Rick Shaffer is, “Bringing it all back home.”

1631A_RickLeatherJacketRick Shaffer is a true veteran of the indie rock scene; as lead guitarist for the Philadelphia-based band, The Reds, he released his first single in 1977, and been consistently putting out records ever since. But like any musician with a large body of work, Shaffer has changed his style many times, testing out new sounds and reaching back towards old influences; his new solo album, “Stacked Deck,” ties it all together.

In their early years, The Reds identified with the New Wave scene, and indeed, their early successes were such that their 1979 album, self-titled “The Reds,” had them touring with such prominent artists as Blondie, The Police, and the Psychedelic Furs.  Their lack of further recognition today is not for lack of talent; Shaffer’s grinding guitar and keyboardist Bruce Cohen’s are undeniably distinctive.

Despite a lack of lasting recognition, The Reds continued to put out albums under various managers and even produced some movie soundtracks. Their sound vacillated between driving post-punk, ‘80’s appropriate pseudo-electronica, and dark, artistic balladry.  When Shaffer put out his first solo album, Necessary Illusion, he steered his sound towards a far bluesier, sixties-meets-distortion beat.  Rather than seeming out of place, it seemed that this sound had been hidden in their heavy beats of their songs since the beginning, waiting to emerge.  “Stacked Deck” highlights the maturation of this sound; its wide range of influences make it resistant to genres, and this diversity seems to fit Shaffer’s songwriting perfectly.

The album is not without its flaws. A few of the tracks start suddenly, so that one feels as if the beginning was cut off.  The audio is well-balanced, but a little overbearing in the sheer density of sound.  Some songs are stronger than others.  Yet one gets the sense that this is how it is supposed to be; the resulting sound is rough, unfinished and guttural.  It is a quality that most modern performers shun, but which was a cornerstone of the compelling delivery of delta blues musicians, as well as of sixties garage rock, the only genre that comes close to pinning down this music.

The first, “I Won’t Deny,” sees Shaffer channeling his inner 13th Floor Elevators; it has a crunchy bass line, a jangling tambourine beat, and Shaffer’s signature guitar whine, underlying his forcefully smoky vocals.  “Shudder And Shake,” on the other hand, takes a Rolling Stones style approach to the blues.  The one-note pulse that drives this song opens up the floor to searing guitar licks, Delta-esque harmonica moans and a genuine bluesy growl from Shaffer.

“Found My Love” perhaps stands alone more than any other track on this album.  It is built on one strong, simple riff, repeated as a refrain in the rhythm guitar and filled out with a full band, back-up vocals, and a tasteful lead guitar solo.  Its lyrics stick with the listener; they are clever, and on hearing them, one starts to relate to the frustration of the singer, even without meaning to do so.  “Cool Treatment” lays down a cool rattle of percussion over a lowdown, grungy guitar line, making for a stormy cloud of sound and the deliverance of some bitter lyrics.  “Time Or Love” ends this album on a splendid note; it is a well-made blues ballad, spare and utterly compelling, and its refrain promises the listener that “Time or love is gonna get you.”  Wise words deserve a closer look; if you are in the market for good music, Stacked Deck is certainly worth the cost.

• Zosia Holden | College Underground Magazine

“. . . with Stacked Deck Rick Shaffer continues to pump out strong garage rock albums.”

RickShaffer.StackedDeckIt seems like it is becoming a yearly occurrence for me to review Rick Shaffer’s latest album.  In fact, it is pretty much 12 months to the day that I reviewed his third album, Idiot Flats.   Shaffer’s latest is entitled Stacked Deck, and it picks up right where Flats left off.

Rick continues on with his fuzz filled, blues rock sound.  He has referred to this style as “sonic minimalist,” and when you hear him it certainly makes sense. The songs have a classic garage vibe to them and won’t overwhelm in attempts to be complicated.

“Found My Love” is a prime example of this “sonic minimalist” idea. If you take away the effects and the tambourine you could easily imagine someone singing it to you in your living room.

