Having grown tired of waiting for the perfect new Velvet Revolver frontman, Slash decided to take the collaborative route on his own for a new semi-solo album. He brought in a group of vocalists from a variety of genres, tying them all together with his signature blues-rock wail. There’s familiarity in the tones, arrangements and delivery of the most recognizable guitar sound in Rock; for the most part, the album offers few stylistic surprises. But it’s a solid piece of work, and the collaborative contributions make for the most cohesive guitar-driven collaborative record since Tony Iommi’s solo album.
Slash makes a point to avoid overshadowing the guest vocalists, no easy task when dealing with the instant-classic potential of riffs like those on the Ian Astbury-featured Ghost. But there’s a good helping of inspired moments possessing real fire, such as when the brooding Crucify The Dead really takes off and Ozzy sheds his cobwebs, and overall the solos provide clear callouts to what might have been, had the true Guns N’ Roses managed to bury the hatchet for Rock’s greater good.
Ignoring it is ridiculous: Slash has been involved with many projects and collaborations since the demise of GNR a decade and a half ago, but none of the guitar material rings as closely to where the band left off as on this release. Diverse stylistic avenues keep things from getting formulaic, but when the iconic guitarist takes flight into a solo or doubles down on tempo an old familiar longing sets in that can be hard to ignore, still, after all these years.
Fergie holds her own in Beautiful Dangerous until the chorus, when everything goes as wrong as a bad Axl Rose impression by a chick. It dissolves into a flagrant reach for mainstream power-rawk anthemics, like an audition tape for the Super Bowl halftime show (and let’s not discuss that Paradise City abomination). Redemption returns quickly, however, with a count-off to a clean-tone soul riff leading off Back From Cali, the first of two offerings from Myles Kennedy, a slow-build soul jam that showcases the Alter Bridge frontman’s formidable vocal skills.
After the unabashedly middle-aged Promise featuring Chris Cornell, Andrew Stockdale of Wolfmother does the single best Jack White impression you’ll ever hear in the intro to By The Sword, before turning in an admirable performance more akin to an Aussie Robert Plant over the song’s bluesy, arcing march-strut. Gotten is an unannounced change of pace, a slow-jam panty-soaker with Maroon 5’s Adam Levine that’s perfect for a sad slow-motion airport scene in a romantic comedy. By contrast, Doctor Alibi is a raw, bratty celebration of insubordination featuring the immortal Lemmy Kilmister and the meanest intro Slash has delivered since Perfect Crime. You’ve gotta admit, hearing Lemmy harmonize the chorus with himself while Slash tears it up beneath him is a moment of pure awesome Rock oddness.
Dave Grohl reportedly refused to sing on his contribution, and thus Watch This became an instrumental track, Grohl drumming beneath a riff blizzard rife with solos and a chugging low end courtesy of new Jane’s Addiction recruit Duff McKagan. It’s a powerhouse track that belies any idea that the vocalists are the selling points on this album.
Let’s call the Kid Rock song what it is: a savvy business move by someone who wants to appeal to the country market without outright bending over for Toby Keith or some other “new country” mouth-breathing sensation. There’s some soul to the track, but in the end I Hold On is a jukebox jam for the deep-woods boys of Detour, Michigan. It’s as skippable as the faux-anger shredfest Nothing to Say, featuring Avenged Sevenfold singer M. Shadows.
On the whole, the album’s better than what one might expect, despite being intentionally ripe for ad licensing. It was carefully crafted to please everyone, and could’ve fared far worse for such a proud strut down the middle of the road.
Reviews published prior to February 23, 2015 used a 1-5 star rating system.