To understand Thorbjørn Risager & The Black Tornado’s Come On In, their 10th album, you just need to listen “Love So Fine.” The riff borrows heavily from Bachman–Turner Overdrive’s “Taking Care of Business” but in Risager’s hands, or throat, to be more precise, it’s something different. Risager’s voice is deep and rich, sort of like ZZ Top’s Billy Gibbons with the edges smoothed out with some Van Morrison touches. Risager’s band, or orchestra, as he classily calls them, power the tune behind him, the horns giving the rock track an uptown blues grandeur. It perfectly captures everything good and interesting about the album.
Because while the Danish band is tight, Risager’s voice is the focal point of the album. It isn’t particularly textured, the way many blues singers are, but the depth of his vocals is impressive. Even if you couldn’t hear him slicing his way through the tracks, you can almost feel his bass in your chest. It’s a perfect amalgamation of blues, rock, soul, and even grunge. Risager is a unique singer and for that alone, Come On In is worth the price of admission.
Of course, you can have the greatest voice in the world, and you still need the support of songs and band. Come On In has both of those covered. The Black Tornado mostly stay in the background, which actually creates balance within the tracks. Rather than having all kinds of horns and organ coming at the listener, you’re free to focus on Risager’s voice, which is tough to miss anyway, as well as the rocking guitar. However, the band does get some spots to shine. One of the more impressive is “Over the Hill,” a straight-forward blues a la Freddie King’s “I’m Tore Down.” While the guitar, courtesy of Risager and Joachim Svensmark, and vocals take center stage, the rest of the band pushes the track along, giving it polish. It’s a fun, classic blues that takes full advantage of The Black Tornado’s personnel.
At the same time, some of the songs have more sonic white space. “Last Train” begins with an acoustic blues riff and quickly builds, organ and electric guitar fleshing things out, including a beautifully insolent slide guitar line that feels like it’s trying to wrest the song away from Risager. The song is more rock than blues, with a heavy Black Keys influence, but it’s notable for its lack of horns, which wouldn’t have worked for the track. So while the band, which co-produced the album, has many musical options, they don’t feel the need to execute all of them on every track. Instead, they make choices.
The story of the album is Risager’s voice. That’s not a surprise given his name is on the record cover. But The Black Tornado are an impressive backing band that give their front person plenty of space to operate. Risager could probably coast on his voice, so it’s nice he and the band take the time to create well-balanced tracks that walk the tight line between feeling too crowded and sounding like someone possibly cheating at a capella.
The Review: 7.5/10
Can’t Miss Tracks
– Over the Hill
– Last Train
– Love So Fine
– Come On In
The Big Hit
– Come On In
Review by Steven Ovadia