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Blue overtones and guitar solo form the keys to success

The Black Keys Turn Blue (Nonesuch)

AT a certain stage in the development of popular music, the three-minute single became redundant as a platform for showcasing the eel-fingered dexterity of guitarists intent on saluting their inner Whirling Dervish.

Bored with the restraints of conforming to 45rpm-length song structures, axemen embarked on extended excursions of their fretboards, leaving the singer to play backgammon on the side of the stage or sit on a pillow reading sacred Hindu texts.

It wasn't long before double vinyl album releases didn't have sufficient space for capturing an artist's six-string rave-ups. Triple albums followed. And even boxed sets. It may have been when Woodstock star Alvin Lee (Ten Years After) and Leslie West (Mountain) were reported missing in a sonic tornado, generated by a backstage jam, that common sense prevailed and guitar noodling was officially outlawed.

Brave or foolhardy, The Black Keys introduce their new album with an almost seven minute jam that reinvents the epic guitar solo to thrilling effect. There's a song there too, with Dan Auerbach pleading, "Don't give yourself away to the weight of love."

The raw juke joint chaos of the band's earliest work has smoothed out over the years. Like Jimmy Page and Jeff Beck, Auerbach can also play the studio. He's produced the upcoming Lana Del Rey album. And with Brian Burton (Danger Mouse) joining the duo, the drums 'n' guitar template is raised to new levels of sonic sophistication without sacrificing a sense of urgency.


While the band's acclaimed El Camino featured snappy tunes, Turn Blue has the feel of a vintage psych-blues band in full cry. But it's not without cuts that are guaranteed to be hits.

Fever is a floor pounding romp decorated with a cheesy vintage Farfisa organ riff. Gotta Get Away, the last of the 11 tracks, has all the abandon of The Faces in their pomp.

"I went from San Berdoo to Kalamazoo just to get away from you," chortles Auerbach like he's in Creedence Clearwater Revival.

Always pushing, The Black Keys can do no wrong. HHHHI