BY MICHAEL TOLAND
When Nikki Sudden, uh, suddenly passed away back in 2006, he left not only a mighty legacy of underground rock & roll, but also a wealth of unreleased sessions that have been slowly but surely trickling into the public arena. Recorded at regular Sudden producer John A. Rivers’ Woodbine Studios in three sessions scattered over 1997-1999, Fred Beethoven is one such rediscovered gem, and a corker at that.
Joined by frequent cohorts Terry Miles, Carl Picot and Mark Williams and French rocker Freddy Lynxx, Sudden concentrates on his rocking side here, cranking the guitars, energy and attitude. “Don’t Look Back” and “Stereo Baby” animate Sudden’s long-held T. Rex fascination into catchy boppers that put a spring in the step and a slash in the strumming hand. “Summer Burn Down” (and its alternate version “Summer Burn Out”) eschew wordsmithery for pure six-string jamming, Lynxx and his employer trading burning chords and flaming licks. “Forest Fire,” “Black Satin Suit” and the blazing “Looking at You” channel Sudden’s love of three chord mania into transcendent slices of an extremely tasty rock & roll pie.
Of course, it wouldn’t be a Sudden album without at least a couple of peeks into his romantic troubadour fantasies, represented here by the mildly psychedelic “So Much to Learn” and the gorgeous “Pin a Rose On Me.” But the musicians’ intentions get signaled with the opening and closing cuts, a pair of crackling takes on Chuck Berry’s “Bye Bye Johnny” (incorrectly ID’d on the sleeve as “Johnny B. Goode,” to which the tune is a sequel) that practically burn through the ones and zeros. Though never adverse to experimentation, Sudden always stayed faithful to the essence of old-fashioned rock & roll, and Fred Beethoven is a welcome posthumous testament from one spirit to another.
DOWNLOAD: “Looking at You,” “Black Satin Suit,” “Bye Bye Johnny”