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Howlin' Rain's Wailing Good Time

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Howlin' Rain
Magnificent Fiend
American Recordings
Release Date: 04/01/08

If you've ever listened to Comets On Fire, then you're only partially familiar with the free-wheeling mind of Ethan Miller. Fortunately for us, Miller's musical persona encompasses a rather intriguing dichotomy between neo-psychedelia and blues-rock. Howlin' Rain—an offshoot of the aforementioned act—represents the latter half of this revivalist duality. The Oakland-based group's sophomore album, Magnificent Fiend, brings new vigor to a chapter of rock and roll that is easily forgotten.

The uncontrollably exuberant basis for Miller's latest endeavor can most easily be attributed to the Faces' 1971 tour de force, A Nod Is as Good as a Wink...To a Blind Horse. Consequently, "Dancers At The End Of Time" finds Miller shouting himself hoarse, revving up the album enthusiastically. The ebullient howl takes place against a backdrop of wailing solos and ecclesial organs. As a further matter, "Lord Have Mercy" and "El Rey" bring to mind the feel-good power-ballads ("Love Lives Here," "Debris") that were sprinkled throughout A Nod. The laid back temperament of these tunes truly revolutionized the way we, or rather our parents, viewed rock and roll.

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Howlin' Rain - "Dancers At The End Of Time"

Ultimately, almost as if by accident, Miller's Magnificent Fiend proves to be one of the most rollicking blues-rock albums of our time. No artist has come this close to recreating the distinctive rasp and the rowdy yet good-natured tone associated with Stewart and the Faces. And while Miller may not appreciate the comparisons because of his fervent, nonaligned vision, the likeness is simply irrefutable.