Jamie Mallender’s “Return to Bass” Review

“A one finger answer to a music industry that needs a good old shake by the throat!”

When I first agreed to review this, I did it because Jamie’s a friend, and I wanted to help promote his album. Then after I did that, I thought “There aren’t a lot of instrumental bass driven albums”, so I wasn’t entirely sure what I was getting myself into. First off, it’s not “all” bass. It’s not like we have 9 songs that are just “Big Bottom” here. When I started listening to it, I thought this album would fit into the 70’s well. I’m not sure what angle (if any) Jamie was going for here, but the opening riff kind of makes me feel like I’m in the 70’s. It’s hard to quantify why I feel that way, but when I start off listening, that’s the vibe I get. As far as I understand it, Jamie grew up with those kinds of tunes, so it’s not terribly surprising if that was the intent.
When I saw Joe Satriani in concert once, he said “I wrote a charity song for the rainforest problem. Not that you’d know it.” I wanted to point that out, as the second song on here, “The Bass Player Answers Back” is Jamie’s response to the canceled Tony Martin Band tour of the USA. He had posted on Facebook not long after that happened he went into the studio and came up with this. There’s some angry sounding parts of the song for sure. But since it’s an instrumental it’s impossible to know that. Jamie says that the songs are all reactions to some part of his life. That’s the best way to write, IMO, as the stuff comes from the heart, which is always where the best tunes come from.
Jamie’s own quotes about the album go thusly:

“In making “Return To Bass” I have ignored every formula in the book, every critic with an opinion of any kind and every opportunity to make it more commercially accessible. I have skipped from one genre to another and spliced musical styles together, always avoiding the obvious route. This album was not written to please anyone but me. Each track expresses how I felt at the time of recording, and goes on a musical journey that I enjoyed taking. It was not recorded to make a lot of money, or to make me famous. This album is my one finger answer to a music industry that needs a good old shake by the throat, and to all people who are happy to be spoon-fed manufactured music.”

The album definitely has a “funk” to it. But that seems to me to be the norm when it’s mostly bass influenced. A lot of Glenn Hughes’ music is like that. But to label this album just “funk” is unfair. There’s several different styles on here. There’s the hard rock influence (which is obvious given Jamie’s work with Tony Martin). There’s also parts where I hear some Jazz overtones, and some “classic rock”. It’s a really broad variety, which is cool. Otherwise it could run into one long song if there was no variety to it – due to the lack of lyrics.
Speaking of lyrics, I sometimes get bored with instrumental albums because there’s no lyrics for me to hold onto. This didn’t happen here. The varying styles kept me interested past my usual point of “Oh, another instrumental”. I think you’ll like this album if you’re a fan of rock music, and in particular bass guitar.
It’s also short. The album has nine songs on it, totaling just 35 minutes. Which truly does harness the spirit of the 70’s, when several rock albums were shorter. Don’t let that affect you. There’s some nice emotion here. When I listened to it first, it was with headphones in the dark, which was a cool way to get “into” the album. Perhaps it’s because I know Jamey, but I would hope the emotion of the pieces transcend that and let you enjoy the album the way I have.
My personal favorites are “Captain Blake vs the Lion”, and the title track “Return to Bass”. “Layla’s Funk” is also a cool tune. If you want to try something new, give this a shot. You’ll like it. Oh yeah, the subwoofer gets a workout listening to this. :)
You can reach Jamie directly by hitting his Facebook page at this link.
Additionally, the album is available for purchase from several outlets. Here are some links for you to check out.