Hank Williams III “Rebel Within” Review

“I honestly don’t think it tops Straight To Hell,” explained Hank Williams III when he discussed his new album Rebel Within last fall in an interview with Outlaw Radio Chicago. “It’s got the slow ones, it’s got the fast ones, and a little attitude. But I still don’t think it tops… I still got another four years before I come close to knocking that one down.” While it remains to be seen whether or not Williams does come up with another album that matches his hellbilly classic, he is right about one thing: Rebel Within and Straight To Hell are beasts of a different color. But regardless of whether or not the album stacks up to his past records, Rebel Within gives Williams something that none of his other albums have.

The bittersweet release concludes his longstanding contract with Nashville’s Curb Records, which to put lightly, has been anything but a gracious relationship. To help cover an overwhelming financial debt Williams signed the longterm contract with the country staple in the mid-’90s. What followed was unforeseeable at the time, but the grim reality of the contract found Williams hopelessly tied down by a label that went out of its way—seemingly with each of his releases—to stifle the musician. With a continued aim to shape Williams into a country row-bowing lamb that leeched from the legacy of his family name, the label continually delayed Williams’ releases; going so far as refusing to release his album This Ain’t Country and denying Williams the ability to release it on his own.

In continuing with his Outlaw Radio interview, Williams digressed, “Hopefully they’ll see that I gave them a good record. I could have gave them nothing but static and noise and been like ‘Ah, here ya go, it’s been nice knowing you.’ But I gave them a good record man.” So with all this tension between the two parties combined with Williams’ own admission that Rebel doesn’t compare to his past work, what exactly is the album? Would it be a traditional record that bleeds country, or a final “fuck you”? In reality, it’s a bit of both…

Certainly compared to Williams’ last two albums with the Damn Band, Damn Right, Rebel Proud (2008) and Straight to Hell(2006), Rebel Within does in fact take take a more traditional country approach. “Lookin’ For A Mountain” and “Moonshiner’s Life” are both straight up honky tonk joints, and with the exception of the album’s final two tracks there’s rarely a moment that doesn’t bleed country at its core. That said, Rebel isn’t without its sharper moments. “Tore Up and Loud” concludes with Williams’ throat-grating howl, “Goddamn, hallelujah, praise the fuckin’ lord. After 14 years I’m finally mother fucking free. As Jeff Clayton from ANTiSEEN would say fuck… all… y’all!” A little bit of country, and a whole lotta fuck you. But while the extreme kiss off is fierce, it hardly compares to the deeper, more subtle sign off that Williams gives to Curb.

Slowly inching closer to his 40th birthday, Rebel Within relishes in the largely introspective lyrics of an aging rager. Despite its comical title, “Gettin’ Drunk and Fallin’ Down” is hardly about a little bit of smoke and a whole lot of wine. “I like to live life full throttle, but now it seems like I’m running out of steam.” Not to discredit any self-reflection within Williams’ lyrics on previous albums, but the density and the rate which he continues to look at himself as an observer throughout the record is nearly unprecedented in his career. “It’s the kind of living that’s going to put me in the ground, getting drunk and falling down.” The song could be written off as little more than a country-soaked drinking song, if only it weren’t followed by the album’s straight-shooting title track.

“The more I try to do right it just seems wrong, I guess that’s the curse of living out my songs.” The statement isn’t as much a chicken and egg scenario—which came first, the party or the partier—but rather a questioning of how much he’s honestly influenced by the style he projects. And that’s a hell of a reflection when considering both his well documented lifestyle and his thoroughly rugged songs.

The album continues with “Gone But Not Forgotten,” which is as slow and damn near a Skynyrd-ish love song as Williams has ever recorded, as well as the rowdy “Drinkin’ Ain’t Hard To Do,” before breaking into Rebel Within’s cornerstone: “#5.”

“Once you’re a junkie they say it’ll never go away, but at least I’m gonna try to make it through one more day. I’m just now starting to tune in to who I’m supposed to be, so I’m breaking the chains of the needle that’s had a hold of me. I dont know what I’m gonna do, but somethings gotta change. ‘Cause the heroin and downers are takin’ away my flame. I’ve done had four friends die around me, now I realize that ol’ number five just might be me.”

The song is Hank’s personalized addict’s dilemma: Once you realize your path, and your susceptibility to continue down a dark road despite realizing its harm, what is there to do?

