Album Review: Wally Waller — Kitchen Rock

Wally Waller first found fame as a member of the Pretty Things; not long after joining, he was instrumental in the creation of the band’s landmark conceptual work SF Sorrow (quick aside: a chapter in my upcoming book, What’s the Big Idea: Great Concept Albums will explore that album, drawing on my recent in-depth interview with Waller). And while he was part of the band for many years – and while he produced albums for other artists and played on other people’s records – one thing he hadn’t done was make an album under his own name.

Until now. Its subtitle (The Lockdown Sessions) makes it plain that Kitchen Rock was created during that period when we were all ensconced at home, the future perhaps more certain than it had ever been. But there’s no overwhelming sense of fear, dread or angst in the 17 tunes on this set. Drawing from tunes he co-wrote with Pretty Things band mates Phil May and Dick Taylor, as well as covers of classics from Larry Williams, Elvis and the Everly Brothers, Waller has crafted a tuneful and engaging set of reoccurring. His liner notes place the songs in context: many were originally cut for great albums like the too-often overlooked Parachute.

As Waller explains, the project grew out of solo session in which he was recording audio to accompany some vintage Pretty Things video footage he had compiled. But he eventually took the project to another level, overdubbing instruments on top of his vocal-and-guitar basic tracks. As its name telegraphs, Kitchen Rock is a rough-hewn, homespun project, but those qualities serve to enhance the commitment, authenticity and street-level realness of the set.

Even though Waller wasn’t the primary/lead vocalist in the Pretties, fans of their sound – form the late ‘60s through their 1970 work and beyond – will find the sonic aesthetic warmly familiar, and in the best possible way. There’s a vaguely campfire vibe about the songs: Waller’s reading of “Walking through My Dreams” is shorn of its psychedelic trappings. And stripping those elements away – great as they are – -reveals what a great tune remains. And that approach, when applied to the other tunes on the album, consistently works. Enthusiastically recommended.