While I do enjoy reviewing albums by artists that I have before, it can be a blessing and a curse. If I look at Stacked Deck from the perspective of someone that has never heard Rick Shaffer before, I would definitely recommend you give it a listen. It’s got a cool sound that combines the Rolling Stones at their bluesiest (“Talking About You”) and gives it a more modern, fuzzy kick.  On the other hand, some of us have heard Shaffer’s previous work and are already familiar and wondering what’s new.  To you I say, give it a few listens. At first it may sound too similar to some of Shaffer’s previous efforts, but it will grow on you.  The slide guitar and harmonica play more of a role this time around and I feel it’s heavier on the blues side than rock (“Time Or Love”).  I prefer Shaffer’s vocals more on these tracks and would like to see his future releases go further down this route. Still, with Stacked Deck Rick Shaffer continues to pump out strong garage rock albums.

STACKED DECK is also our PICK OF THE WEEK.

Key Tracks: Found My Love, Talking About You, Time Or Love

• Kevin Kozel • Senior MuzikReviews Staff

Download a FREE mp3 of track 7, Cool Treatment

To buy a CD or mp3’s click on STACKED DECK

“Stacked Deck sees this artist at his peak.”

Pascal Thiel - DisAgreementAccording to his label’s website, Rick Shaffer released his first album in 1971 with his band Freight Train.  In the late Seventies he was rather busy with The Reds®, who were quite active until the mid-Eighties.  It was only in 2007 and 2009 where they came back with two albums.  Since 2010, Rick Shaffer once again concentrated on his solo career.  For a man who must be about sixty years old, there are no signs of fatigue, as since then he has released every year a new album.  Stacked Deck is thus his fourth album since his revived solo comeback.

Not much has changed over the last few years, except that it seems as if he’s refining his craft.  Reading through the liner notes, I understand quickly that I’m too young and/or uninformed to truly understand everything he is doing, but then you don’t have to have a PhD to understand raucous garage delta blues.  I admit that this is usually not my favourite musical genre, but there’s something about Rick Shaffer that just makes it impossible not to enjoy his short but tremendously honest songs.  He is playing most of the instruments himself, although he has a couple of guests who add further bass and drum tracks.  It’s especially the very prominent percussion ensemble that give the songs an authentic vibe.  And let’s face it: percussive spoons have always been something uniquely cool.

While the bass guitar has been left rather in the background, it’s especially the vocals and slide guitar we have to concentrate our energies on.  Shaffer is excellent in both domains.  His guitar playing is very varied, ranging from fuzzy proto punk harshness, to damp bluesy slide extravaganzas.  His vocals match the mood: he is certainly not what most people would consider a gifted singer, but then neither is Lou Reed, and look what an impact he has had on the rock’n’roll circus!  Rick Shaffer knows that less is more, and while a good half hour for ten tracks may seem like a little on the short side, it also guarantees that there are no idle moments.

Blues enthusiasts will have a field day dissecting all the influences of, and nods to, blues giants, but I think I prefer my more naïve approach that lets me seamlessly enjoy Stacked Deck from the punkish opener “I Won’t Deny,” to the concluding lethargic psycho blues ballad “Time Or Love.”  The album was recorded in Michigan and Mississippi, and somehow this juxtaposition of garage rock and swamp blues couldn’t have been produced in a more authentic way.  Unaware listeners might even mistake this for something obscure straight out of the Sixties.  While I have enjoyed all of Rick Shaffer’s previous efforts, I dare say that Stacked Deck sees this artist at his peak.

Pascal Thiel • DisAgreement • Luxembourg

Download a FREE mp3 of track 7, Cool Treatment

To buy a CD or mp3’s click on STACKED DECK.

“Blistering, uncompromising, and a super enjoyable trip . . .”

AllWhatsRockLogoFor those not familiar, Rick Shaffer has been fuzzing up the airwaves for several years now, both as a solo artist and as founding member of the attic-rock outfit The Reds.  His 4th solo record, Stacked Deck, continues in the tradition of scrappy no nonsense rock from the greasy bluesy confines of the garage and if you weren’t aware that this is a currently released album you’d swear it was recorded in the late 60’s,  it’s just that authentic in its delivery.  Shaffer loves his dirty blues-rock from the gutter and spares no expense at wearing it proudly on his sleeve. There is rarely a moment when I feel as though I am listening to some half-hearted throw back copy cat.