“Lost in Oklahoma” continues to explore his understanding of the shit going on around him, “I’ve lost me some damn good friends who gave their lives to speed… One day I might find out what it’s all about, but until then I’ll just drink some more until I figure it out.” “Tore Up and Loud” follows by kicking in with an arsenal of wayward instruments that careen into one another in some sort of magnificently planned disaster before the album tails off with the rambunctious “Drinkin’ Over Momma.”

Before Rebel Within even has time to fully wrap up though, the realization begins to swell that Williams’ real salute to Curb isn’t the expletive-laced tirade in “Tore Up and Loud.” But rather, in giving the label these particular songs, as opposed to, say, “nothing but static,” as his last album, he’s pointed out the exact reason why the past decade and a half have been such hell for him. When Straight To Hell was released in 2006, it became the first country record to bear a parental advisory sticker: Curb didn’t know what to do with it. When Damn Right, Rebel Proud was released in 2008 it was attached to Curb’s auxiliary label Sidewalk Records, and eventually peaked at the #2 position on Billboard’s Country chart (despite bearing some of the Damn Band’s fiercest songs ever put to record). Again, Curb didn’t know what to do with it.

Since first releasing Three Hanks: Men with Broken Hearts in 1996, Williams has never been accepted for what he wants to do creatively; in the same Outlaw Radio interview Hank refers to Curb’s continuing dream that he would morph into his legendary grandfather. No, Rebel Within isn’t as good as Straight To Hell, but with the release Shelton Hank Williams III rips through 11 songs that contemplate who he his, who he’s become, and the direction which life might take him; all through his most country album since Lovesick, Broke and Driftin’. And in doing so, he brazenly reminds the label that he’s been giving them exactly what they’ve been looking for—hell, more than they bargained for—all along. And to this very day they still don’t have a clue.

[Sidenote: in the same Outlaw Radio interview, Hank explains that he was handing off the finished recording of Rebel Within on the first of November. Rebel Within will be released May 25, nearly eight months after his tentative submission date, via Curb Records.]

Refresher Course: Cypress Hill

It has been six years since Cypress Hill released their last album, the reggae-influenced Till Death Do Us Part. Since then the group has left its longtime label, Columbia Records, joined Priority Records—which boasts Snoop Dogg as its “creative chairman”—and continued work on its eight studio album; all while B-Real and Sen Dog took time to release their solo debuts. This month Cypress Hill returns with their new studio release: The harder cutting Rise Up which features the likes of Rage Against The Machine’s Tom Morello, Linkin Park’s Mike Shinoda, Everlast, and Daron Malakian of System of a Down. But before Rise Up is released next week (on 4/20—hey-o) Refresher Course takes a look back at Cypress Hill’s 20+ year career.

Following the release of Cypress Hill’s first demo in 1989 the group signed to Columbia Records, the label which would go on to release the multi-platinum Cypress Hill in 1991. “How I Could Just Kill a Man” was the debut single from the record. Released as a double A-side with “The Phuncky Feel One,” both of which would go on to top Billboard’s Hot Rap Singles chart. On the strength of these tracks—as well as “Hand On The Pump” and “Latin Lingo” which were both released as singles—the group’s eponymous debut propelled Cypress Hill into the hip hop spotlight.

In support of the group’s sophomore release, Cypress Hill debuted the track “Insane in the Brain” as the first single from Black Sunday. The crossover hit would break the top 20 on the Billboard Hot 100 and stands as a prime example of why the record is arguably the deepest in the group’s 20+ year history; Black Sunday also produced a variety of time-tested stoner anthems including “I Wanna Get High,” “Legalize It,” and “Hits From The Bong” which samples Dusty Springfield’s “Son Of A Preacher Man.” The album would be the group’s first, and only, to reach the #1 spot on the Billboard 200.

Two years after Black Sunday was released Cypress Hill returned with Cypress Hill III: Temples of Boom. The album introduced a darker tone that contrasted with the upbeat energy of the group’s previous release. “Throw Your Set in the Air” was dropped as the album’s lead single in 1995 and was followed up by introspective “Illusions” and “Boom Biddy Bye Bye.” A remixed version of the last track, which featured the Fugees, was also released as a single. Although Temples of Boom failed to reach the same level of popularity that its predecessor saw, the album still hit platinum status, peaking at the #3 position on the Billboard 200.

