Well, first, I would like to deeply apologize to all of the Melodic Net readers and staff for not writing in a more regular basis. I have been so busy with my own musical endeavors and my job that I have been really short of time lately. But then I was asked to write the review of Slash's new album. Well, I just couldn't refuse doing it, since his last solo album, "World On Fire", had really blown me away.
It's something hard to talk about Slash... when I first got to know about him was, of course in Guns N' Roses. That was back in 1987, when I had already been addicted to the Glam Rock thing. Not only was I chasing older bands' new releases, but I was really into the new wave of Glam that exploded in the mid-80's. The most extreme the looks, the better a Band would certainly sound, you know... so the then biggest Brazilian magazine published this two-page article on Guns N' Roses - a band whose first album would be out shortly... I was really fond of the promo picture I was seeing - thanks to the good looks of Axl Rose, Duff McKagan and Steven Adler... and then, "Appetite For Destruction" was released in Brazil at the same time it was out all over the globe. I didn't hesitate grabbing it as soon as I could. As most people, I thought that GN'R's style was unique, though compared (here in Brazil, at least), to the likes of Led Zeppelin (I couldn't have disagreed more). What I really could hear was an 89's, fresh version of Aerosmith with those crazy Axl Rose vocals. As for Slash, even though I was 11 at the time, gave me enough to comparisons not to the old, boring Jimmy Page (sorry if you like the guy), but to Joe Perry. His licks and solos were so Aerosmith-like that it was impossible not to guess what Slash's influences were. Again, although I was as much into the image as I was into the music, and although Slash was not doing the "pretty boy" thing (I was unaware of his audition for Poison and of all of his glam looks during the Guns N' Roses club years), he quickly became one of the best and hottest guitarists of his generation.
MTV only got to Brazil in the early 90's, but GN'R's hits "Welcome To The Jungle", "Sweet Child O' Mine", "Paradise City" and "Patience" had been aired on Brazilian radio for a couple of years then. MTV really made GN'R explode with "You Could Be Mine" and their older hits. That was how Guns N' Roses became one of the most popular bands ever in Brazil, also playing a series of gigs here before their demise in 1993.
After that, Slash came up with Snakepit and Velvet Revolver - sorry, but not my cup of tea at all. Losing interest in his music, I really didn't care much about what he did next... until his first "solo album" came out. I was really curious about the songs which featured stars like Ozzy Osbourne, Duff McKagan (who had been in Velvet Revolver too), Izzy Stradlin and Steven Adler, Alice Cooper, and even Lemmy Kilmister (for his importance in rock history) and top-notch singer Myles Kennedy (who was in Alter Bridge, a band that had never been for me either... but the guy could really sing!). The result didn't really impress me after all, but "Starlight" was one of those epic songs... Then, after a couple of great albums and the killer, explosive live band Slash put together (including the great drummer Brent Fitz), I couldn't help but falling in love with his music again. Bassist Todd Kerns ended up being another key element in the band, thanks to his larger than life persona and, as for singer Myles Kennedy... let's say that he also showed to have not only that unique voice but he's the only guy who can sing Axl Rose better than Axl Rose himself. And the band's last album, "World On Fire", was one of the best released in the year it came out, no doubt about it. Slash's pot of gold must have been filled with some extra millions after rejoining Guns N' Roses and briefly letting go of this band. Thank God "The Conspirators" are back!!! Released on September 21, this is also the first album in which long time live band member Frank Sidoris plays rhythm guitar. Produced by Michael Baskette, who also produced "World On Fire" and Myles Kennedy's last album, "Year of the Tiger", made the music sound "rawer than ever", maybe to capture the live energy that Slash & The Conspirators must be proud of.
While I am writing this intro to the review of Slash's new album, "Living The Dream", I am still listening to it nonstop on my MP3 player. It's another really great surprise from the guys. Maybe not so good as their previous record, but it's certainly one of the best albums of the year. Let's get down to it - "Living The Dream", track by track.
