Released way back in 2003 ‘Rough Diamond’ in the debut solo album from Sulo Karlsson, frontman of Swedish glam boogie merchants Diamond Dogs. It’s a bit of a lost gem actually, a limited release on CD at the time, it was recorded sometime between 1997-99 at the legendary Sunset Studios by the even more legendary producer Thomas Skogsberg (Hellacopters/Backyard Babies). If you’re an avid Diamond Dogs fan, you probably have it in your collection, if not then you’re in for a real treat as It has now been reissued on vinyl for the first time with the added extra album ‘Rare Gems & Rowdy Tracks’. 

‘Rough Diamond’ opens with an early version of the Diamond Dogs classic anthem ‘Weekend Monster’. A raw and ramshackle run through with cool backing vocals and Chuck Berry licks, all delivered with the high energy you would expect. It’s a fine way to kick off an album in that certain rock n’ roll style we come to expect from one of Sweden’s finest songwriters.

‘Inflammable 69 er’ is about as close to Hanoi Rocks as anything Sulo has been involved with. By the time that boogie-woogie chorus rolls around, you will be reminded just how well this guy manages to channel classic 70’s rock n’ roll. Nice nod to Pretty Vacant on the outro too.

The rockers are up there. The title track is full of honky tonk piano, low-slung riffs and a punky energy. ‘RnR Declaration’ is a killer tune, and ‘Ba Ba Ba (The Word Is On The Street)’ is a classic Sulo rocker with an earworm of a chorus, and if you’re a Diamond Dogs fan you just might recognise it from somewhere else in the double D discography. 

The 70’s glam stomp of ‘I’ll Be Your Monkey’ is mighty, a nice sax solo to boot and a refrain you’ll swear you’ve heard before, what’s not to like? 

We take things down on ‘Living Legends Dying Hearts’ as Sulo delivers his trademark heartfelt balladry with raspy vocals, a fistful of soul and a chorus his contemporaries would die to get their tonsil into.

The highlights are plentiful and repeated listens have you juggling the top trumps. But for me right now it’s ‘Vegas Vamp’. From the intent in the verses, to the emotion in the chorus and even the production, it all just gels nicely. It’s up there with his best as far as I’m concerned.

While ‘Rough Diamond’ is a full-blown rock n’ roll record, ‘Rare Gems’ is a more diverse and experimental collection of solo songs and duets of varying quality and style. Over the course of the first four or five songs we explore emotive balladry, country, folk and even jazz… yes, you read it right!

The soulful, heartfelt balladry of ‘Linger My Love’ opens the extra album of goodies, and is probably the strongest offering here. “Save your teardrops for tomorrow” our hero croons over countrified instrumentation. Featuring Thin Lizzy’s Brian Robertson on the old geetar, it’s an emotive ballad that gets under the skin on first listen.

‘Lonely Street Choir’ then sees our man head off into country territory with the help of Nashville singer Crystal Gayle. The familiar melody of ‘Roll On’ shines through the pop production. It feels like a demo, with the drum machine giving it a summer dance feel rather than the usual low slung rock n’ roll we come to expect. But a good song is a good song, no matter the production. 

‘In Case You Fall In Love With Me’ explores jazz with laid back instrumentation and a sense of yearning, it’s a bit of an oddball but worth the inclusion. 

The folky ‘Stay Away From Me’ and the anthemic drinking song ‘Glory & Grace’ channel the likes of The Pogues and The Levellers with accordions and acoustics and flagons of ale raised for a singalong. 

Ballads, duets and drum machine demos make up the latter part of the album, and show songs that are works in progress, showing a glimpse of a songwriter experimenting and spreading his wings.

‘Rough Diamond’ remains essential listening for fans of Sulo’s day job and the bonus album contains several gems that make this double album worth hunting down. It’s a bit of a treat. 

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Author: Ben Hughes