Songs like “Talking About You” are undeniably connected to The Rolling Stones at their bluesy best and even Shaffer’s voice carries that signature Jagger yelp and twitter. One of the raunchiest and best cuts here is “Cool Treatment.”

Borrowing from the nasty old John Lee Hooker one-note hook songwriting style, “Cool Treatment” is a deep resonating cut and quite clearly a song NOT to be fucked with.  “Pushing Me” is a rolling rocker with some truly thick guitar work and a jagged lyrical content that gets me to feeling guilty even having not done anything wrong.

For the most part the guitar is scuzzy and turned up past 10 and the percussion is minimal. In the forefront is Shaffer’s voice and guitar while the harmonica and tambourine keep a steady beat.

If this album were in human form it’d be a much tougher looking Scott Fargus from A Christmas Story, reeking of old booze and worn leather with much worse skin and heavily calloused knuckles from way too many punch-ups in the alley.

This is music that old rockers and tried and true punks would appreciate a lot.  It’s raw, and in your face, yet there is a familiar modern twist that creeps up every now and then, sending off scents of White Stripes, or more obscure acts like Sonny and the Sunsets.  But even so, those guys have always had a thing for the dirty garage and blues acts of old.

Blistering, uncompromising, and a super enjoyable trip through the land of old school rock landscapes, Stacked Deck is definitely stacked to the tits with groovy sounds.

• Nathan Pike All What’s Rock

Download a FREE mp3 of track 7, Cool Treatment

To purchase a CD or mp3’s click on STACKED DECK.

“Rick Shaffer is as gritty as they come.”

Monolith-SoundPure unadulterated, no fucks given Rock n’ Roll is what Rick Shaffer is all about with his latest album, “Stacked Deck.”   It’s a non-stop barrage of riffs, power and old school gritty vocals.   Shaffer stays true to the sound and vibe his fans have come to love, so if you loved his previous work, expect to love this one as well.

The sound of this record is what we’ve come to expect from Rick.   Stripped back, raw and nothing but balls against the wall.   It’s an immensely pure album in a sense that it embodies what Rock music is and should be about, the essence of humanity.   You can feel that there’s only people making music on this record.   Nothing is fake, nothing is digital.   The sound retains its human element and thus, hits you where it matters.

Rick Shaffer is as gritty as they come.   His vocal delivery on this record is superb and shows just how it’s done.   He nails that old school, ‘Howlin’ Wolf’ vocal groove with no trouble at all, giving his music a distinct characteristic.  Shaffer’s instrumental abilities are also second to none.   The guitar work is tight, twangy and plucked with feeling whilst the rhythmic section is solid, meaty and ballsy.

If you dig the tunes of Southern music, Jack White, The Black Keys or Early Rolling Stones, give Rick Shaffer a listen.  His pure stance on Rock n’ Roll will have you movin’ and shakin’ in no time.

MONOLITH

Download a FREE mp3 of track 7, Cool Treatment

Stacked Deck CD’s or mp3’s can be purchased HERE.

4th Rick Shaffer Solo Album Is A “Stacked Deck”

Rick Shaffer | Stacked DeckTarock Music has released Rick Shaffer’s fourth solo album, Stacked Deck.

Written and produced by Shaffer, he continues the “sonic minimalist” blueprint of his previous solo albums.

The sound combines hard fuzz guitar driven garage-blues, a blues edged two step, lazy insistent rolling beat, new colors in the harmonica and spoons style percussion, along with an unadorned and unaffected blues narrative.

Download a FREE mp3 of track 7, Cool Treatment

To purchase a Stacked Deck CD or mp3’s click HERE!

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Please don’t wait another minute, pledge now!

6/17/13 UPDATE:  This Kickstarter project was successful.  The goal was  $15,000, and $16,131 was pledged. Good job everyone.