Clocking in at close to an hour and a half, ‘Totem’ is a hefty work-out of groove-laden guitars and blues-funk boogie from Kiwi-born Kevin Borich. Showing influences that range from Muddy Waters to Lenny Kravitz and every devil-may-care guitar slinger in-between, it’s a refreshing contrast to the play-it-safe attitude of many of his peers. With a career spanning back to the mid ’60s with The La De Das, Borich has long been touted as one of Australia’s greatest guitar virtuosos, but does much on this double-album to dispel any notions that he’s a guitarist first and songwriter second.
Gonna See My Baby Tonight, Hang On and Get You Out Of My Head transcend mere guitar music and stand up with anything in Borich’s back catalogue, while show-stopper Dream Together grooves like Mark Knopfler fronting Cold Chisel. Although he’s approaching his 66th birthday, ‘Totem’ is seldom reflective. There’s a political awareness to songs such as Another Freedom and Money that rarely descends into finger-pointing and never threatens to become too serious in nature.
This hard grooving blues-rock seldom breaks its trend of feel good, tongue-in-cheek fun. As disc two plays out, eery closer Encounter rattles away with a sense of spooky unease almost destructive of disc one’s sun-kissed vibe, making repeated listens fresh and intriguing, all the while uncovering hidden treasures.