Riff Diamond is a contemporary blues rock band from Northern Ireland that draws on the best traditions of many classic and modern artists of the genre (Muddy Waters, BB King, Howlin’ Wolf, Clapton, Hendrix, Gilmour, Bonamassa, Led Zeppelin, Free, Etta James and so many more) while still following their own, distinctively rocking and bluesy, path and developing their own sound. They aim to embody the “old-fashioned” values of well-crafted melodies and harmonies, thoughtful lyrics and virtuoso musicianship. They all believe there is a groundswell movement among the public. With Sapphire, they bring together some originals done in the style of a lot of their heroes, but some are sighting bands like Deep Purple as an influence. I don’t hear any keyboard to back that, but I do hear a heavy Led Zeppelin, Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin influence, to name just a few more in the mix. It’s the blues guitar that makes this band so good, whether this is a great album or not. After one listen it’s obvious they’re a hot live act with a good blend of what they like and their own original music to go with it. These days it’s covers and tributes a lot anyway. Showing some influence is inevitable.
“Shadowman” opens the proceedings with a well-written song that has a strong AOR feel to it. But along with one or two others it’s on the lighter side of Riff Diamond’s hard-edged music. That’s cool because they answer back with “Masquerade” and it seems to be the big sleeper of the album, with a hypnotic force about it that thrusts itself upon you and makes an impression about Riff Diamond. I would easily call it the best original, but it’s anyone’s call as usual. I just think it’s the most well-crafted song. It has that something their influences don’t have, and makes their own rock footsteps.
“29 Days” is pretty fun, and so are “Kick In The Teeth” and “Phoenix” with all they bring to the table. These aren’t the best to choose from but they’re easy to consume. As where “Count On Me” and “I Promise You” manage to contrast perfectly with those tracks, with the latter being the strongest, even if it’s one of the more pedestrian tracks. The guitar sound is big and she makes huge vocal efforts on it. But to really write home all there is to rave about is that contagious guitar riff. I can think of many who’d be happy to have this guy in their band. He’s the real deal and golden for this group. “Whole Lotta Love” by Led Zeppelin is one of the covers they do and it’s probably the better one. They certainly make it their own, as they do the second cover, which I will get to. It’s not just the fact that a female vocalist is in the mix here, they actually did something with it. There have been a few good covers like the one Santana did, but nobody usually re-works it like this. And the other re-make is “Hey Joe” which once again is a much different take than following the original version. It works almost as well as the former, too. It’s just a nice touch to hear her work it out, as the entire album is a recommended experience.