After a three year hiatus the group returned with Cypress Hill IV. Led by the album’s first single “Dr. Greenthumb,” a narrative as told through B-Real’s alter-ego, the album would fail to find as broad of an audience as Cypress Hill had with its first three records. IV would become the group’s first album to fail to achieve platinum status, and promotion for the record was canned by Columbia after its second—and arguably better—single, “Tequila Sunrise,” failed to chart in the States.

Despite being the first album to stray from Cypress Hill’s standard formula, the double-disc release Skull & Bones returned the group to the top of the charts (reaching #5 on the Billboard 200), and eventually went platinum. Matching the duality of the record, a pair of singles were released to prime fans for the album: “(Rap) Superstar” and “(Rock) Superstar.” Each track followed a similar lyrical theme but represented a different half of the album: The first disc followed Cypress Hill’s traditional smoked-out hip hop while the second adopted nü-metal’s ultra-aggro power chords.

Following Cypress Hill’s sixth studio album, 2001’s lackluster Stoned Raiders, the group returned in 2004 with the unusual Till Death Do Us Part. Just as Skull & Bones did with hard rock, Till Death Do Us Part introduced another new flavor into Cypress Hill’s repertoire; this time around the album included such influences as reggae, dancehall, and ska. The album was Cypress Hill’s second consecutive album to fail to reach gold status despite finding a wide audience with its lead single “What’s Your Number.” The song featured Rancid’s frontman Tim Armstrong, Armstrong’s Transplants bandmate Skinhead Rob, and sampled the Clash’s “Guns of Brixton.” Despite finding some success in video form—directed by Dean Karr, the video features cameos from the likes of Slash, Everlast, Travis Barker, Xzibit, and Wilmer Valderrama of That ’70s Show—the single peaked at the #23 position on Billboard’s Alternative Songs chart.

Type O Negative frontman Peter Steele passes away

Blabbermouth is reporting that Fallout, Carnivore, and longtime Type O Negative frontman Peter Steele passed away Wednesday from what is believed to be heart failure. Born Petrus T. Ratajczyk, the singer was beloved for his abnormally deep tone and dark lyrics; he was also easily identifiable due his remarkable height (6′7″). Unconfirmed reports suggest that Steele had been ill in the days leading up to his passing; the news of his death was later confirmed by Type O’s keyboardist Josh Silver.

News of Steele’s death was initially suspected to be a rumor, much along the lines of a similar situation that was reported some five years ago. Blabbermouth reflects,


Back in 2005, many people were shocked when they logged on to the TYPE O NEGATIVE web site and saw a gravestone with the words “[P]eter Steele – 1962 – 2005 …. Free At Last” carved on it. According to Epinions.com, there were rumors at the time that Steele was sick (with anything from cancer to AIDS), was on his deathbed, attempted suicide … and the list goes on. Needless to say, it turned out that Steele was very much alive and the gravestone was merely a joke, albeit one the wasn’t viewed as being in particularly good taste.

