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Strokes' guitarist delivers a "keeper"

Albert Hammond, Jr. - Yours To Keep
(New Line Records)
4 stars (out of 5 stars)
Reviewed: Feb. 15, 2007
Albert Hammond, Jr.

Review by Tony Bonyata

It's not always easy for a member of well-established band to break free and deliver a solo effort of any real value. But The Strokes' guitarist Albert Hammond, Jr. has done just that with a surprisingly delightful debut entitled Yours To Keep.

The ten-tracks (twelve in all including the two bonus tracks) showcase the son of '70s folk-rock artist Albert Hammond ("It Never Rains In Southern California") as a singer/songwriter in his own right. And from the many indelible melodies, hypnotic guitar, gentle pop and radio-friendly hooks it appears that Junior might actually be more of a chip off the old block than trying to mimic the angular, detached mid-'70s Lower East Side sense of cool that his fulltime band pulls off so perfectly.

Despite the Strokesey guitar-line that drives the spirited "In Transit," Hammond's voice oozes with confidence before a new wave synth-soaked chorus creates a sound quite unlike The Strokes. The same can be said for "Everyone Gets A Star," where his chicken-pecking guitar phrasings are vaguely familiar, but with the restructuring of vocals and composition the sound becomes all his own. The guitarist further distances himself from the distant, matter-of-fact vocal delivery of Strokes' singer Julian Casablancas in favor of a warm, melody-rich approach that showcases him as a wonderfully adept rock frontman.

With a ghostly vocal echo effect on "Blue Skies" there's also a sense of both melancholy and hope, while the dreamy, whispering pop of "Cartoon Music For Superheroes" is custom tailored for lovers of twee indie-rock. The jaunty banjo that ambles through "Call An Ambulance," along with Hammond whistling through a brief stanza, adds a welcome downhome feeling, while "Hard To Live In The City" shifts from a no-nosense pop-rock sensibility to a swaggering New Orleans second line celebration infused with dueling Spanish horns. The guitarist-turned-frontman does manage to get his ya-yas out, however, on the pummeling, fuzzed-up, garage-rock bonus track "Postal Blowfish." Perhaps the crowning achievement on this pleasing debut, though, is the beautiful "Holiday," a song that incorporates a perfect blend of spirited guitars, sinewy rhythm section and a vocal delivery that drapes over this handsome pop composition, before erupting at songs' end into a classic riff straight from The Velvet Underground's Loaded album.

This record may not get the buzz that The Strokes have received, but already Hammond has delivered one of the strongest efforts of '07.

Watch Albert Hammond Jr's - "Back To The 101"

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