“Don’t tell me it’s too late” is a line from my favorite song on the album, I’m reviewing this well after it came out, and it seems like a running theme lyrically through more than a few songs on the album… so I felt that it was appropriate to work into the title of this post.
If you know my musical tastes at all, you know that Guns N’ Roses is near the top of my list in all-time favorites. So, with some warning, this may be a little biased. The basic idea for this record was for Slash to pull in session musicians and do the record he wanted to do that wouldn’t necessarily fit into any other mold. He’s done session & guest work with everyone from ICP to Rihanna, it’s about time to turn it around. (I’m sure it doesn’t hurt that Velvet Revolver is on “hiatus” and Slash’s Snakepit seems dissolve after each album.)
Since it’s such a diverse record (with and endless number of releases), I’m going to try to throw out my opinions track-by-track, and then wrap it all up.
- “Ghost” – Featuring the vocal talents of Ian Astbury and the only other guitarist to appear anywhere on the album, the venerated and underrated Izzy Stradlin. The song starts the album with a really nice melodic riff and Izzy’s guitar fills in just like it did back in the Appetite days. Their work back & forth is unmistakable… and I’d love to hear more of it in the future. While I like the guitar play in Velvet Revolver with Dave Kushner, Izzy and Slash are like a left hand & a right hand when playing guitar… they’re aware of what the other is doing without thinking about it. Ian Astbury sounds awesome, and really fit well with this song. I laugh every time I hear him though, as I once spent the better part of a day convincing a former co-worker that Ian Astbury & Glenn Danzig weren’t the same person. I’ll never forget when The Cult’s “Fire Woman” was on the radio… he was all “You can’t tell me that this isn’t the guy who sings ‘Mother’. It’s the same guy!” At any rate… I hope this is picked up as a single, I’d love to see some live performances of this with Ian, or even a video. It’s a nice unapologetic 80’s-ish rocker of a tune that doesn’t sound ridiculously dated. Already you can tell that Eric Valentine‘s production on this album blows any Velvet Revolver stuff out of the water, because you can actually hear the guitar.
- “Crucify the Dead” – With Ozzy Osbourne on vocals, and somewhat inexplicably Taylor Hawkins on background vocals., this one starts out somewhat somber and ends up rocking. It could have easily been on any Ozzy album from No More Tears on. It’s somewhat odd to hear Slash doing the palm-muted power-chord chugging… and just the way that the guitars are layered. I think that’s the point of this album though, to hear Slash doing stuff that you wouldn’t hear anywhere else. It sets that right away with this song. It would have been cool to have Zakk Wylde on this track too. The one thing that makes it stand out as an Ozzy song is the lack of Zakk’s style of pinch n’ squeal harmonics. I really love the melodic guitar lines here though. I can imagine that Taylor was in the studio hanging out with Chris Chaney who plays bass on most tracks of the album (whom with he currently plays in Taylor Hawkins and the Coattail Riders & they both played with Alanis Morissette once upon a time) and/or Dave Grohl and they just needed someone to do Ozzy backing vocals because he was too tired or didn’t know where he was. This is the first of many incestuous rock n’ roll band relationships that are all over this album.
- “Beautiful Dangerous” – This is the song with Fergie. Yeah, that Fergie. Slash has done a bunch of live gigs with her, and she slays on some GN’R songs. In the first few seconds, I get an “oh no” because it starts off like a Rob Zombie song… but that’s quickly eaten by the guitars, bass, & drums. It’s hard to hear a woman sing a rock song and not compare her to a small list of other rock singers… This song has a Heart vibe. I can imagine Fergie wouldn’t mind being compared vocally to Ann Wilson. She’s got a strong beautiful clear voice… and I can totally hear an Axl influence. You knew the A-word was coming eventually. It’s not in the sound of her voice, but in the cadence and delivery of some of the lines… I challenge any GN’R fan to not hear it. There’s a certain way they Axl holds on to & twists notes… Fergie does this also here… not sure if it was prompted or just came naturally with the style of riffs if she’s a GN’R fan at all. This song is full of some nice solid riffs, and is one of my favorites off of the album. My wife likes this one too, and she’s not the world’s biggest guitar-rock fan.
- “Back From Cali” – Myles Kennedy takes up vocal duties on this song. The feel of this song reminds me of It’s Five O’ Clock Somewhere, and is definitely a Slash composition out and out. It’s a pretty straight-up blues rocker, and Axl is again channeled at a mere 30 seconds into the song. Myles will take vocal duties in Slash’s touring band, he’s probably as notable for being the guy rumored to sing for the Led Zeppelin reunion tour as much as his last band, Alter Bridge. This guy has the pipes & range to hold it down well, no doubt.