Peter Steele was 48.

~~~~~

On a personal note the news comes as quite a shock to me. I’ve been a fan of the band for about as long as I’ve been a fan of hard music and October Rust remains one of my favorite records ever; I suppose you could call it one of those desert island discs. I was fortunate enough to have seen Steele perform with Type O twice during my time living in and around Minneapolis. The first came in 2003 when the band performed at the Quest in support of Life is Killing Me, co-headlining with Cradle of Filth. The band came out in orange jump suits with the mammoth Steele wielding a bottle of red wine as he dwarfed the crowd. The second show came a couple years later in 2007 when the band played the historic First Avenue in support of their Dead Again album. It was one of the last times I remember getting rowdy in the crowd. Even with the band’s last album, I never felt that Type O Negative ever felt stale. I will sorely miss Steele’s contributions to the musical community.

LCD Soundsystem “This Is Happening” Review

In 2007 James Murphy followed up his widely praised 2005 debut and the 2006 maxi-track 45:33 with Sound of Silver. Utterly demolishing expectation—which isn’t to say that anticipation for the record hadn’t gathered considerable momentum—the album was immediately met with a glowing response; many eventually acknowledging it as being one of the best of the decade. So how does Murphy follow up his distinguished series of LCD Soundsystem releases? By introducing a new album with a single that wades in tight crunch-funk verses about drunk girls (and boys) before making the personal plea “Just ’cause I’m shallow doesn’t mean that I’m heartless/Just ’cause I’m heartless doesn’t mean that I’m mean.” But even though “Drunk Girls” is not the most obvious attempt at picking up where Silver left off, the single alludes to the general direction that This Is Happening takes: One that’s strikingly familiar despite still reflecting a sense of immediacy. It’s like 2007 all over again.

“Dance Yrself Clean” opens the record with a mellow, thuddish synth that teeters between a basic key line and Murphy’s creamy vocals before exploding into a boisterous electronic break. Murphy later jumps in with his familiar howl that blares intermittently until the nine minute track fades into the record’s aforementioned teaser, “Drunk Girls.” “One Touch” follows with a series of erratic industrial squeals which twist into a spiraling electronic bubble before developing a fluttering loop that looms below Murphy’s weighty vocals.

The first significant shift in the record comes with “All I Want.” The near-seven minute song finds its stride early on with Murphy quietly crooning over a bass, guitar, and drums. Keys are eventually added to the mix, but the collection of sounds becomes a mounting force which overpowers Murphy’s vocals. This wouldn’t seem like such an issue had Sound of Silver not been so lyrically focused, but with the exception of “Drunk Girls” the album has relied greatly on its musical merit to this point.

But just as the ear begins to blend each unique component into one churning sound, “I Can Change” chimes in and once again illuminates with Murphy’s voice, something that translates as oddly refreshing given the development of the record. Or maybe that’s the point: To bashfully reduce the attention which might have been given to his lyrics. As if that were the case, Murphy pokes fun at himself in the song, “Love is an open book to a verse of your bad poetry, and this is coming from me.” After being so focused on creating a musically intense album, “I Can Change” is a charming reminder of Murphy’s genuine approach at driving focus to the strongest aspect of each individual song: In this case his lyrics fit the bill, in others they don’t.

This Is Happening continues with the unapologetic track “You Wanted A Hit.” At over nine minutes the song is clearly far from radio-friendly in its delivery, but Murphy repeatedly confirms the concept throughout, “You wanted a hit, but we don’t do hits.” It’s an interesting statement when considering that even the most commercial LCD Soundsystem tracks haven’t followed the traditional method to reach commercial success—whether it be sound, style, or simply length. In that sense it wouldn’t really be a surprise if a song like “You Wanted A Hit” became a hit—ironic, sure, but not unimaginable.

The bongo-fied “Pow Pow” follows, tailed by the oddity “Somebody’s Calling Me” which blares uncomfortably harsh synth along with Murphy’s soft vocals and an unusually basic piano line. While the somber lament of “New York, I Love You but You’re Bringing Me Down” closed out 2007′s offering, “Home” does the same for This Is Happening. “Forget the past, this is your last chance now,” chimes Murphy as the song progresses through its eight minutes. “You’re afraid of what you need/Look around you, you’re surrounded/It won’t get any better” he concludes before a gradually distorted instrumental fades the song out.

If This Is Happening does end up being the final LCD Soundsystem release, Murphy certainly picked the right way to end it. “Home” hints at lyrical retrospection while adopting a musical collage that sums up the album, if not LCD’s three full-length releases, fittingly. As the record weaves its way in and out of each track it encompasses a wide selection of musical directions that glance back at the past while maintaining a direct footprint in the present day. The same could be said about Sound of Silver when it was released though, and if that release stood as the last LCD Soundsystem album it could have been approached in much the same way. If 2010 is the time to put a cap on this chapter of Murphy’s career however, so be it: The man did well. But if it’s not, This Is Happening will likely be approached as the perfect set-up to his impending Soundsystem swan song.

