, on a track such as Like Mercury, the main riff leaps out, while the wah-wah fills sit slightly behind, the drums and bass slinking around in the shadows.
And it really says something for McDonalds studio skills that this outfit sounds like a swaggering, road tested unit who ply their trade with the loose-limbed gait of people who have lived in each others pockets and in and out of each others heads for a long time indeed.
Which actually isnt the case at all the whole process took less than a week!
Theres an energised sound to this album and this meeting of minds and musical spirits has done nothing but good for Tallis and the execution of his material.
A follow up pairing could prove to be very interesting indeed.
This is good, earthy, blues based stuff that purrs, stirs and strides with strength and savvy.
One of his best.
GAPPLEGATE GUITAR AND BASS BLOG
Australian blues-rock-alt institution Steve Tallis returns with a very strong effort on The First Degree (Zombi Music 7). Steve made a few acoustic oriented albums in the past few years (type his name in the search box above for the review posts on those) but he returns to an electric hardness on The First Degree, which comes across with a blues-rock heft that works extraordinarily well.
Steve has a heavily underscored voice that comes in part out of Chicago lineages and Captain Beefheart. But it is only an affinity and a rooted thing—because the music is very much Steve’s, as is the ultimate sound. He has his regular trio on hand, Steve doing the vocals and the electric guitars, Skip McDonald on electric bass, organ and backup vocals, and Evan Jenkins on the drums.
There is a lyrical directness that is poetic but hard edged. Steve Tallis sings of love won and lost, longing and tough times, all which gives the music a soulful quality that the music amplifies. There are some hard rocking riff tunes, some urban blues influenced kickers and some metal-meets-classic Chess records mixes.
It is all very much on the mark. Songs, vocals and electric instrumentalisms all come together to produce what one might call a Steve Tallis masterpiece. It belongs up there with important rock releases of the year, no question. If you don’t know Steve Tallis, and you probably should, this is the place to start. If you like the transient zone between metal and classic electric blues, this album covers it to a “tee”! In its very own way.
L’AUTRE STUDIO – JEAN-PIERRE BOUQUET
L'AUTRE STUDIO - JEAN-PIERRE BOUQUET - October 23, 2020
Mastering by Jean-Pierre Bouquet at ‘Lautre Studio
X PRESS MAGAZINE – BOB GORDON
The First Degree
Through blues, jazz, rock and a myriad of cross-cultural touches in his music, Steve Tallis has long steered his own course, a slave to his own muse only. Interestingly, by sticking to his own path he has arrived at a point on his new LP, The First Degree, where he is possibly making his most popularly accessible music in a long time. Blues From The Maylands Delta is still his mission statement, but this music could come from anywhere in the world, from Peninsula Avenue to Tallis other home in Paris, to any blues bayou one could reference.
A Promise Is A Cloud is something of a centrepiece here, an assured song so universal it could become an FM radio staple. Its followed by Silence In The House Of God, a rally against the evils in the world (hypocrites, racists, paedophiles) that Tallis has witnessed the world over.
The mood can be playful also, Athena BooBoo is as dark as can be, but is lustful and lascivious, in the realm of the old bluesmen (while citing Tallis own past, alluding to his late 60s outfit, The Jellyroll Bakers). The title track is deep in dub, while Speak Of The Devil recalls Edwyn Collins Never Met A Girl Like You Before but has an intent all its own. Throughout, Tallis guitar feels like it can move earth and sea, with Evan Jenkins (drums) and Skip McDonald (bass) providing astute backing to his ever-shamanistic drive.
Then (zen) and now, the real deal.
