After hearing so much praise for The Winery Dogs, I finally bought a copy. I decided for now there was no point in writing a review: After all, Jon Wilmenius already said it all. So for my own review, all I’ll write is: “What he said!” Enjoy this review from Jon’s own excellent site, Music and Festival Reviews, reprinted with his kind permission.
Read the original here.
GUEST REVIEW by: Jon Wilmenius
THE WINERY DOGS – The Winery Dogs (2013 Loud & Proud)
Way back in the late 80′s / early 90′s supergroups were popping up like mushrooms in your garden. Bands like Bad English, Mr Big and Badlands had big success with the odd album or two before breaking up, but when the 90′s grunge era took over, supergroups were as rare as money on your bank account. Today, things have turned around and with the music industry looking like it does, musicians are forming different projects and bands with each other like never before. One guy that seems to involved a little everywhere are former Dream Theater drummer Mike Portnoy. As of now he is involved in no less than four different bands, Transatlantic, Flying Colors, Adrenaline Mob and now this thing. When The Winery Dogs started out in 2011, they consisted of Portnoy, bassist Billy Sheehan of Mr Big (formerly of Talas and David Lee Roth) and guitarist / lead singer John Sykes (Tygers Of Pan Tang, Thin Lizzy, Whitensake, Blue Murder), but since Sykes seemed to have too much on his mind, he decided to split and was replaced by multi musician and guitar player / lead singer Richie Kotzen, who also has a successful solo career going on, but also a former member of Poison, Mr Big and Forty Deuce.
Without hearing a note of their music, just by looking at the line up makes expectations rise like a virgin’s dong at the Playboy Mansion. That means that nothing worse than ‘great’ would be acceptable for this trio’s debut release. Now, I don’t know how much music that was written with Sykes in the band and how much of it that ended up on this album, but the fact is, Kotzen is all over this record. Kotzen’s solo career sky rocketed after he got the boot from Poison, at least quality wise and even a tone-deaf could spot his style miles away. Just listen to Poison’s Native Tongue, the best album they ever released, and you’ll hear pretty fast which songs he brought to the table. He really should re-record them as a solo artist someday. So, if you’re a fan of Kotzen’s, this album is a no-brainer – as a matter of fact, it really should be a no-brainer for any a rock fan to buy this CD, because this is amazing stuff. “Elevate” kicks this album into motion with a bang, a rootsy rocker that sounds a lot like Richie’s solo stuff only with Sheehan’s famous and personal bass sound and Portnoy’s heavy groove. “Desire” follows and it is a brilliant tune, full of catchiness and groovy rhythms, “I’m No Angel” has a fantastic refrain and a killer melody, you’re stuck after the first chorus, on “The Other Side”, Sheehan and Portnoy totally rules the groove and the bass and drums are both one and separated at the same time and they give us a brilliant blues ballad in “You Saved Me”. It has a bit of a U2 – feel and Kotzen sings the hell out of it. The guy has got some feel, to say the least.
Both “Not Impossible” and “One More Time” has a lot of Kotzen over them and I find myself thinking that they probably would have been a great fit on his last album 24 Hours. “Six Feet Deeper” has a major swing to it and it strikes me that this is the first album I have heard where Mike Portnoy plays rock ‘n’ roll like this. I mean, he’s an amazing drummer, but his skills has always been in progressive metal where he doesn’t groove that much. This album shows that Portnoy is a lot more all round than people might think. “Criminal” on the other hand, is a heavy piece – not a far cry from how a Kotzen fronted Mr Big would sound. “The Dying” is a ballad, but it leans way more towards heaviness than anything else which is really cool – and it is a great song. The album ends with “Regret”, a classic Kotzen ballad, very bluesy in a 70′s style. Wow! This really is a super trio and they have made one hell of a debut album and hopefully enough people will buy this to convince the guys to keep this project alive. Another thing, has Billy Sheehan and Mike Portnoy ever played with such a groove like they do here? I mean, they are both ace players and with Kotzen, groove is in his blood, but on here Sheehan and Portnoy really makes the rhythm section swing. When we’re writing January 2014 and making a list on the best albums of 2013, this album will no doubt be up there as a contender for the number one spot. Jon says: Get this!
Jon Wilmenius (9/10)