01."The Call Of The Wild"
02."Serve You Right"
04."Mind Your Manners"
05."Lost Inside The Girl"
06."Read Between The Lines"
08."The One You Loved Is Gone"
11."The Great Pretender"
12. "Boulevard Of Broken Hearts"
01. "The Call Of The Wild"
By the first notes of "The Call Of The Wild" one can tell the guys have a great album ahead. Slash's guitar tones is incredible, and as the band and Myles Kennedy join him hitting hard on this great rocker... Bang! You've got this great opening track (which would also be a wonderful live set opening song). It's got everything a great tune must have, a great riff, a tight band and amazing vocals. Todd Kerns's bass is more audible than ever before, making Brent Fitz's drum work sound even harder. Nice lyrics and a heavy, sing-along chorus... and a really impressive bridge part, which kind of breaks the power previously heard with these amazing melodic and slow parts and unexpected and unusual background vocals, so that Slash can show his huge talent on short but powerful guitar solo. That's what he's been doing for a while - focusing more on the songs other than only on his own guitar playing. And that sounds awesome!!! Another quick break and the song keeps really strong until its end. I dare to say "The Call Of The Wild" is already one of the best songs in the package. It's got that agressive but still, melodic, Rock And Roll feel that, let's face it, Guns N' Roses rarely reproduced after their "Appetite" record. Such a great start.
02. "Serve You Right"
With a very familiar guitar riff (I swear I had heard something just like it before), "Serve You Right" kicks in, less agressive than song #1 but, again, a great song. Myles's vocals are as powerful as the guitars Slash and Frank Sidoris deliver. Nice lyrics again and that feeling that's not a few-hit album. In between, bass and drums keep tight. Such an amazing chorus on this one. "I'm no confessor, tell me what you need..." great lines!!! Listening to "Serve You Right" one can't help thinking how it would have sounded with GN'R'... maybe not that good. Really. That's another song that would surely be perfect for the band's live set. A nice guitar solo, a more bluesy one - Slash is really more about the songs now, which is something that was a great quality of his when he first started. This song would really be another perfect single off the "Living The Dream" album. It's hard to believe it's 5:11 long. One will enjoy it all along - I mean, a really radio-friendly tune. There's a second guitar solo on it and, again, nothing fancy. Just Slash being Slash while the fantastic Myles Kennedy sings his ass off. Here we have another winner.
03. "My Antidote"
This is the album's last single so far. "My Antidote" started both agressively and melodically, with great vocal harmonies. When the guitars really come up, one can briefly remember an older song called "You Could Be Mine"... the song is also good, keeping the pace of the two first songs for sure. But, among the three, it's really the weakest one. A good chorus I and maybe the best Slash guitar solo so far. It's got all of the elements that made him famous. Brilliant, I must say. I won't include "My Antidote" in the "best songs" since I am sure there much better songs on the way.
04. "Mind Your Manners"
"Mind Your Manners" hits you right between the eyes!!! A fast rocker, yet melodic, with an outstanding Slash trademark guitar riff and, again Mr. Kennedy nailing it. Best lyrics so dar and a sure band classic and new live favorite. The chorus here has got that 80's feeling, even though the production makes it a raw song. That was a nice move having "Mind Your Manners" as the second single off the album. Slash's almost punk rock solo shines again (would it be any different?) and Brent Fitz and Todd Kerns also do (I wonder what Frank Sidoris does on the songs every now and then though). A true rock and roller here that won't disappoint any newer or older fans of Slash, Myles Kennedy and the band's. Another top tune.
05. "Lost Inside The Girl"
Well, I was really suspicious when I first saw this title. No one can deny that a song called like this can have lots of different "meanings". Anyway, Slash was never predictable. Its "dark" intro differs from everything heard on the album so dar. It's some kind of "modern mid-tempo" track. And the lyrics are nice, proving those who are still stuck in the 80's (just like me) that not every song with a cool title needs to have some sexual content. "Lost Inside The Girl" also has a cool chorus, which comes heavier than the tune's verses. Anyway, even being a nice one, this track still sounds too "modern rock" to me. The whole band kicks ass in it - Slash's guitar solo is really, really good (the longest one on "Living The Dream" up to this point) but, still not one of my favorites. Myles's vocals are superb once again. What to conclude here? Only a good song, I guess.
06. "Read Between The Lines"
This one brings the listeners back to where and how this album started. This Aerosmith / Guns N' Roses-like heavy riff bursts into Mr. Kennedy's melodic, yet dark vocals, singing these very interesting lyrics and getting to this powerful chorus. Another top moment here. Another song that would do just great live! We are led then to the usual unusual bridge part that Slash & The Conspirators are famous for, a moment when we are really given something different. A very melodic bridge where Myles and Slash do shine. The guitar solo? Well, perfect would fit it. The other three Conspirators are also super tight and surely made "Read Between The Lines" another one of the best tracks off the package. Killer, simply killer!
