"Might be the End", might be the best song Ian has put out since Big Wreck. Since the first time I heard the moody open, this song has been flooring me.
Ian has perfected a very tasteful "cut and paste" way of composing music that sets a tune in a frame, so to speak. An earlier, more obvious example of a "mash up" is Big Wreck's "No Fault" where Supertramp collides with a chugga-chugga VanHalen riff.
He employs the same technique live when he intros songs with a classic like Supertramp. He stamps the reference for his tribute and then delivers HIS classic take.
This Might Be the End is an amalgam of influences. At it's heart it is a "classic late Zep" blues number. After the Jeff Buckley "Lover You Should Have Come Over" tagged intro, it stomps into I'm Gonna Crawl" territory. The drumming is pure Bonzo, with that powerful reverb. It has a classic swing/shuffle to it unlike most modern music.
The waltzy pace is deliberate and dizzying. As Ian sings "Tiptoeing closer and closer towards.." You can just imagine two dancers on the edge of a precipice, swirling to destruction. The music swells to accompany the lyric, and then delivers an abrupt drop-off. The wet reverb hangs like an echo of their once sure footing.
That slow lazy slide stroke is vintage Page. The picking on the downstroke (what do I know?1... this is what it sounds like to me) has an almost piano tinkle mixed in to it. Such a nice touch. I hope they can keep this in the final. I love the little pieces that add nuance to a track.
Ian emotionally segues into the dread of the inevitable. The music feels like the protagonist dragging his feet, resisting what his heart already knows... "It's over, Johnny!". The tempo changes, the waltz begins again. One last plea for connection.."Dont'cha think we should break down the door..." There is a flanged/echo of a note that cascades out into the stratosphere as he sings this line that sets up the chorus.
A great chorus too. "Sometimes I hold out, when I should give in... There seems to be that old-timey background vocal harmony going on behind Ian. It's hard to tell on the demo. This is very obscure, but Zep on "Hey Hey, What Can I Do", has outro vocal harmonies that sound like what Ray Charles did back in the 50's. Ian seems to be in this territory. There is a more timeless quality to Ian's new demos. He seems to reach back very deeply into his pile of influences. The harmonium intro, most recently a Jeff Buckley thing but, of course, a much more arcane instrument. It's akin to the use of the Hurdy Gurdy in Zep's "Hangman".
The song is firing on all cylinders by now. Flanger, huge reverb, piano tinkle. It's all kickin' and sets up the greatest solo sequence that Ian has EVER performed in studio. It builds deliberately, maturely with the the proper space and timing of classic solos.
All great solos need tension and release and as this solo begins to gallup along, the tension grows. Like a long jumper running up to the take-off, it picks up the pace with that final compression of muscle and bone to launch that solo into history. It does not just go higher, it teeters on the brink. This part ranks with the Claptons and the Pages in my opinion. This is not cover band business. This is a guy who "gets it" because he's "got" it. That innate ability to channel the almighty. To touch a soul. I tear up every time I hear this solo. It's what a guitar aficionado waits for; that transcendent solo.
I think Ian does this influence morphing thing to perfection. On "The Lies That I Believe" he channeled Gilmore and Slash. On this it's SRV-JimmyPage-Neil Schon, at their most classic. Not a direct cop of a riff, but certainly the FEEL. If he is defined by what he steals; his talent at distilling the essence of the subject of his theivery and the resulting amalgam is unparallelled. It becomes a style all it's own. Ian is his own Supergroup.
I don't know if people even care anymore about a soaring guitar solo, but if they do, this is one for the ages.
A little personal anecdote. I was working in my basement studio as my brother-in-law and his future son-in-law were putting in a new heater. Two plumbers, blue collar guys. My Bro-in-law is an old school, nuts and bolts, classic rock guy. His son-in-law is a hnnn-sss, hnnn-sss, hnnn-sss, club dude (y'all know what I mean). I had itunes playing a shuffle of my library through the Mighty Klipsches for their working pleasure. MBTE came up in rotation. As the song neared completion they both stepped out of the back room slack jawed. "Holy shit! Who was that!" said my brother in law. Never having heard the song before (OBVIOUSLY!), with no prompting from me. A 50 yr old recognizing the great heart and soul of the track, the young man exclaiming "I never heard anything like that before!". Totally unsolicited and unexpected. I love those moments.
This is an Ian composition that makes you take notice. The full bore, high octane finish is deeply layered and complex. Powerful shuffling back beat, droning background chorus, intricate soaring guitar runs that intermittently stab through that velvet smooth wall of emotion; all topped off with that passionate but resolute vocal performance we expect from Ian.
Then he drops the mix back to the basics; and we feel that perpetual shuffle of self destruction that Ian is so familiar with and it fades out.
I only pray that this will make it to fully realized studio magic one day. F' the market! This is one that stands alone! Timeless.
For any music fan that wants to take their listening experience deeper Ian is a delight. As I've said before, If I could bottle all that I hold dear in music and give it a label, it'd be Thornley.
Here are a few tracks from one of my 70's faves, Climax Blues Band.
Shake Your Love (very Chuck Berry, Bo Diddley, but the slide solo vintage 70's. Zep wasn't the only one):
Flight (very cool jazzy jam that gets VERY intense):
Amerita/Sense of Direction
This was show-stopper, live. Sadly I couldn't find a youtube recording. Once you get past the old time opening and jazzy run it changes direction (get it?) it sets up a classic ascending solo that really soars. It's so Ian Thornley; Lost at Sea, "the map is never wrong, they say" and Blown Wide Open. It's some of the reason I find Ian's music so appealing.
Enjoy, my peeps.