Album in Depth: Elf by Elf

Hi, I’m JotaKa. I’m a rocker by birth and grew listening to rock discs and long plays by the dozen. After a tiresome week of studies, work, music and video-game, I got home to my audio system and started thinking about source material for my next Album in Depth. I thought maybe something really bad, like Justin Bieber, but then again, who doesn’t know that Justin Bieber sucks? I really don’t get people that review cheetahmen to get the conclusion that it’s bad. How could it not be? It’s a game that didn’t get licensed in a time where everything got licensed. Use your brain. I don’t want to do reviews out of novelty. I don’t want to make a review so that people can think “Hey, he will bash this shit!” I want them to discover something new or rediscover something that was buried a long time ago in everyone’s memory.

So, how do I do that? Get an extremely unknown band with really recognizable personnel and do the magic. So, I present to you, by suggestion of my friend AzZaGhNoM, Elf. What the hell is Elf, you may ask? Elf is a band formed in 1967, which was originally named The Electric Elves, and disbanded in 1975, after three albums: “Elf” (1972), “Carolina Country Ball” (1974) and “Trying to Burn the Sun” (1975). When the band dismissed, Richie Blackmore got most of the band to perform on his first solo album pos-Deep Purple, Rainbow (or R-A-I-N-B-O-W, to the most aficionados). From the founders of the band Elf, only the guitarist David Feinstein was not involved in the project. But the rest got in easily.

Who are the rest and the guitarist, you may ask? Let’s start from behind.

In the drums Gary Driscoll, a drummer who didn’t get much attention at the time. His career was only with the band, but he just lived for 41 years until brutally murdered under bizarre circumstances to what is believed to be drug related murder.

In the piano, Mickey Lee Soule, that since then, contributed with a hand full of classic rock bands, being credited in a lot of work, primarily for Deep Purple.

In the guitar, David Feinstein, cousin of the singer, which disbanded from the band after the debut album was released to form The Rods. With the band, he toured around with big names of the music industry like Iron Maiden and Judas Priest (argh… Judas Priest… I will talk about them some time…).

And on the bass and vocals, Ronald Padanova, a so-so singer with a so-so bass. He went out after to do some work now and then with some big names, but died this year of stomach cancer.

…Oh, and by the way, Ronald Padanova’s stage name is fucking Dio!

This is the debut album of Dio. To those who don’t know, go to a music store. Dio is what most people think when they think of heavy metal (after thinking Ozzy, of course). He was the main singer of Elf, then Black Sabbath, then Heaven & Hell. He even had his own band with his name: Dio. I mean, this guy is the symbol of everything that metal stands for, and he didn’t passed the torch to Jack Black to the day of his death.

Well, with that said, I don’t like Dio. I think he is pretentious, trying to be an Ozzy and failing miserably (even Ozzy is failing in that department recently). I do not like his voice and I do not like his style. He was more of a metal icon than a metal singer. However, I really applaud that he stand there doing whatever the hell he did until his last voice. Dio, I salute you!

Well, with that said, Elf was the first album that Dio, as Ronald Padanova, released, under the Purple Records’ label. The album didn’t get Gold or Platinum album, or even got around on the billboard magazine. So, let’s get this over with: Elf, by… Elf.

1st track: “Hoochie Coochie Lady”: Well, it is not what you expect from an album with Dio in it, nowadays. The song is a blues reminiscent of Led Zeppelin start with Dio singing in a Mick Jagger kind of way. The entire album has piano, and it works perfectly throughout the album. The lyrics are inspired and entertaining with little twists. The guitar solo is noth0ing new to the business of rock today, but it sounds really well made for the time. The sound quality is amazing for the recording procedures of the time. Man, Mickey Lee Soule is just raising the bar for ALL the piano players on rock. This guy can fucking piano the shit out of everyone else. The only complaint for this song is the length, although not immense, is the biggest song of the album (5:35), and I really think that you can’t play the longest song first, as it tires the style of the album right in the beginning. I really wish I could play this piano…

2nd track: “First Avenue”: Again, not what you expect from Dio. The blues is really inspired: it’s not like your everyday blues. The singing is creative, the guitar is innovative and the piano, again, worked it out all the time. The guitar riff is also pretty catchy throughout the song, and bizarrely, even with the guitar and piano competing for main time, they don’t overshadow the other. The lyrics are your typical love gone bad blues song, but the way Dio sings it makes it worthwhile the entire time. It’s not your typical blues singer; it is fucking Dio, although it sounds like a clearer Dio than in later years.

