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Album Review

Though it was first released in the year 2000, Ultra's self-titled LP collects recordings dating from the mid-'70s — 1975 to 1977, to be exact — when the San Antonio, TX, quintet tried fruitlessly to land a record deal based on their local touring efforts and the odd demo recording. So what? Such was the fate of hundreds, maybe thousands, of groups in those pre-Internet dark ages. But what sets Ultra apart from most "failed" bands is of course the impressive caliber of their songwriting: an amalgam of hard rock, Southern-flavored boogie, and Texas blues, which gradually grew in cult stature as the years wore on, eventually finding special favor among the so-called stoner and retro-rock bands of the mid-'90s. Yet, of all these merits, arguably the band's winning trademark was its twin-guitar front, resulting in stinging lead harmonies to go with the resounding grooves underpinning highlights like "Circe," "City on Ice," and the dazzling "Mutants" — most of them reminiscent of Wishbone Ash, and, in the case of the slightly Gaelic "Ten Years Since," Thin Lizzy if they'd been jamming with ZZ Top. Speaking of the latter pair, several numbers ("Seasons Pass," "Get Away") are actually ringers for contemporaneous Lizzy (before they got too heavy), while touchstones of the Texan blues-rock titans pepper everything from the "La Grange"-styled rhythm riff stutter of "Souled There With Care," to Don Evans' understated singing technique itself: like Billy Gibbons, always effective, but never challenging the guitars for supremacy. Finally, there's heavier efforts like the forceful "Lamp Black, White Fight" and the ominous-sounding "Android" (imagine a precursor to Golden Earring's "Radar Love") on the one hand; a country-tinged acoustic nugget like "Hot N Cold" on the other, arriving at the last minute to show yet another dimension. In the end, perhaps it was precisely Ultra's aversion to vocal hysterics or instrumental pyrotechnics that contributed to their anonymity during this era of hard rock bombast. Whatever the true cause and even if this collection still falls a little short of total revelation, the band's worth has certainly snowballed in retrospect and will sound like a forgotten gem to '70s rock enthusiasts.


Genre: Pop

Years Active: '00s

Ultra was a teaming of Kool Keith, the offbeat onetime frontman of the Ultramagnetic MC's, and Tim Dog, best-known for cutting one of the earliest East Coast/West Coast feud records, "Fuck Compton." Tim Dog had gotten his start as a peripheral member of Ultramagnetic, and when the group fell apart, he put his solo career on hold to rejoin Keith under the shortened moniker. Ultra recorded one album, Big Time, and released it on the tiny Our Turn Records in 1996. Once Kool Keith had blossomed into...
Full bio
Ultra, Ultra
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  • 8,99 €
  • Genres: Rock, Music
  • Released: 01 January 1976

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