The Colorado based Big Head Todd and the Monsters have always had a small but loyal fan base but those who don’t call themselves BHTM lovers know the band only for its mainstream rock ballad “Bittersweet” that ruled the Billboard charts back in 1993. Unfortunately, that is a shame because that particular song is really not indicative of the band’s talents.
Big Head Todd and the Monsters have always been a stellar live act that expertly blends blues, jazz, funk, and pop into its concerts. Sure, the band’s sound is more laid back than edgy but it doesn’t negate the fact that lead singer Todd Park Mohr is a great vocalist who can switch between genres expertly and the rhythm section of bassist Rob Squires and drummer Brian Nevin are always as tight as a glove.
This is all good to know because the band has just released its fine eighth album entitled Rocksteady which is a much better barometer of the band’s talents than “Bittersweet.” This release is a fine collection of songs that are more R&B and Caribbean in nature.
Case in point is the title track which rocks in a way that recalls a bouncy late period Santana song. It is bluesy and funky but there is also a subtle reggae undercurrent to it that would make it fantastic to hear live. Speaking of reggae, it is also prominent in “Back the Garden” which boasts an impressive horn section that anchors the song’s groove.
As for those R&B elements, Mohr channels Al Green on the playful “I Hate It When You’re Gone” and showcases his soulful side on the nice ballad “After Gold.”
Rocksteady isn’t a complete departure for the band though as Mohr and his mates have also added some cuts that sound like the laid-back rock-pop the band has been sprinkling on its albums for years.
“Beautiful” is the album’s first single and it is easy to see why as it is as bright and melodic as anything the band has ever recorded. The band also tackles a cover of the Rolling Stones’ “Beast of Burden” and it comes off beautifully thanks to some fantastic backing female vocals.
All these fine numbers aside, there is something missing from Rocksteady. Mohr has a great blues voice and it is only showcased on the cover of Howlin’ Wolf’s “Smokestack Lightning.” The album could have used some grittier numbers like that, particularly because it gives the entire band a chance to sparkle. (This track features some great down and dirty guitar playing by Jeremy Lawton.)
On the bright side, Mohr has mentioned in recent interviews that his band recorded over 30 songs for this album and the band’s next one will feature some of the more harder-edge material it recorded.
Even so, Rocksteady is a fine Big Head Todd and the Monsters record with music that would sound great live on a sunny afternoon in the park and it shows that there is a lot more to the band than just “Bittersweet.”
Author – Todd Sikorski