07. "Slow Grind"
In my personal opinion, “Slow Grind” is one of the best song titles on “Livng The Dream”. Here we have another song that, at first, sounds, let’s say...OK... But once Myles Kennedy starts singing it, it becomes a pretty decente rock and roll song. Nothing really “new” here, just another good song by Slash and his cohorts... as usual, good lyrics and the general outcome is above average. I would certainly include it as one of the album’s best songs, since it’s clear that it would also be another new live favorite. Great guitar work and a catchy, sing-along chorus. Mr. Kerns, Mr. Fitz and Mr. Sidoris also keep the great work going. “Slow Grind” has got another one of the best guitar solos on this album - fast, melodic and with all of those old elements of the man with the tophat on. Great stuff! The song presentes nothing really innovative until its end – and did it really have to? I still say that having Slash concentrate more on the music since the classic "World On Fire" album was essential to keep those who are his fans since the old Guns N’ Roses days. Slash is one of the best guitar players around, he’s got one of the best bands to back him up... honestly, his fans want him to sound like him – not like anyone else who can play this or that different style, although he can play whatever he wants to. Hatts off to Slash once again.
08. "The One You Loved Is Gone"
Since ones sees a title like "The One You Love Is Gone", it’s inevitable to think of one of those great 80’s ballads... and Slash has always been a top-notch player on power ballad radio hits... The track’s intro is some beautiful and melodic guitar work, as expected, with singer Myles Kennedy doing exactly what fans expected, or so I think. The other band members are also responsiple for the wonderful scenario that’s behind the two main men. Such beautiful, touching lyrics to another great love song that, if promoted well, can stand the test of time just like “Sweet Child O’ Mine”, “November Rain”, “Patience”, “Don’t Cry” and “Starlight”. My being a ballad freak must be suspicious to talk about this tune. Anyway, not caring about what other may say, I certainly include "The One You Loved Is Gone" not only in this album’s “best songs” but also in The Conspirators’. Still, I have never being a GN’R fan, but let’s say that now that we all have Mr. Kennedy use his pipes to sing great melodic rock and roll, I’mnot sure if people will still see Axl Rose with the same eyes they did. Myles shines brilliantly all over the song, and the vocal melodies all over the tune do prove it right. For those who may be wondering about Slash’s solo on the album’s ballad... well, there’s a short but touching, memorable Slash trademark solo in the middle of the song, opening ways for Myles Kennedy to sing his heart out one more time, and then there’s the outro solo, just like the one, that’s got what it takes to also considered one of the best ones here, beautifully surrounded by the “la la la” choir sang by Mr. Kennedy and, probably, by Todd Kerns, who also happens to be a great vocalist. In short (if that could be possible to talk about this track), "The One You Loved Is Gone" is one of the best songs of 2018. The Conspirators should hurry and put it out as their next single. It would be a pity throwing this epic ballad away as one of the band’s biggest hits.
09. "Driving Rain"
The last single off the “Living The Dream” album is another heavy rocker, in the vein of “Call Of The Wild” and lots of the band’s biggest songs. No filling needed, it cranks up as another one of the best songs here. A memorable guitar riff and a furious band playing along singer Myles Kennedy, who delivers another great performance. A simple song, very in-your-face rock and roll, just the way a great rock and roll song is meant to be. Great melodies, a chorus that would make most artits from Slash’s generation really envious. Go ahead and try to find one who can still deliver half a good song... if that wasn’t enough, needless to say, there’s a Slash guitar solo – HaHa!!! And that’s what I personally call a guitar solo!!! Simple, fast and furious!!! "Driving Rain" goes on through its end to being surely a great pick for a single and video... as for the video in question... sorry, Slash, The Conspirators and the label could have made a much better one. Remember we’re talking about a killer band, not any band, we’re talking about a renowned musician from the 80’s... the video formula has been used some many times before – puppets as the band members... OMG... it was even used by Roxette on their “Real Sugar” music video... let’s then keep in mind that, if the "Driving Rain" video is far from what Slsh’s fans would expect from him, the song itself is really, really good.
Another interesting song title. And a song that starts with these weird and broken guitar riff and pace, falling into this, again, above average rocker. I call it like this since there are so many better songs on the whole “Living The Dream” album. OK, the band is excelente, both Slash and Myles do what they are meant to but, let’s face it, it does sound like a filler. Maybe the first one throughout the whole album. No, "Sugar Cane" isn’t a bad song at all, but it is somewhat dispensable among the great songs that the listeners just listened to. A short song that (I really hate to say it) will actually not be remembered after the last song. Slash’s guitar solo here is still good, fits the song perfectly and all the usual blah blah blah one can say, but it really doesn’t help much making it a great song. Maybe the last song written for the album? Maybe the last song the band recorded for “Living The Dream”? There’s no use asking. Slash & The Conspirators have a great album and it’s not one song that will lessen its credits as so.