Mike Patton "Mondo Cane" Review


In a recent interview with AOL’s Noisecreep, Mike Patton attempted to sum up who Mondo Cane is for, “If you like orchestral music and have a heart in your fucking chest, you will like this record.” In keeping with Patton’s seemingly life-long preoccupation with non-linear career-jumps, Mondo Cane does exactly what many of the vocalist’s other projects have in the past: It requests that the audience place their trust in Patton as he experiments in a direction that few others would even consider following. And for the most part, fans’ trust has been repaid handsomely. In that sense, Mondo Cane is no different.

The project is the result of a decade-long idea which was inspired by Patton’s time spent living in Italy. Engaging in the culture and language — oh, also, his wife is Italian — Patton nurtured an appreciation for the country’s music; not modern music however, but rather pop and folk songs from the 1950s and 60s. As he continued to familiarize himself with the music, Patton began to conceptualize what these same songs would sound like if he were to perform them… with an orchestra. And over the past few years he has done just that, performing numerous times with a band and orchestra while he rips through his Italian lyrics. The release itself finds Patton teamed with a 15-piece band and 40-piece orchestra performing a selection of the very same songs that initially inspired the singer. “My purpose in revisiting these pieces is not to relive the past, not for nostalgia, but more to illustrate through modern and adventurous interpretation exactly how vital and important this music still is.”

Widely considered one of the most representative artists of Italian pop music from the era, a variety of Gino Paoli’s songs are strung together throughout the record. Perhaps the best selection of his is the opening track however, “Il Cielo In Una Stanza.” Popularized by Mina in 1960, where it topped Italian charts and reached the Billboard Hot 100, the song is introduced by a creaking organ that spookily rolls under a playful vocal duet. Early on in the track Patton’s range is tested, though amusingly it’s his animated annunciation of the lyrics which is most striking — the singer often rolling his tongue in perfect synch with the orchestra behind him.

“Che Notte!” follows, with Patton bouncing his menacing vocals off of the rapid trumpet-led accompaniment. A buzzing guitar and steady piano open Fred Bongusto’s “Ore D’Amore,” a song which peaked at #30 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1967 when released as “The World We Knew (Over and Over)” by Frank Sinatra. Ennio Morricone’s Danger Diabolik theme “Deep Deep Down” follows, marking one of the recording’s high points for both the musicians and the singer. With the song, and album for that matter, Patton continually balances between the structure, mood, and tone of the original composition and his own blazing translation. In “Deep Deep Down” he enhances the vocal part — something which has never been too difficult for Patton — but later concedes to the band, taking an equal role with the underlying music. The shift back and forth, not simply in this particular song however, is one that exemplifies the artistry found within the musicians’ compelling relationship.

Luigi Tenco’s gentle violin-led “Quello Che Conta” from the 1962 film La Cuccagna follows, slowing the pace of Mondo Cane down considerably while adding a tangible depth to the collection. The Blackmen’s 1967 psychedelic/garage-rock track “Urlo Negro” splashes down quickly after, breaking the gentle surface created by “Quello” with a rumbling drum introduction and Patton’s shrieking vocals. The song is relatively intense compared to the rest of the record and stands as a distinct outlier on the album, but in keeping with the continual shift in pace throughout Mondo Cane its rambunctious velocity sounds amazing.

“Scalinatella” has the unenviable position of following the overwhelming “Urlo Negro.” As the meandering folk song fades out the theme to 1965′s L’Uomo Che Non Sapeva Amare hits with a boom, but despite its gigantic sound neither Patton nor the orchestra spin their parts outside of the restraints of the original recording’s structure; then again, Mondo Cane IS a covers album. The galloping “20 KM Al Giorno” lends a variety of solo-moments for the band while Patton croons out the remainder of the recording with “Ti Offro Da Bere” and “Senza Fine.”

As far as needing to have a heart and an appreciation of orchestral music to enjoy Mondo Cane goes, Patton might be a little off. Compared to one of his last projects, the polarizing Peeping Tom release which compiled such guests as Norah Jones, Kool Keith, and Rahzel into an avant-garde aural orgy, Mondo Cane is quite accessible. Not just accessible, actually, but enticing. This credit can’t entirely be given to Patton however; it would be criminal to neglect just how much of the enjoyment from the music comes from the actual musicians. The orchestra and band work together to create a stunning interpretation of each song that gracefully enhances Patton’s glowing vocals. So no, to enjoy Mondo Cane you don’t need an appreciation of orchestral music and a heart in your fucking chest; just a heart and a pair of ears, Mr. Patton. Just a heart and a pair of ears.

Slash “Slash” Review

