This iTunes gift of World On Fire, the latest effort from Slash with Myles Kennedy & The Conspirators, awesomely arrived in my inbox last night courtesy of our good friend Deke! In his message, he said this was one of his Albums of the Year. Wahoo!
I played this all the way through last night, slept on it, and played it again this morning. I’m playing it yet again right now. Folks, this is what the rawk is all about. Great guitars (Slash knows his way around a riff, for damn sure), and a rock solid battery holding it all together. This is one tight unit, for damn sure. Seriously, the music on this disc is built to destroy. Through my new good (Christmas gift!) headphones, most of this CD was trying to crush my skull with bluesy rock. But even the slower tracks, like Battleground, still hit bloody hard.
And man, Myles Kennedy. Right from first hearing him on the Slash solo project CD that Mike gave me (Going Back To Cali, which is still in solid rotation in my player), I knew there was something special there. Hearing him in full flight here, I gotta say this man is a belter. Talk about power! You can hear it in every track, he’s really giving it everything he’s got. Damn.
One thought I did have, while listening, was more of a lament for what could have been. Honestly, most of this is the album Guns N’ Roses didn’t make. Or might have made, if Axl wasn’t batshit and a control freak. If Slash had brought that guitar sound, those riffs (and solos – like the first notes of the solo of Iris Of The Storm made me think November Rain) like this with Izzy and Duff, tunes like this, G ’n R may have had a very different history without so much bullshit. Perhaps that’s wishful thinking…
But I even hear some Axl-isms in Kennedy’s singing, which is not to say he’s derivative HE’S NOT, but there’s a pitch he hits where you go “hey wait a minute!” and then he keeps going and surpasses all that and sounds like himself. It just adds to the thought – this would’ve been a huge Guns record… Well, it is what it is, and this is, instead, a great monster of a record with Myles Kennedy and the Conspirators! All I can say is I’m glad it happened, no matter which way it saw the light. This thing is built to fuck shit up and I am more than happy to let it!
Usually, I review every track, mention something I noticed about each, or maybe try to describe them for folks who maybe haven’t yet heard them, but this review can easily boil down to one cover-all sentence: Holy fuck that rocked! Seriously, this is a monster of a record, the riffs, the huge songs, that soaring voice. WHOA!
I’ll quote Mr. Deke from his own review of the record (go read it!!), since I think this about covers it:
Slash and the boys have outdone themselves here. I mean when I seen it was 17 tracks deep I was like ah no way man maybe 10 keepers and 7 close calls but nope nada ….17 little cookers that prove to me in the year 2014 that guitar oriented rock is alive and well in Slashville.
Damn fuckin’ straight, man, you said it best. Thanks heaps for this, Deke!! It’s an immediate late addition to my best albums of the year list!
The sound’s a bit crap in a few places, and the camera work is definitely amateur (pro tip: find a way to get past the dude in the Raptors hat!), but what can you do? Dig in and give ‘er, boys!
Here we have Slash (subtitled R&Fn’R) which, to me, sounds like a raised middle finger at Axl. This is the G ‘n R record Axl couldn’t get it up to make. Face it, Slash IS Guns. It’s that Les Paul. It’s those intricate and balls-forward riffs. It’s that CHUG in his sound, the one that drips blues and rock and gasoline and cigarette smoke and Jack Daniels all over your tight leather. Oh hell yeah. So sure, there are a ton of guest vocalists here, and Slash is all over the record with monstrous solos in each track (as you would expect and hope), but listen to this with Axl’s vocals in your head and it’s the bazillion-selling Guns album that never got made by Guns. Just sayin’.
The Cult’s Ian Astbury kicks things off. Great tune, but sadly his vocals never really take off. It would have fit, had he let himself let it rip. Still a strong opener. Ozzy steps up next, with a heavy stomper (with tasteful flourishes) that suits his vocals perfectly. Fergie follows Ozzy’s surely-tweaked vocals with her own. With Ozzy, I can understand why they would have to do it, for consistency’s sake. With Fergie, it’s just proof she can’t sing. The vocal line sounds like those Beyonce-type r&b songs, but (as my lovely wife pointed out), that all got stolen from Jay-Z anyway, so maybe it’s an established “thing” now. I didn’t like her on this song. The rest of it is fine enough. I just can’t help thinking Why is this person famous? every time I hear her or her “band.” Anyway.
Myles Kennedy of Alter Bridge’s contribution is a bluesy, swaggering rocker. Beautiful. Listen to those backing vocals, even – sounds like Axl! Haha awesome. I really liked this one. Soundgarden’s Chris Cornell steps up next, and lets it rip. Well done. The man sure does have a distinctive voice, and he knows how to use it. Wolfmother’s Andrew Stockdale starts out with an acoustic blues that’s very sweet indeed, and it’s his vocals that lift the song into the rocker it becomes. Damn. Adam Levine’s inclusion here surprised me, and before hearing it I would’ve said it wouldn’t have worked. His and Slash’s two worlds surely couldn’t collide, could they? I mean, he even brought along a cello! And from the get-go I’m proven right – it sounds like a Maroon 5 song, with Slash’s guitars stepped back and noodling almost as an afterthought. Most people would have skipped to the next song by then, but around the three minute mark of the song, it finally grows a pair of balls. A welcome relief. Was it too little too late? Does the strings-section kill it? Well, not one of the better tracks here, in my opinion, but it is what it is. What would have been more interesting would have been to have Levine break out of his type-casting and try howling like a rocker for once.