11."The Great Pretender"
Here we have another epic guitar intro!!! OK, it’s another ballad... but who really cares? We’re talking about Slash & The Conspirators after all! Not as good as "The One You Loved Is Gone", but it surely is a nice song. The intro does remind uso f some classic GN’R other ballad (listen to it and check it yourself, Haha!) but we can’t blame any artist of repeating himself once in a while, no matter where he comes from. It’s a beautiful ballad, and the whole band delivers it magnificently. MylesKennedy seems to be “shyer” on this one for some reason, but that doesn’t make his singing any inferior than the usual. There’s a great bridge (I love this bands’ bridge parts, by the way), that breaks into Slash’s guitar solo, which is epic, still taking us some decades ago to that certain GN’R song which was mentioned before. Then there’s the outro solo, that still keeps the same feeling – not a bad one, I must reinforce here. Well, nothing much more than that to talk about "The Great Pretender", I guess. It’s a really good song.
12. "Boulevard Of Broken Hearts"
Loving this song title even before listening to it, "Boulevard Of Broken Hearts" isn’t another ballad as we all may think at first. By far, another one of the best songs on “Living The Dream” and, hopefully, one of the future singles off it. With an intro that briefly reminds us of Survivor’s “Eye Of The Tiger” (Year Of The Tiger???), it’s maybe the most 80’s sounding track in the package. A very radio-friendly rocker, one of those epic rockers that can stand the test of time (isn’t Slash great at that after all?), which has got really, cool, loose lyrics, that fans won’t be able to wait to hear live! It’s got such a great chorus – both Slash and Myles here seem to be more in a “band enviroment” than being on the spotlight – and that’s not something bad at all. We can all forget we’re listening to this worldwide respected, 30-year-old-career plus guitarist and this outstanding singer who revealed to be one of the strongest voices of the new melodic rock. We’re listening to a band simply made up of the greatest musicians we can think of. It’s simply impossible keeping away from just loving "Boulevard Of Broken Hearts" from its very beginning, and it’s a fact. So I said Slash’s guitar work on it is just regular? Well, far, very far from that... his guitar fills are super interesting and his guitar solo (OK, I am being repetitive, I know it), couldn’t have been better. Just the perfect rock and roll guitar solo that we could all hear in abundance in the 80’s – one that’s straight-forward, in-your-face, nothing fancy but brilliant at the same time, until the “Eye Of The Tige”-like intro comes again, to end graciously with another quick 80’s sounding solo often listened to on a “band” album, and not on “guitarist” one. "Boulevard Of Broken Hearts" is such a perfect closing tune for this great album.
As I always do, I couldn’t end this review an album by an important artist as Slash without some “famous last words”... The Conspirators’ “Living The Dream” album can be considered one of the best albums of the year so far (I guess I wouldn’t have written about it if it didn’t kick ass or if it didn’t suck, LOL). Apart from its silly cover (well, we had another one on the fabulous “World On Fire” as well) and the questionable “Driving Rain” video, this album ROCKS! Slash has come to the point of not needing to prove the world how much of a great musician he is, being more about the songs than his own playing; Myles Kennedy makes sure he is one of the hottest “new voices” in melodic rock; long-time drummer Brent Fitz means business, and there’s no doubt he’s also one of the best drummers in rock music (having played with John Corabi and Bruce Kulick in Union, Whitford / St. James and, more recently, being the backbone of Gene Simmons’s solo touring band; long-time bassist and singer Todd Kerns is the right complemente to Fitz’s drumming, powerful and intense, also providing his remarkable vocals here, there and everywhere – can’t wait to see this guy performing live again, by the way; and guitarist’sFrank Sidoris recording debut with The Conspirators is surely a landmark in his own musical career...
The title “Living The Dream” may fit more the bands’ fans than Slash himself. We all live one of our biggest guitar idols’ dream these days. Maybe the dream of letting go of having to prove who he is to the world and enjoying himself as a musician, as part of a great band, just the same all way back to 1987, when his debut “Appetite For Destruction” album made history. Slash, if you ever read this and I meet you again one day, I’ll make sure to shake your hand for that.
Tophats off to Slash & The Conspirators!!!
Best songs: "The Call Of The Wild", "Serve You Right", "Mind Your Manners", "Read Between The Lines", “Slow Grind”, "The One You Loved Is Gone", "Driving Rain", "The Great Pretender" & "Boulevard Of Broken Hearts".