Izzy was quick out of the gates after leaving Guns N’ Roses at the height of their success. Less than a year after his departure, a dreadlocked Izzy reappeared with his new band the Ju Ju Hounds, a Stones-y outfit also featuring Rick Richards from the Georgia Satellites. Guns’ main songwriter and rhythm guitarist unleashed an album of songs that easily could have been released in the early 1970’s.
There’s very little resemblance to Guns, aside from a few tracks on Use Your Illusion. “Pressure Drop” (the reggae classic) is redone here as a classic rock/punk hybrid, and it’s probably the only tune that you would think, “Yeah, that sounds like Guns.” “Bucket O’ Trouble” also has a distinct punk rock vibe, but the Hammond organ keeps it from going all the way. The rest of the songs are a lot more open, and far less heavy than fans were used to. Fans who “got it” loved it, and those that didn’t probably never will.
There are no bad songs on Izzy Stradlin and the Ju Ju Hounds, but there is little question about who this album sounds like. Izzy approaches it like a Keith Richards album with songs suited to his raspy voice. Izzy’s singing voice is so Stones-y and raspy that you’ll have trouble telling him apart from guest Ronnie Wood, who sings with Izzy on his own song “Take a Look at the Guy” (originally from Wood’s 1974 solo record I’ve Got My Own Album to Do, his first). “Train Tracks” is a Stradlin original that sports some tasty slide guitar straight out Wood’s book.
The single was the still-great “Shuffle it All”, which was criticized by some for a superficial resemblance to Lou Reed’s “Walk on the Wild Side”. Only the bassline has any similarity; which is admittedly a pretty significant hook. I like “Shuffle it All” better (heresy!), which easily could have been on Beggars Banquet. Those “ooo, ooo, ooo” backing vocals seal the deal for me.
There were also a couple mellow tracks. “How Will it Go” and “Come on Now Inside” are both lovely ballads with piano and acoustic guitars. “Come on Now Inside” contains a hidden bonus track called “Morning Tea”, but this isn’t really a full-fledged song of its own. This is just a percussion instrumental outro.
The Japanese edition has a bonus track called “How Much” which was also on the single for “Shuffle It All”. I’ll review that single on its own at a later time. It’s an Izzy original but you’d be forgiven for thinking it’s an old Bob Marley cover. Great tune — I’m a sucker for reggae. The song is worth it if you want to track down the single or Japanese import.