ZICAZINE – FRED DELFORGE
Il est présenté comme un griot australien, un de ces songwriters qui mélangent les musiques traditionnelles et les musiques modernes avec une certaine inspiration, et ce n’est pas ce nouvel album de Steve Tallis qui va changer quoi que ce soit dans ce jugement tant « The First Degree » perpétue avec beaucoup d’intelligence tout ce que l’artiste avait proposé jusqu’alors. Fringant quinquagénaire qui passe une partie de son temps dans l’hexagone, le chanteur et guitariste s’est cette fois fait accompagner par Skip McDonald et Evan Jenkins qui attrapent respectivement les guitares, basses et orgues pour le premier et les percussions pour le second et qui accompagnent le bluesman dans une nouvelle œuvre aux cachets roots mais aux tonalités parfois électriques, un ouvrage qui bouscule quelque peu les conventions mais qui n’en reste pas moins solidement accroché à des couleurs aux très fortes dominantes bleues et à des accords soigneusement choisis et solidement interprétés. Des compositions quelque peu tribales jusqu’aux morceaux plus purement blues ou blues rock, Steve Tallis ne fait jamais l’économie de saturations toujours très bien maitrisées et de cachets aux limites du psychédélique qui apportent un véritable relief à un album marqué par des titres forts comme « Athena Booboo », « Speek Of The Devil (Secret Of The 24 Moons) », « Silence In The House Of God », « Be The Echo Of My Cry » ou encore « Living In Hell ». Nous faisant avancer dans ce nouvel album à la manière d’un Shaman, Steve multiplie avec beaucoup d’imagination les effets de guitare mais aussi de voix et se fait de plus en plus mystique au fur et à mesure que les pistes défilent pour finir de nous achever avec « You Kill Me » et en même temps de nous convaincre que si cet ouvrage est un véritable délice dans la platine, sa transposition en live risque d’être encore plus subtile et plus délicieuse tant on sent que les formats sont très largement ouverts et les titres imaginés sur mesure pour prendre des couleurs encore plus folles et encore plus lumineuses au contact du public et de l’énergie qu’il parvient à faire passer de la salle à la scène. Directement issu du Maylands Delta, le blues de Steve Tallis se transporte heureusement sans grande difficulté et on espère maintenant que le plus Parisien des Australiens reviendra bientôt par chez nous pour nous le présenter de visu …
X PRESS MAGAZINE – BOB GORDON – STEVE TALLIS INTERVIEW
Steve Tallis launches his new LP, The First Degree, on Sunday, September 28, at Perth Folk And Roots Club (Mt Lawley Bowling Club); Tuesday, September 30, at the Perth Blues Club (Charles Hotel); Thursday, October 2, at The Buffalo Club and Wednesday, October 8, (solo) at Clancys Fish Pub, Canning Bridge.
Journeyman. Shaman. Bluesman. Music man.
Steve Tallis is all of these and once again his many sides have come to the fore on his new album, The First Degree.
It was written over the last six years, Tallis reveals, mainly when I was living in Paris, but also with some writing done in Beaconsfield where I stayed for a while. There were very big changes in my private life. I was blocked from recording a new album due to contractual problems with a French label I signed with, unfortunately. It was the first time I ever signed with a label and probably the last time I will ever do so.
Thats a fair bit to deal with and on separate sides of the world at that. However songwriting is a life-force for Tallis, and not something that will be influenced by any given events for any one release.
I just write songs, he states. Whatever happens, I just accept that they are my personal opinions, beliefs, feelings, emotions. I believe this is my most deeply personal album.
Accordingly, The First Degree teams Tallis with multi-instrumentalist, Skip McDonald, and drummer, Evan Jenkins. Their individual histories with Tallis are quite different, but they both bring much to the plate.
I met Evan in the late 1980s in Apache Dropouts, he says, referring to his band of the time. He recorded the Zombi Party album with me in 1993 and did some festivals in Rome and Edinburgh. Hes one of my closest friends and theres a telepathic connection musically the only drummer in my mind when I was planning this album.
I met Skip through his manager on MySpace; I was always a big fan of his music. He suggested I send some copies of my albums to Skip who is a very private man. I finally met him at his invitation in London and we clicked and he said he wanted to do an album together one day.
Hes a very interesting man and musician. I believed he would bring something different to my music and I gave him total freedom in the production he played bass, guitar, keyboards and backing vocals.
The album was recorded over two days and three nights, which may suggest a hive of activity, however
It was a very focussed, calm process, Tallis says. I played the songs to Evan and Skip and we recorded live first take. Then put some layers down my usual recording process and recorded and mixed in that time. And have enough new songs for another new album.
Also the engineer, Matt Smyth, was great to work with. Hes a young man who had never heard the music but has a very creative mind and ears. I have always believed the engineer was critical in the recording process. This was very much a team effort and it always has been in the past.
With the album out Tallis simply plans to forge on playing music. As ever, as always
My plans are to survive in this very difficult industry. Too many people expect music for free these days recorded and live, its a total devaluation of music as a profession.