- “Promise” – This one starts out a little strange, although this riff could have been on either of the Illusions albums in a different context. It really reminds me of Audioslave… maybe that’s why Slash called in Chris Cornell in the first place. This is the first mellow one… and while it’s not a bad song, I think I have to be in the mood to listen to it. It’s quite a haunting melody & riff, perhaps it’ll grow on me as time goes on.
- “By the Sword” – This is the album’s first US single, I think the video has been shot it’s just waiting for production, and they’ve been doing the late–show circuit with performances. Andrew Stockdale of Wolfmother takes the vocal helm on this blues rocker. This could have also easily been another Snakepit song… but I feel Stockdale does it real justice with his oddly whiny vocals. Slash’s solo here (starting at 2:45 into the song) reminds me of George Harrison on “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” for some reason. At first, I wondered why on Earth this was the first single as it wasn’t a straight-up rocker, but the more I hear it, the more I really like the song.
- “Gotten” – Having Adam Levine of Maroon 5 on the album is probably as shocking as having Fergie, if not more so. I have to say, I really dig this track too. The guitar is surprisingly nice & clean for the most part, a very gentle riff… this could be on top 40 radio if there is such a thing left. It builds in a “Don’t Cry”-like crescendo, although the strings mayJudgement Day.) be a little much. (Sorry, Again, you most likely have to be in a mellow mood for this one, but it stands as a good track.)
- “Doctor Alibi” – Old school metal fans are going to love this one… or at least I do. Lemmy takes vocal and “distorted bass” (according to the liner notes) duties on this un-apologetically obnoxious rocking beast. The opening riff jingles with bad-ass and descends into chaos with Lemmy’s story telling of visiting various doctors until he gets the answer that he wants to hear. I vote for Lemmy as the next frontman to Velvet Revolver, ha ha ha. This song is full of rock clichés and that’s OK with me. This solo rips through you, reminiscent of the rambling in “Nightrain”. It even breaks down to just vocals and drums before the rest of the bands comes back in. This one is a keeper.
- “Watch This Dave” – I have to admit that I couldn’t wait. I had to jump to this one the first time I popped the album into the CD player. (Yeah, I bought the CD that came with the T-shirt from Best Buy on the day that it came out.) Why did I jump here? Because it features Dave Grohl on drums and Duff McKagan on bass. On some track listings, it’s simply titled “Watch This”… but my CD adds the “Dave”, so I added that here. This is a timeless instrumental groove that just smacks you in the eardrums. I miss Duff’s bass playing on the rest of the album. No offense to Chris Chaney, but Duff has a definite signature that just fits with Slash’s guitar work like hot fudge on vanilla ice cream or ketchup on fries. You don’t need it, but it’s always a perfect combo. Dave pounds the drums like a madman, and they seamlessly string together patches of riffs & guitar wanking that swell an undulate into a heart-pounding mess of a ride that ends by just slamming you into a wall. Parts of it remind me of the feel of Metallica’s “Call of Ktulu” or “Orion”. Slash does some shredding work here, something you don’t usually think of when you hear his name. I for one would love to hear a whole album of stuff like this.
- “I Hold On” – This track has Kid Rock on vocals. It could have just as easily been Myles Kennedy… and may have been better if it was. It plays out like a mellow country/gospel inspired Kid Rock ballad. I don’t know, I guess I just don’t feel it. It’s by no means a bad, song, it just doesn’t make me say “wow” or anything. Slash’s solo is great, but could have gone over anything with these same chord changes. I would imagine that this would clean up on country radio.
- “Nothing to Say” – M. Shadows of Avenged Sevenfold was a surprise guest to me… but I was also really anxious to hear this track. I must say that i wasn’t disappointed! I’m an A7X fan, and I remember thinking that they went form a Metallica influence on Sounding the Seventh TrumpetWaking the Fallen to a Guns N’ Roses influence on City of Evil and Avenged Sevenfold. At first, I didn’t like it, but as time went on, it made sense. I love both of those bands, why wouldn’t they? Only AC/DC fans like the same album over & over again. This was an excellent paring, as the riff is just more evil and menacing than anything else I’ve ever heard Slash play… and I can’t imagine anyone vocally pulling this off any better. (For reference, see “Chains and Shackles”.) I really would have a hard time telling that this wasn’t a straight-up A7X song, and I can typically pick out Slash’s guitar work in just a few notes. There’s more shredding here, within the blues context that Slash likes to stay in, and within the confines of the song… but again, I would love a whole album of songs like this form Slash. It’s odd to hear him playing Metallica-styled palm-muted chugging even though I know he’s a big fan of theirs. Speaking of Metallica… why wasn’t Lars or James on this thing?
- “Starlight” – Myles Kennedy is the only one to feature twice vocally on the proper US album release. This is another bluesy/gospel sort of ballad that could have easily went on either Snakepit
- “Saint is a Sinner Too” – Yeah. I’m wholly unfamiliar with Rocco DeLucca who sings for this one… and really, I think I’m glad. I mean, the guitar work is beautiful and quiet here… and shows great range… but I really can’t regard the vocals as anything more than annoying. I’m sorry if it offends you, but I hate this kind of crap, and the crap thatit reminds me of… like Dave Matthews and Coldplay.
