Tesla- Simplicity- eOne Music/Tesla Electric Recording Company, 2014
I’ve been writing about rock since Tesla’s breakthrough second album and as the decades have passed the band has continually proven to be one of the few bands of their era that just “get it”. The guys have always marched to their own beat, stuck to their own agenda and continue to do just that with their latest “Simplicity”. The record sees the band working with a couple of old friends from their past in legendary A&R man/producer Tom Zutaut and engineer/sonic mastermind Michael Wagener. The results are pretty amazing here as “Simplicity” is an album as explosive and expressive as any in their catalog.
The fun gets underway with a foreboding stomp of a track titled “MP3”. This track is a “Heavens Trail” ish kind of hard rocker with a lyrical message that shoots straight regarding the wired-in but disconnected iPhone generation. Its classic Tesla through and through, a theme that dominates this record.
Tesla has managed to craft an album that is a godsend to both current and past hard rock fans and metalheads as well as folks who lean more towards the classic rock of the 60s/70s era. It really goes without saying that a lot of Tesla’s magic has always seemed to come from stirring the pot of the individual band members’ influences. All of those influences seem to gel perfectly here, as evidenced on tracks like “Cross My Heart”, which has a definite Stones/Humble Pie kind of feel and just enough of that signature Jeff Keith twang to tie it all together.
Another song on the album, “Honestly”, is one of the best ballads in the band’s repertoire; they do keep a close eye, as always, on melody but for the most part this album is a burner at heart. “So Divine” and “Ricochet” just rock like a sonofabitch, honestly, I don’t think I’ve heard Tesla have this much of a bee in their bonnet since “Edison’s Medicine”. I am hearing this record and just imagining that Tom Zutaut pitched his idea of the ultimate Tesla album and the band brought their absolute A game. The thing is, as good as the band’s last couple of releases have been with Dave Rude in the lineup, “Simplicity” is even better. Ten out of fourteen of these tracks are absolutely killer, as good or better than their best work from their first three albums on Geffen.
Anyone even mildly paying attention to the Dial MTV era touring bands knows that Tesla was, and fortunately still is, one of the tightest and most reliable live tickets on the planet. The guys are in a rarified air in terms of musicianship and ability to connect with an audience. They naturally do well when keeping a studio effort as “simplistic” as possible and playing to their strengths like they do on this record. The fact that Tesla is releasing this good of an album at this stage in the game doesn’t surprise me at all; they have always been way ahead of the pack and deeply tuned in to the music. “Simplicity” just confirms the fact that Tesla’s Geffen years were only the very beginning flashes of a band that continues to burn very brightly. Tesla steps up with a definite “album of the year” worthy effort, thanks guys, we needed it.
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