I want to keep playing live as much as possible, tour and return to Paris where I feel much more at home. I want to stay healthy and be happy and record another album as soon as possible, probably solo. I want to release more music and continue to write songs.
THE TOORAK TIMES – Rob Greaves
Steve Tallis – The First Degree: A Review of his latest release
Steve Tallis is one of Australia’s Premier Blues Artists!
From time to time an album is released that demands to be reviewed, particularly when it is from an Australian artist and that artist is Steve Tallis.
His latest work, released only a matter of weeks ago, is a twelve track album called The First Degree.
I have to admit, that that I wasn’t aware of the music and talent of Steve Tallis until many years ago when I bought and listened to an album by another great Australian Blues guitarist/singer, Dave Hole.
It was Hole’s 1992 album – “The Plumber” and the track was, “You Don’t Have To Be Pretty To Sing The Blues”. In it Hole listed the who’s who of blues players in part, singing –
“Albert Collins sings the Blues
Eric Clapton sings the Blues
Steve Tallis sings the Blues
B.B. King, Freddie King, Albert King”
At that time I thought, who was this Steve Tallis? The name rang a bell but I had to dig deeper only to discover he was a compatriot of Dave Hole’s and was somewhere in WA. I searched but couldn’t find at that time, any music just some references to him.
Being very heavily involved in my own music I failed to dig deeper, which was my loss. Then, along came Facebook and lo and behold I immediately rediscovered Steve, visited his web site, down loaded tracks and had my socks knocked off.
No wonder Dave Hole rated him so highly!
Since then I have joined the “Steve Tallis Appreciation Group” – No Veronica, there is no such group, but Steve does maintain an active Facebook presence and responds very positively to genuine, no bullshit approaches . He enjoys discussing music and works hard at sharing and acknowledging the wealth of music that has had an impact upon him, but more on that later.
So what is the story of this man? Tallis has a well developed and functioning web site with access to music, pictures stories and a bio lovingly titled, “flashbacks’.
On it Steve writes: “I was born and raised in Central Avenue down Maylands way that is. I knew a long time ago what I was gonna do. It was 1964 I was 12 years old. I went up to my Mum and said Mum I know what Im going to do with my life. Well she looked at me real strange and said Boy you crazy! Think about a real career.
You gotta stop hangin around places like Wot The Hek, Dorrinas, Northside Lounge, Stables, Beach House, Snakepit, St Pats, Capitol Theatre, Club 7 Teen, Embassy Ballroom, Gaslight Club, Canterbury Court, Benjamins, Firecracker, Trendsetter, Colosseum, Zanzibar, Whisky A GoGo, Riki Tik, Latin Quarter, Hole In The Wall, Troupador Club, Top Hat, Stoned Crow, Sandgroper, Maggies Farm, Wizbah, Loaded Dog, Mojos, Hernandos Hideaway, Fly By Night, Alberts Tavern, Gerdes Folk City, Port Fairy, Muddy Waters Blues Lounge, East Coast Blues Festival, Freedom Jam Festival Bangalore India, Sail and Anchor, Blues At Bridgetown and so on.
How was I to know I was gonna be in New York City 1982 (and 1998) singing my kind of blues blues from the Maylands delta. No matter what you say, do, think or feel. There’s things floating through my mind. People and places in my memory whats left of it!”
His web site goes on to say that he started playing music in 1962 and that music is his calling. From birth he was surrounded by the music of his Macedonian ancestors and the ethnic music of Greece, Yugoslavia, Bulgaria and Turkey.
Listening to live music at picnics and dances as a small child opened his mind and spirit to trance like rhythms, improvisation and chanting. He started listening to the sounds of the radio Bob Dylan, Them, Animals, Rolling Stones, Manfred Mann, Jimi Hendrix, Yardbirds, Kinks, Loved Ones, Spectrum etc. He searched back further to the roots of the music he loved and then back to the source Africa.
Steve is an Australian Griot, a Blues Shaman. He has lived and performed in the USA, Europe,Mexico and Asia supporting some of the biggest names in music. Influences include Leadbelly, John Coltrane, Tim Buckley, Captain Beefheart, Sun Ra, Tony Williams Lifetime, Van Morrison, Howling Wolf, Tom Waits, Jack Bruce, Kip Hanrahan and Bob Dylan. African, Indian, Haitian and Islamic music have all had a spiritual and rhythmic influence on his own work.