3rd track: “Never More”: As you get used to the fast blues, the album throws a curve ball with a song that seems like a tearjerker with a piano intro, but Elf shows it’s intensity and inventiveness when the piece starts to get more and more aggressive, to the piano inducing start to a rocking guitar with a piano accompany masked with guitar solos here and then. I think that the piano going to the background was a loss to the track, but it is still enjoyable as is the guitar, though sometimes loud and repetitive. The drummer shines, however. As it starts without drums, you can see that he is doing a terrific job.

4th track: “I’m Coming Back To You”: This song… I don’t know what to say about it. I mean… just… I didn’t like it, but I didn’t dislike it too. The piano worked all song long but not as creative as the intro to Never More or Hoochie Coochie Lady. The title singing is boring and repetitive, but overall the singing is good and it remembers the harmony of Chris Cornell’s “You Know my Name”. The solo is kind of like the rest of the song and not energetic enough as it should be. By the end, he does that screamed singing and sounds like Mick Jagger again. The song is just dull, compared to the rest of the album so far. I mean, it is good maybe as a standalone but a real let down from the rest of the album.

5th track: “Sit Down Honey (Everything Will Be Alright)”: The intro is piano as it enters the classic blues song, although the Dio way of singing makes it a different experiment. The piano works its way cooler than before and really marks itself inside your memory, even with a piano solo that was masterly done. This song soles everything, with even drum solo (and a fucking good solo at that). The song is remarkably good and the best song so far.

6th track: “Dixie Lee Junction”: This song is pretty much passive and has a ballad beat with the guitar soloing the shit out of the cords. When the song gets aggressive, the song goes back to its previous tracks. The solo of piano is really good, but as a whole, it started to get tiresome. The intro remembers me of a specific Queen intro, don’t know which one exactly. It digresses to generic blues, the piano solos are good, but… it is generic blues. I didn’t like it in context. The album was too good to digress to generic blues.

7th track: “Love Me Like a Woman”: …awkward title… So… getting over that… will… be… impossible… Love Me Like a Woman? Really? And it is repeated a lot of times, again and again and again… why? What was the point? Love me Like a Woman can’t mean good. Besides that, the song is generic, the guitar is bland blue playing, and the piano is good until the solo which is a fucking scale. What is the point of solo if it will be just a scale? He proved that he can work that shit and he scales it? What a waste of talent. The lyrics are embarrassing, to say the least. “Love me like a woman/touch me like a woman”… gross… really… gross… the song ends with that standard hard rock ending… it is a bland song, and possibly the worst song in this album.

8th track: “Gambler, Gambler”: The Ring! I mean… Well, it is an unusual blues. It takes all the blues melody tropes and subverts them by their own needs. The songs are overall bland, but have a nice tune to it. Indeed, you can see that it ran out of ideas. As always, it is quite a good tune, but after hearing the whole album, you may think that it is dull and boring. The end of this song goes with a full paranoia test of all the speakers I had with a strange and annoying noise that ran around the channels. Really annoying, really shitty ending.

So, how does it hold up? For a 1972 album, it holds up really good in comparison with a LOT of things that appeared since then. But one thing I have to mention is that it is not suited for a Dio fan. It sounds more like a Joe Cocker album than a Dio album. It is blues with an upbeat instead of the regular heavy metal that everyone would’ve been expecting. And I must say I liked more Elf than Dio. If you are a fan of Deep Purple, you should totally hear this. If you are a diehard fan of blues, Dio’s voice or rock piano, you need this album. It will praise the taste of few: mine included. To this date, it is probably the best album I reviewed.

This is JotaKa, signing of.

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