Mickey Thomas has one of those unforgettable and instantly recognizable voices. His career has now spanned four decades, from his early group The Jets, to his time with Elvin Bishop, his tenure with the Jefferson Starship and then just the Starship, to a long and creative solo career. He is best remembered as the lead singer on such Starship number one hit singles as “We’ve Built This City,” “Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now,” and “Sara,” the first two with Grace Slick.
Marauder is his first new solo studio album in seven years. Unlike his past releases, this new album has a fuller sound with horns, keyboards, backing singers, and even a choir in support. Still, it is a rock album and has a harder edge than much of his past work.
It is an album of cover songs. They include the well-known and the obscure. The unifying theme is they represent artists who have influenced his career or songs that are personal favorites. It may add up to an eclectic group of material, but they also coalesce into a satisfying listen.
The first two tracks set the tone for what will follow. The Rolling Stones’ “Gimme Shelter” is the perfect vehicle to strut his vocal chops. He is supported by the Unity Community Choir and some interesting and unusual slide Dobro work by Mark McGee. He is able to give a creative interpretation while maintaining the menace of the original. He transitions into Peter Gabriel’s “Sledgehammer,” complete with brass and a little funky-style Memphis soul just to be different.
He has always cited seeing the Beatles in concert during their 1965 American tour as one of the seminal musical events in his life. That influence comes home to roost on Marauder as the album is dotted with several group and individual covers. His choice of the rarely covered “Rain” was inspired as he extends and expands the vocal melody and makes use of tight background harmonies. “Oh Darling” and “Across The Universe” are songs for singers and his voice soars above the mix. He gives Paul McCartney’s “Maybe I’m Amazed” a rougher edge than the original, but it is his cover of George Harrison’s “Wah-Wah” that is the most interesting. He strips the song to its basics which allows his vocal to present the lyrics clearly.
The album’s material meanders in a number of directions. There is the raucous rock of Bob Seger’s “Hollywood Nights.” The Leon Russell composition, “Delta Lady,” contains one of the album’s passionate vocals plus some acoustic and electric slide guitar. AC/DC’s “Moneytalks,” Tom Cochrane’s “Life Is A Highway,” and the Oasis power ballad “Champagne Supernova” all provide vehicles for his inspired vocals.
Mickey Thomas remains a singer’s singer and continues to age well. Marauder clearly shows that he can still sing and rock with the best.