His love of blues, gospel and a Capella field hollers presents both in his live shows and recordings. Two lifelong ambitions came true when he toured India in 1997 and Pakistan in 2003. Explorations into Vodou, Tantra, Buddhism, Sufism, The Bible, Hinduism, Taoism and Native American Indians have affected him deeply.
His other music groups or as Steve puts it, his other incarnations prior to the current lineup – number 51 and are listed on his web site and cover from his first group consisting of himself and a drummer and called Brunos Double (1962 – 1963) through to Steve Tallis and the Suicide Ghosts (1997 – 2001).
From 2003 until the present, he has fronted Steve Tallis and The Holy Ghosts, which has had forty six different musicians in the groups various stages, both in Australia and in France, where Steve was settled and working for many years. In fact it has only been around a year since Steve returned to Australia – France’s loss was our gain.
That brings us back to this album which features Steve, Evan Jenkins and Skip McDonald:
Steve Tallis – Vocals & Guitar
Skip McDonald – Bass & Guitar, Organ, Tubular Bells & Vocals (tracks 5 & 11)
Evan Jenkins – Drums, Tamborine, Shakers/Maracas & Bullfrog Guiro
The album is released on Tallis’ own label – Zombie Music and its code is ZOMBICD7.
It’s presented in a gate-fold Cd cover, and a small thing, but I believe to Steve an important thing, is that the inner sides of the gate-fold are not filled with stories about the prowess and experiences of him, but on the left side is an acknowledgement and recognition of all the artists that have impacted upon him and, what a list it is. Nice touch!
The other side features a picture of Steve, and it’s very much a picture that could almost be classified as introspective, if not humble in its imagery. Below it are a list of all the people who contributed to the financing the production through the POZIBLE Project. It’s one thing to acknowledge the project and the funding source, but how many artists would then list the contributes, the “you and me’s”, whose money for the Cd up front, helped cover the costs?
Not many! This is the essence of Steve Tallis. He is a man who is gifted musically, and his music supports this contention for he is a very much a “take no prisoners” type man when it comes to dealing with fools, as I have witnessed on Facebook. But at the same time he acknowledges and values the opinions and support of those who take the time to approach him on a human to human level and engage their brain before their mouth.
These basic traits are reflected in his music. I can only imagine that he listens carefully to the ideas and words of those around him in the studio, but he is also a passionate man whose abilities and skills give him the confidence to back his own judgements which results in his ability to play and provide us, the audience, with a quality product.
The First Degree *
Athena BooBoo *
Like Mercury (In My Blood)
Speak Of The Devil (Secets of The 24 Moons)
A Promise Is A Cloud
Silence In The House Of God *
Be The Echo Of My Cry
To Live Again
Living In Hell
Panic Will Be On *
You Kill Me
Samples of these tracks are used in this review, but not in their entirety in order to foil illegal downloading
I have chosen to start with track number 1 – The First Degree (Ezulie). Now if you are curious, as I am, the first thing you might want to know is who or what is Ezulie. In fact Ezulie is a Haitian goddess whose roots go back to African lore, and she is the goddess of love and passion.
The track kicks off with a firm but somewhat gentle drums, bass and organ backing, that is punctuated with Steve fingering a simple but effect chord pattern that cuts through the support instruments in a very masculine way. Interesting because Steve launches into his story, and I must say that I think the lyrics tell a fascinating story, but it seems we have the story of his relationship with Ezulie and the words and backing music very much give it a passionate loving – almost feminine feeling. But I come back to the chorded guitar playing, which really provides a fabulous counterpoint both melodically and “sexually”.
A very nice piece of production with some subtle audio effects applied at just at the right places.
I wanna fly to the moon and make love x 2
Reach for the stars I will catch you if you fall
Erzuli, The First Degree
Erzulie, The Atlantic Sea..
When we kiss my heart explodes
When we make love my spirit implodes
Erzulie The First Degree
Erzulie, The Atlantic Sea
Track number 2 was a great surprise. Having been almost seduced by track number 1, I wasn’t sure what to expect by a track with the title Athena BooBoo. What a great surprise indeed! Kicking off with a nicely stroked gong and then with a guiro kicking in and supported by a very classy bass line, we are swept up in a style of playing that would not have been out of place if the great Dr John had composed and played it.
