Thursday, April 8, 2010

Slash - Album Review

Downloaded Slash's latest solo effort, Slash, on Tuesday.

I guess, technically, it's probably his first "solo" record, although, I tend to give that to the 1995 Slash's Snakepit release. That was a band project, in essence, but it certainly seemed like Slash was running the show.

Slash is a very different animal from that release, in that we have a rotating cast of vocalists/lyricists coming in and working with the top-hatted one. By it's very nature that makes this record a bit of a uneven affair. Musically, everything is pretty solid in that straight-ahead rock and roll style that Slash, and Guns 'N Roses, pretty much dragged back to life in an LA Glam scene that has supplanted bands like Aerosmith, for acts like Poison.

I also happen to be reading Slash's self-titled autobiography right now, and I've found a lot of respect for the guy. He comes off (now) as a very centered guy who's all-too-aware of what happens when you run off the rails too fast, from his own experience. He's not the near-burn-out he was was as Guns was coming together, but he's older and developed a firm grasp of exactly what he does.

He's a great Rock player. He's not a shredder, and far more into feel and groove than how many notes he can cram into a run. That's fully on display with this album, which has some great hooks and riffs that move the songs right along. To me, it's a call-back to 70's style rock, where, instead of trying to be impressive with horribly complex guitar parts, they just sit in the pocket and let the song, as a whole, have the power. It's, generally, what I would like my own playing to be, so perhaps I'm biased.

So, yeah, musically, lots of great stuff going on. On the vocal front is where things get dicey. Some of the more "legendary" vocalists on call, Ozzy, Lemmy, Iggy Pop, for example, seem to have spent very little time formulating their lyrics. (The arguement could be made that all of these guys made their names on quasi-dumb lyrics, so maybe I'm expecting too much.) On top of that, the delivery isn't exactly the most...Committed, I guess, would be the word. Iggy's "We're All Gonna Die" lost me by the 9th or 10th refrain of "Let's all piss on the ground, and then jump around." Iggy can SELL lyrics like that, but here, it didn't play. Likewise Ozzy's "Crucify the Dead," became a skip track after the 2nd time through the album. Some nice moments, but the vocals are just dull, the whole track gets dragged down with them. I do quite like the opening track with The Cult's Ian Astbury, "Ghosts." The lyric is simplistic, but Astbury brings his full "Fire Woman" baritone to bear, and it sounds cool.

What kinda shocked me was the vocalists that really did make an impact. Myles Kennedy is great on his two tracks, nice blues-rock sound, but I expected to like those. What I didn't expect was to enjoy Fergie's work on "Beautiful Dangerous" so much, or Kid Rock's on "I Hold On." That second track, in particular, showcases a hell of a blues-rock voice. It's just a good song.

The big surprise, for me, in the end was a track called "Gotten." The vocals were very sweet and clear, and played against Slash and the band's somewhat dirtier tone. The vocals are credited to "Adam Levine," and I didn't know who the hell that was. I was pretty floored when I found out that's the lead singer from Maroon 5. Who new? Nice job, kid.

A lot of the "internet folks" want to put this up against Chinese Democracy. Well, if you ask me, Chinese Democracy wins. It's a much more cohesive statement of Axl Rose's crazy, paranoid world that this is of Slash's. (I'm not getting into if Chi-Dem should be a "Guns 'N Roses" record or not, just looking at the two as reflections of their primary creative forces.) That said, I know who I'd rather spend a few hours having beers with.

Slash is worth picking up if you like straightforward rock records.

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