“Necessary Illusion,” a neo 60’s fusion of garage blues/rock, is the first solo album by The Reds founding member and guitarist, Rick Shaffer. Necessary Illusion’s sonic signature is raw, distorted guitars, atmospheric percussion, stark droning hill country blues, in a swirl of “Excello Records” style reverb.
The lyrics echo the traditional elements of tragedy, betrayal, perseverance and redemption, the cornerstones of the blues. Blues greats like Lightnin’ Slim, Slim Harpo, Jessie Mae Hemphill, Junior Kimbrough R.L. Burnside, along with the early blues/rock styles of The Sonics, The Yardbirds and early Rolling Stones, all combine to create a mix of influence on Shaffer’s style.
The production combines raw sound, with a vital presence, living in the world of swamp/hill country blues, and the garage rock aesthetic of the mid-60’s. Shaffer’s idea was to combine and manipulate the sound structures of these basic sounds, with Joe Meek’s signature production approach, to maintain a primitive quality.
The heart of the sound is delivered in the opening track, ”Lucky Day,” where bad luck and fate take an altered metallic stomp, thumping drum percussion, with a dark bluesy vocal, framed in slashing guitar leads.
The title track, “Necessary Illusion,” a combination of tremolo, fuzz and reverb abound, could have been a great mid-60’s regional hit. The hypnotic wash of the tremolo fuzztone, and riff driving chorus, comes through to serve up the goods, with a nod to Noam Chomsky.
“Gettin’ Deeper,” is a twang riff-rocker with the garage rock aesthetic of The Sonics and Yardbirds. The edgy slashing guitar, middle and hook are pure garage magic. “If you’re gonna play where the Big Boy stays . . . it’s “Gettin’ Deeper.”
On “No Other Way,” the opening guitar figure pays homage to Albert “The Iceman” Collins, with a rhythm section that feels like being hit in the back of the head with a brick. Bluesy vocals compliment a rolling rave-up middle section.
“Open Your Eyes,” has laidback fuzztone, with heavy reverb drenched guitars, in a dark deep blues atmospheric groove. Trippy background vocals compliment “West Side Soul” guitar breaks.
“Two Weeks,” was inspired by the film “Two Weeks In Another Town” by Vicente Minelli. Like the film, the song is a brutal landscape of misrepresentation, betrayal and redemption. A fuzztone wall of sound and jangle guitars provide tonal mayhem. Label this one an under three minute head banger.
“Burnin’ Hell” has a hill country blues groove, thumping bass line, smacked rockabilly rhythm guitar, shakin’ and swingin’ percussion, with piercing tremolo lead fills. Super-sustained backwards guitar with psychedelic tendencies on the prowl, are held together with a dominating Jaggeresque vocal.
“Can’t Go On,” is a hyped-up beat rocker. with a monster Arrows ”Blues Theme” fuzz guitar figure, a contrasting chiming beat era guitar, and bouncing rhythm section. A “Mickie Most” production approach surfaces on this track.
“Shakin’ Hips,” has a chugging fuzzed-out shuffle, Jah Wobble bottom heavy bass, shakin’ reverb maracas, and a “Tonebender” guitar solo. It’s a slab of ”Heavy Psych-Blues.“
The final track, “Why Do You,” musically incorporates a Captain Beefheart “Mirror Man” slide guitar treatment, accompanied by a syncopated fuzz-funk wall, and wailing sustained guitar notes, with a slow-burn Mo Tucker/Excello Records percussion groove. The track is stripped down to drive home it’s primal essence, delivered by a caustic vocal growl.
Shaffer’s three decades of work include early 70’s psych-blues Freight Train recordings, The Reds dark atmospheric albums, TV/feature film work with director/producer Michael Mann, and numerous Indie directors, his unique guitar contribution to albums by Marianne Faithful, Marc Almond, Peter Murphy, Hilly Krystal, and Sarah Jane Morris, and collaboration with veteran record producer, David Kershenbaum, and Britain’s Mike Thorne, clearly shine through on his first solo venture. With “Necessary Illusion” Rick Shaffer has brought his background to the forefront.