Yet once again Steve has inculcated this piece of Ju-Ju (a West African/French term that can broadly describe luck, but specifically means objects, such as amulets, and spells used superstitiously as part of witchcraft in West Africa) into a very evocative track. It is in part very much what Steve Tallis is about, musical alchemy, invocation of the spirits, taking us all on a journey of the mind and spirit via a musical odyssey of magic and imagination.
“Athena BooBoo, give me some Ju-Ju . . . when I hold you in my arm, you can feel feel my inner charm, jelly roll baking I will cook your bread, somethings are best unsaid…..” By now we are totally engrossed in the lyrics and the music. This is one of my favorite tracks on an album full of music treats. Yet again the production by “Skip” McDonald can be summed up in one word – Superb! No wonder, I mean this man is a brilliant musician and producer in his own right and his work with Steve Tallis both supplements Steve’s own skills and talents, as well as beautifully complimenting them.
In some ways I would say he is an “old-school” producer who is on the cutting edge of where it is at! He obviously listens to what is being played, something many producers today seem incapable of, and unlike many of his modern contemporaries, he doesn’t ‘flood” the production, he seems to effortlessly reduce it and then caress and form what remains into a listening delight!
Tracks 3, 4 and tracks 5 provide the listener with a selection of excellent guitar based pieces and styles, and I must say I have a particular like for the delivery style in Like Mercury, while Speak Of the Devil I think is a kick-arse dance track. I can see the audiences when this is played live swaying and dancing and really zoning out. A Promise Is A Cloud is quite lay back compared to previous tracks and is nicely placed , giving us a moment to settle back and almost “chill out”, as Steve weaves his word magic.
Then we come to track number six – Silence In The House Of God! Wow! Silence thy true name be Steve Tallis and his guitar!
Opening with a tubular bell, totally unlike how we remember a tubular bell as was played by Mike Oldfield back in 1973, this one has an element of warning, dare I say, “dire” warning. Then the magic of the drum and bass combination of Evan Jenkins and Skip McDonald, kick in to set the scene – oh yes, we are in for a journey into . . . into the unknown. Gently at first, but increasing in intensity as Steve comes in with his guitar.
A well placed bass line, very well constructed, simple but powerful – punches through the Steve’s playing, while the drum patterns of Evan Jenkins supports, breaks out, and supports again. The magic is in the moment, and the moment keeps changing, mutating and evolving. The lyrics are strong and supportive, but the emotion is through the instrumentation as these three combine to loose themselves in the moment and in doing so, create a pallet of sound that transports us in the House of God, but it sure ain’t the way the Catholic Church portrayed it!
5 minutes and 18 seconds of Silence In The House Of God, is 5:18 of anything but silence – I want more, and more I got.
1. Silence in the house of God it seems
They get away with anything
Hypocrites, rapists, paedophiles
Over and over and over again
2. The closer to God the more dangerous they are
Cowardly crimes, desperation and pain
Terrifying children with the image of hell
Deaf to the cries of the helpless ones
3. Greedy lawyers so easy to find / buy
Silence the children as they stoke the fire
All they do is attack the child
Then brag about silencing their cries
4. Repeat 1
5. This has been going on for far too long
Protect the children make them strong
Voiceless victims, tortured souls
Jail the bishops, throw away the keys
6. Child abuse casts a shadow
The length of a lifetime
The facts cannot be disputed
Or denied any longer
We move through track number 7 – Be The Echo Of My Cry, a wonderfully developed classic blues piece and then, onto track number 8 which is, To Live Again. A very tight electric blues track with a nice bass, drum combo supplemented by organ, with Steve punctuating the track with his guitar. Steve’s singing really stands out, but, he can really make his guitar sing as well.
Breathless, which is track 9, features a nice drop in tempo and in a world where the Indie release had equal chance of air play with the “pap” of the commercial a tired music companies of the world, we would find this track featuring on high rotation.
It is nicely crafted track which screams for commercial appreciation, without a tad of compromise. Of course Steve is maybe happy to have it not in the hands of commercial radio, but I say to him, don’t take having a track identified as having a commercial sound any in way, but as a compliment of the highest caliber. This track would reach out to a broad range of listeners.
