Al Ross & The Planets announce the release of the group’s second album, Blue Crystal on 10 September 2021 on CD and download through Wienerworld. When the band entered the legendary Abbey Road Studios to commence recording in January 2020, they never guessed that a pandemic was about to turn their plans upside down.
The core lineup of Al Ross & the Planets on this album is Al Ross (lead vocals, bass), David Brammer (saxophone), Terry Mascall (drums), Alex Mungo (ex-Then Jerico, vocals), Julian Mungo (acoustic guitar), and Marc Rapson (piano, Hammond organ, keyboards, percussion).
As band members became unable to take part due to Covid (George E Well and Paul Miller were forced to bow out) Ross realized that he would need to hire session players to fill the gaps. He asked his longtime friend Lyndon Connah to play keyboards and assist with production. Connah’s extensive resume includes work with Level 42, George Michael, Squeeze, Joe Cocker, Thomas Dolby, Nik Kershaw, and Go West. Next, Anthony Broza at Wienerworld suggested blues guitarist Norman Beaker. A native of Manchester, Beaker has been involved with the British blues scene since the 1960s and has toured and/or recorded with Jack Bruce, Chris Farlowe, Van Morrison, Chuck Berry, and B.B. King, among many others.
The wide array of talent involved in the collaboration yielded spectacular results. The warm and lustrous “Faith” is a radio-friendly standout, a love song caressed by piano and light samba rhythms. “All the Things We Started” shares a similar glow, featuring a soaring, emotive vocal by Ross. Bold and brass-driven, “Checking Out the Vibe” is a modern take on the bluesy classic rock strut of The Rolling Stones, Eric Clapton, and Dr. Feelgood. Alex Ward provides stinging guitar licks while David Brammer and Jamie Wall’s brass arrangement is straight out of the Muscle Shoals songbook. “Crossroads” and “In the Middle of the Night” venture into gospel territory. “Sweet Memories of You” has echoes of Pink Floyd as Petrie’s voice interplays with Brammer’s saxophone. “Blue Crystal” is another slow build with a melody worthy of Noel Gallagher. And finally, “Something Changed My Mind,” says farewell to a lover as Rapson’s Hammond organ adds charms to an uptempo country stroll.
“Facing huge obstacles in a horrendous year - with two members getting Covid - we managed to produce a truly great album,” said Ross. “It was a great way to pass the hours rather than staying at home feeling depressed! We were able to create something positive out of 2020.”