Next is Lemmy. Need I say anything, except this track fucking rocks? Of course not. Turn it UP. Nice growl! Hot on the heels of that blast is an instrumental track featuring ex-Gun Duff McKagan, and the Foo’s Dave Grohl on drums. These guys added a lot to the track, their individual contributions obvious, and it’s one of the stand-outs. Nice that they didn’t force vocals into it – it stands well on its own. Interestingly, it is listed as Watch This Dave on the slip cover for the CD, while iTunes calls it Watch This. Forget watching it, listen to this sweet chunk of rawk. Now, I’m not much of a fan of Kid Rock. Never did much for me, and it’s largely because I’m sure his entire vocal delivery is a put-on. I could be wrong about that, but there you go. I put this tuneful song with the Levine track, as maybes that are ok to be here, but also wouldn’t necessarily be missed.
Back to the metal leanings with M. Shadows of Avenged Sevenfold. This song is bloody heavy and blisteringly quick at the same time. Turn it up, in good headphones, like I did. Damn. Myles Kennedy returns for another track after that, with a song that wipes out the energy created by the track before it, like shifting without a clutch. Kind of a bad mix-job, here. Whatever, this is a nice enough slow song. But holy, do the the vocals ever recall Axl, here. Jeez. Rocco DeLuca is next with an acoustic spanish-guitar-sounding track that’s pretty enough. Damn if the vocals don’t recall Robert Plant, though. It’s spooky. Iggy Pop is fairly restrained (until the end) over his rocking backing track. Let it go, Iggy! Get crazy! It’s what you’re known for!
I’ll admit I’ve never heard of Koshi Inaba’s band The B’z, from Japan, but he’s got some sweet vocals going on over another typically slinky Slash riff and bash-out rocker track. Again, he’s channeling Axl more than a little bit. Next up we have Alice Cooper (hello again, Alice!) with Nicole Scherzinger of the Pussy Cat Dolls (I know!) on a fast rocker. Alice sounds like… well, Alice, of course. But Nicole is straight out of that interchangeable Beyonce r&b school. How many people out there emulate this and get famous? Lots, apparently. Not that it should happen, because people should just try to sound like themselves, but it seems to. This track points it out perfectly, the difference between an original like Alice and her. Anyway, it’s a fun enough song.
And then, to end the record, we have Paradise City getting mangled by Cypress Hill (who offer up fairly straight lyric renditions that, frankly, sound like they could have been anyone), and Fergie’s horrible, horrible Axl impersonation. She’s awful. Why does this exist? What makes me want to listen to this instead of the original? Nothing. If I wanted Axl, I’d go play Appetite. Yeesh. I have to assume this got recorded because they thought they had something when they played it at the Superbowl. Well, they were wrong. They took one rock’s classic tunes and sucked the gritty life out of it. Or maybe I’ve missed something, and this is secretly ironic? A last nudge at Axl? Like, hey Axl, look, we can get a chick to howl badly, we don’t need your crazy ass! I just don’t know. With Axl, it became his thing. Fergie faking it is just brutal.
I also have six bonus tracks. Let’s get to those, shall we? We shall!
First up is Nick Oliveri of QotSA and Kyuss on a track that is absolutely crushing! Love the unhinged laughter in the middle, too. Just a great rock song. Beth Hart, whom I have to admit I had to look up to even see who she is, offers up some great soulful vocals on her bluesy, pop rock track. Another great Slash solo, too. I’d have ended the record itself with this track, instead of Paradise, but that’s just me, always instinctively going against what every marketing person in the world would do. Next up, Koshi Inaba returns with the same song, this time in Japanese! Not sure it adds anything to the song, but it’s fun!
And the last three are instrumental tracks. Beautiful Dangerous is the Fergie track off the album, so I guess you could learn the words and do karaoke with it, if you so desired. And who knows,maybe you could even do a better job than she did! Ahem. Anyway, Guitar Hero is a left to right cutting contest between Slash and, I have to assume himself (?). Lots of bluesy guitar wankery over a rockin’ twelve bar structure. In other words, right up my alley. 😉 This one is fun when you’re driving in the car – it’s like the soundtrack to a really funky video game and you’re in the middle of it. And bringing up the rear is Godfather Theme, which is exactly what you think it is. Brilliant addition, and some stellar guitar work, as always.
In sum, I really liked this record. There were some really stand-out tracks, a couple that I was fairly indifferent towards, and a couple that my own better judgement wouldn’t have allowed to happen. But through it all is Slash’s incredible virtuosity and bluesy verve, and the song writing itself is generally excellent. I can’t shake the sensation that if you were to listen to this with Axl’s vocals in your head, the album proper would be a G ‘n R record that should have been. Well, at least Slash got it done. And it didn’t take him over a decade to do it, either.