- “Were All Gonna Die” – Slash dusts off Iggy Pop for this one which acts as the closer to the regular US release. Iggy sounds bored, and the song is a little slow. I’d actually love to hear Duff sing this one… and for the tempo to be upped a little bit. Duff has a great punk sensibility, and like I said Iggy just sounds bored. You’d think a song that stars out with the line “Gee I really like your tits” would be a little more raucous. Maybe I just expected more from this pairing? “Home” off of Iggy’s Brick by Brick album features Slash & Duff, and it hits a little harder than this one. Still, it’s not a ad tune, and gets better with every listen.
Well, that’s all the normal tracks. I’ve managed to hear all of the bonus tracks form the various albums, and I’ll give my run-down here…
- “Sahara” – This one’s from the Japanese release and the iTunes release. It features Japanese rocker Koshi Inaba of the Japaneze rock band/duo B’z. This sounds like a Winger or Poison song. It’s the closest Slash has ever sounded to that… and I love some Poison… but this is super-cheese. This was the first single overall, released only in Japan. I bet they loved this one… it’s #4 on the Japan charts according to Wikipedia. This one can be found with both English and Japanese lyrics.
- “Chains and Shackles” – I mentioned this before during the “Nothing to Say” review… basically it’s the the same base, with some slightly different ingredients… provided by Nick Oliveri, of Kyuss/Mondo Generator/Queens of the Stone Age. Had I not heard the other first, I may dig this one a little more. This is a heavy hard-hitting song with some killer structures & vocals… but I just liked what Slash & M. Shadows did with it in “I Hold On” more. Slash also talked about giving this one to Dave Mustane… I’d love to hear that. This is on the Australian iTunes edition.
- “Paradise City” – This is an odd collection: Cypress Hill, Fergie, and Slash covering Guns N’ Roses. This was a B0side to the “Sahara” single as well as being on the Australian iTunes, Best Buy Exclusive, Napster, and Brazilian versions. (This is according to Wikipedia… I bought mine at Best Buy, and this isn’t on it.) This wasn’t really a surprise, as I’ve seen Slash, Duff, Dave Kushner & Matt Sorum do this with Cypress Hill before. Fergie rounds out the vocals nicely imitating Axl. This is Campy and fun, and really shouldn’t be taken beyond that. I enjoy it.
- “Mother Maria” – On this song, Slash teamed up with Beth Hart to help Linkin Park’s Music for Relief charity. I have no idea who Beth Hart is, but she sure can sing. This is a country-tinged blues song with a real nice groove. It rides the mellow/rocking line… and feels like it could spill over in either direction any minute. This track is available on the iTunes version of the album.
- “Baby Can’t Drive” – This is apparently what happens when Slash, Alice Cooper, Nicole Scherzinger (of the Pussycat Dolls), Steven Adler (classic GN’R drummer & VH1 reality show train-wreck), and Flea all get together. I know Alice has always been theatrical… but this seems like a Meatloaf song with all the love & sex taken out. I can see why this wasn’t included on the album. Flea is known for being a wild/crazy bass player… and there’s no way you can even tell it’s him here. It’s good to see that Adler can still play drums. You can get this on the Best Buy Exclusive, Napster, Brazillian, and “Classic Rock Slashpack” editions.
Well, that’s it track-by-track. Hope it made you more interested in the album if you’re a Slash fan, and certainly I hope I didn’t deter anyone from listening to a track or two. I didn’t get to mention that Josh Freese is on drums for most of this album… I think he’s the only guy that does more session work than Slash or maybe Dave Grohl. If you have a band, check and see if Josh Freese is a member. I bet you he is, and you just don’t know it yet. Josh holds it down nice & solid. Oddly enough, he was also in Guns N’ Roses for a while, and played the title track on Chinese Democracy. Teddy Andreadis was on it playing the clavient & wurlitzer too. So that makes 6 past members of GN’R on one album, 4 of them from the classic lineup? Can we please, someday get our shit together, guys? Before someone dies?
Conspicuously absent were Slash’s VR band mates Matt Sorum & Dave Kushner, but maybe that’s calculated and why it’s a “solo” project… although you know Duff had to make it in. Also, didn’t Sebastian Bach tweet about being in the studio & on this album? I wonder if he ever recorded a track, or if he went all “Savage Animal” in the studio? Also… what ever happened to Gilby Clarke? I would have thought that Nikki Sixx or Tommy Lee would have popped up here too. I’d also like to have seen some more guitarists.. but this is Slash’s solo record, not mine.
Here’s the album trailer from Slash’s website…
I’m anxious to hear if anyone agrees or disagrees with me on the song analysis… please, let me know what you think!