There is little left to be said about Slash’s past work that hasn’t already been dissected a million times over: The guitarist is widely considered to be one of the greatest soloists of all time—if not one of the greatest guitarists of all time—and the songs created during his years playing with Guns N’ Roses will forever be remembered as some of the best in the history of rock music. Furthermore, Slash’s ability to reestablish himself in a new era with Velvet Revolver only goes to further cement his status a vital member of the modern rock community; not to mention his million-plus selling Slash’s Snakepit project and his countless guest contributions over the past 20 years. To say that Slash is a departure from the guitarist’s past work is a bit of a stretch, but in describing the new album—his first “solo” record—it would be achingly difficult not to suggest that it further reinforces the idea that Slash as one of the best in the world, regardless of time and supporting cast.

That’s not to say that the lineup performing with Slash on the album isn’t remarkable though, as the distinguished rhythm section alone, featuring bassist Chris Chaney (Jane’s Addiction, Alanis Morissette) and drummer Josh Freese (Nine Inch Nails, A Perfect Circle, the Vandals), offers up a wealth of talented support. But when considering that Ian Astbury (the Cult), Ozzy Osbourne, Chris Cornell, Dave Grohl, Iggy Pop and Lemmy Kilmister (Motörhead) are but a few of the guests who make contributions throughout the album it quickly becomes apparent that Slash has surrounded himself by some of the best in the world when taking on this new project. Even when you’re one of the best in the world it doesn’t hurt to surround yourself with legends.

Astbury is the first of the bunch to join in, lending his voice to “Ghost” which leads off the album. With the track Slash, accompanied by his long time Guns N’ Roses counterpart Izzy Stradlin, quickly identifies a trend which is followed closely throughout Slash: Rather than taking the spotlight he focuses on playing to the strengths of the vocalist. In this case “Ghost” sounds less like Astbury standing in on a Guns N’ Roses track and more like Slash joining the Cult for a rumbling journey into the band’s history. The same can be said for “Crucify The Dead” where Slash slows things down and takes the approach of an epic soloist lurking in the background while Ozzy Osbourne controls the song.

One of the first unexpected developments on the album is Slash’s collaboration with Black Eyed Peas vocalist Fergie on “Beautiful Dangerous.” Having previously performed with Slash at his 2008 birthday celebration, Fergie comfortably steps in as an unusually sharp rock soulstress in the track, with Slash creating a wave of sound which carries her voice far beyond initial expectations. This isn’t to say that Fergie isn’t a talented singer in her own right, but simply that her ability to carry the song’s chorus is completely unexpected—no matter how tacky her hurried verses might be.

Myles Kennedy, formerly of Alter Bridge, follows with the slow rolling “Back From Cali,” his first of two appearance on the record (his second comes with the bluesier “Starlight”). With the pair of tracks Kennedy and Slash reveal an unusually compatible chemistry which translates well with the recordings. Oddly enough, at times Kennedy ends up sounding more like Chris Cornell than Cornell himself, who follows with the jagged “Promise.”

After Wolfmother’s Andrew Stockdale steps in with the record’s second single, “By The Sword,” the album’s second unusual pairing pits one of Slash’s slow-moving riffs against the smooth vocals of Maroon 5′s Adam Levine. And while the slowed down pace of the song might be the most uncharacteristic on Slash, “Sword” does find the guitarist once again placing himself humbly in a position where he’s supporting the vocalist to allow for their talents to shine.

The album continues as Lemmy Kilmister lends his legendary growl on the raucous “Doctor Alibi,” Dave Grohl and former G’n'R Duff McKagan accompany Slash on the album’s only instrumental “Watch This,” and Kid Rock lends his voice to “I Hold On.” But it’s the third, and possibly the most striking, surprise which again reinvigorates the record. In “Nothing To Say” Slash joins Avenged Sevenfold’s M. Shadows with an edgy riff that wouldn’t be entirely out of place within the group’s driving mainstream metal. While “Nothing To Say” is neither the best song on the album nor the best depiction of Slash’s talents it does showcase another uncharacteristic sound on the record, something which gives Slash a fresh feeling all the way through. Following Kennedy’s second appearance and the acoustic “Saint is a Sinner Too,” Slash is joined by Iggy Pop on “We’re All Gonna Die.” Pop’s vocals on the song sound about as flat as his 2007 Stooges reunion album The Weirdness however, leaving the record fading away on an unfortunately sour note.

It’s hard to fault anything Slash does musically as the man is steady in his craft and has delivered time and time again for well over two decades. But when adding the element of outside influence, as with the laundry-list of contributors who were invited to join him with Slash, the risk of becoming a parody of oneself becomes a real one: In each of the album’s tracks Slash could very well sit back and be the top hat wearing, chain-smoking icon we know him as, steadily jamming out while each vocalist sits in and tries to fall into line with the guitarist’s sound and mystique. But instead each track comes across as not only an honest collaboration of ideas, but an oddly out-of-body experience for the guitarist. With each track Slash steps out of the sound which we’ve come to expect from him and showcases an unexpected side to his talents. In terms of an individual musician this might not seem like that big of a deal. But when considering history’s greatest guitarists and their tendency toward insisting on being the unwavering focal point of their songs, Slash translates as something far more incredible.