Mark Allen / Johnny the Tree
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Earlier this year, Mark Allen teased his planned release of a full-length album of original material with a three-song EP of straight-ahead classic rock. Now that full-length album is here, those first three songs backed up by six more hard-charging tracks that are almost entirely an unambiguous embrace of rock from the mid to late 70s – before the genre got all punked and grunged up.
That’s not to say there’s not a little bit of punk simplicity on the album, in its unpolished production and rough vocal edges. “I Like You” is built around an uncomplicated back beat, but it still looks back to a pre-punk age by borrowing the “hey, hey, hey, that’s what I say” refrain from the Stones. There’s also inspiration derived from Canadian sources, with an imitation of The Guess Who on “Hit the Road.”
The rest of it, though, is drawn directly from the heyday of American guitar rock. The title of “Rock Tonite” evokes KISS, but instead of rocking and rolling all night, Allen and company parcel their party out, rocking tonight and rolling tomorrow. For the most part, the tunes borrow more heavily from Nugent than KISS, but you can definitely hear Ace Frehley in “Hey Baby I Got You,” the album’s opening track.
The encouraging thing about Johnny the Tree for fans of classic rock is that it is absolutely nothing like a box of chocolates. You know exactly what you’re going to get, and the whole box is filled with your favorite stuff.