They may not win the award for the most imaginative album title, but the quartet from London’s second album more than makes up in quality for that. I had been aware of the band for some time, but I’ll admit that their music was unknown to me. Vambo II is a great way to put that right, with 12 songs that draw deep from the ’70s but with a contemporary feel that makes them quite the draw.
Vambo – II
Release Date: 20 October 2023
Words: Paul Hutchings
Opener Love, Sin & Fire provides early notice that this is a band that oozes confidence. It’s a bluesy swagger with a hypnotic riff that allows singer Jack Stiles to show his chops early. There are soaring harmonies and a pleasing melody to boot.
It’s followed by the gentle Sweet Christine, a somewhat eerie track that paints a provocative picture despite the slightly dated vibe. Once you’ve got past that one, though, there’s plenty to really enjoy.
The ’80s Van Hagar edged Love Candy has a puffed-out chest, all pomp and bravado. You would certainly be unsurprised if told this was a track from a US radio-friendly band from 1986. It’s got all the component parts to see a venue come alive when it’s played. Lyrically dodgy as hell, the underlying brass style brings with it a style not often heard these days.
Vambo’s delivery is tight, exciting, and always fluidly professional. Minute Of Madness stands out as soon as you hear it. An upbeat tempo, the groove is infectious, with a chorus that grabs you and doesn’t let go. It’s got a huge production behind it, which adds to the overall feel.
There’s a sleazy quality to the powerful guitar work of Pete Lance, who provides some lavish solos throughout. He is supported by the solid drumming of David Flitt and the deep rumble of James Scott’s bass.
At times, the glorious AOR of REO Speedwagon (Holy Lights), at other times edging into the grungy territory of Soundgarden (Minute Of Madness), Vambo’s ability to produce timeless songs that are tinged with the coating of a past long gone is their key strength on this album.
Hey Willy brings classic rock ‘n’ roll with an edge of classic Deep Purple (think Stormbringer) that will have you dancing should you ever find them in front of you in the live setting. Throw in the epic sound of Take My Hand, full of Eastern promises, one of Stiles’ best performances, and you should be getting the picture.
Veterans of many major festivals in the past few years, including appearances at Stone Free, Download, Isle of Wight, and Planet Rock’s Winter’s End, Vambo II is an album likely to put Vambo in contention for many more in 2024. It’s pleasing from start to finish, with clever compositions that work very well indeed.