According to the liner notes Skip McDonald also plays guitar on this track and his playing is a nice counter-point to the playing of Steve. Steve plays his trademark chord chops, while Skip adds some very nice lines, all with a delicate touch of wha-wha pedal. The man plays a nice tasteful set of lead lines, delicate, no superfluous notes, and the tonality is all class.
I haven’t made much mention of the drumming of Evan Jenkins, and that is a shame. The man is not a showy drummer, he finds the groove and sits in it so comfortably, yet when necessary pushes nicely. On this track his playing is tight in terms of the beat, yet he leaves the right spaces and really, it’s a mark of a great drummer who can sit in tight, yet make it sound effortless.
Track number 10 – Living In Hell is a track featuring Steve and Skip with tasteful dueling guitars, creating a very strong piece of music. We all know how we can easily slip into Hell when you aren’t with the one you love. When that separation is due to lies and deceit from your partner, then we have a recipe for a sobbing heart-broken ballad. That’s just not going to happen with Steve, and what we have is the power of lost love being translated into a “power blues track”.
The penultimate track on this Cd is track number 11 – The Panic Will Be On. Another “power blues” track, this is significantly different to the style Steve developed out in the previous track. He ups the tempo and create a lot more urgency and in Steve’s words, “The media is too scared to tell the truth, they got too much too loose, if we don’t do something soon – Panic Will Be On”.
One of the great features of Steve Tallis’ compositions is, they are complete. There is no compromise on the structure and quality of the music, but at the same time the lyrics are not there to fill a gap or because they are expected. He has some strong beliefs, beliefs that have resulted from his observations of the world around him, from his experiences of forces arrayed against the everyday person, and he is not going to hold back in sharing his concerns.
This was once the role of music even back in the Medieval days – the song told the story of events and happenings, it informed, it warned, it praised, and, it still entertained. This is certainly the essence of this track, and indeed, it could be rightly argued the whole album. I really enjoyed the vocal harmony provided by Skip James and as I worked my way carefully through this album I could understand why Steve gave him mentioned billing on the sleeve.
The final track is You Kill Me. This is another carefully crafted track that will appeal to a wide range of listeners. It is that sort of track that you can lay back and enjoy with headphones on, play at a home function where you want an uplifting, uptempo beat to entertain and bring a bright feeling to your gathering, or best of still, in a club – preferably with Steve playing live. It is an excellently paced dance track.
This is not just a satisfying album from a listeners point of view, it is an album that is filled with emotion and style yet underpinned by a genuine relationship with the roots of the blues. It is filled with references to magic and often swims in mystery. Yet it is grounded, it tells of real events and real feelings and in some ways it demands that the listener pay attention, for to fail to do so will mean the listener will fail to fully be touched by its power.
A review of any piece of work is often said to be correct if it is dispassionate to a degree, that the reviewer remove him or herself from any knowledge of the artist so that they can hear and review with an ear that is not compromised.
I can’t do that, in fact I feel genuinely correct in directing a remark straight to the artist.
I say to Steve Tallis, I can after fifty years of playing, listening, producing and commenting on music become as jaded as the next person. However with The First Degree I am really knocked out! What a powerful, powerful album you have created, and Skip and Evan were inspired choices of musical comrades.
Steve has an incredible back catalogue of releases, with seven albums currently for sale including this one, so you may choose to have a look through and add other albums to your basket. However I’m betting that this is his best work, and if it’s not then I’m no judge of music!
Steve was also inducted into Western Australia Music Industry’s Hall of Fame and is featured in the books Whos Who of Australian Rock and Blues, Working Musicians and Further Down the Road. Awards include Songwriter Of The Year, Most Original Work, and Album Of The Year.
At this stage while no dates have been set, Steve is considering a tour of the East Coast of Australia, and if it were to eventuate it would be a show certainly worthy seeing.
In a time when there is so much rubbish being passed off as music, it is refreshing and somewhat a relief to find an album that is really worth buying, and one that is worth playing right through. This is an album that should sit proudly in any music collection.
The First Degree by Steve Tallis & Skip McDonald is most certainly a recommended buy. It is $25.00(Au) plus freight and it can be purchased on-line by going to “Steve’s Bazaar” – just click on the album cover below, then you can choose this album and any other from Steve’s back catalog. The items appear in the top right hand side of your screen and you can then go to the checkout where freight will be added and payment can be made.