Myles Kennedy

REVIEW: Slash – Live in Manchester 3 July 2010

SLASH featuring Myles Kennedy – Live in Manchester 3 July 2010 (2010 Abbey Road Live Events)

When Slash went on tour for his awesome 2010 solo album, he could practically only bring one singer with him.  That singer was Myles Kennedy who was more than capable of singing the songs from all the vocalists he had to cover.  The July 3 date in Manchester produced an “instant live” album.  This is as real as it gets.  In fact the set list on the back cover does not match what they actually ended up playing that night.  You could download and print off a replacement instead.

“Ghost” (originally with Ian Astbury) opened the Slash album and also opens the set.  The raw live performance is a contrast to the polished album.  Kennedy’s version of the track is awesome.  He makes no attempt to imitate Ian Astbury and just belts it as he should.  The second track is a largely forgotten tune:  “Mean Bone” from the second Slash’s Snakepit album (Rod Jackson on lead vocals).  This version seems to have more life, but it’s not as exceptional as the other songs, hook for hook.  “Nightrain” is the first of five Guns tunes.  All that needs to said here is that Kennedy can go toe-to-toe with a vintage Guns track, no problem.  Bullseye.

Velvet Revolver next, with “Dirty Little Thing”.  Suddenly Kennedy has to do Weiland and nails it once again.  Four tracks in, from four different bands and singers, he has all the bases covered.  The next singer he has to cover is an easy one — it’s himself on “Back From Cali” from the Slash album.  Myles had two of the best tunes on that album, and “Back From Cali” is received with applause and clapping.  It was clearly a hit with this crowd.

Eric Dover is the next singer covered, and yes that means we’re talking about 1995’s epic “Beggars and Hangers-On” from the first Snakepit CD.  This timeless song always needed more exposure.  It is preceded by some cool slippy-slide from Slash, before he breaks into that riff.  Kennedy’s delivery lacks the rasp of the original, but makes it bluesier.  Now it sounds like an electric prayer from the deep south.  It might be the biggest divergence from an original version in this set.  This is the epic part of that setlist, with “Civil War” and “Rocket Queen” forming a solid 15 minute wall of Guns.  Bassist Todd Kerns backs up Myles, thickening those high notes, but Kennedy needs no help on the difficult “Rocket Queen”.

Velvet Revolver is paid some more respect with “Fall to Pieces” and “Sucker Train Blues”.  “Fall to Pieces” is the only ballad of the set, earning a singalong from the crowd.  “Sucker Train Blues” shifts back into top gear.  You can’t top Weiland at his own game, but Myles turns in some respectable versions.

Back to the Slash album, “Nothing to Say” (with M. Shadows) was one of the heaviest tunes.  Live, it is not as sharply polished, but it is a banger.  Myles’ own “Starlight” follows, the second of the two excellent tunes he had on the Slash album.  Not quite a ballad, but it slows pace and brings an eerie quiet to the stage, before completely exploding on the skyrocketing chorus.

The instrumentals “Watch This” and “Godfather Theme” give Kennedy a chance to rest up the voice, while Slash gets to do what he likes to do, including lengthy a blues jam.  Then it’s a bright burst of light on “Sweet Child O’ Mine”, and a surprise:  Alter Bridge’s “Rise Today”.  Very cool, after covering all these songs, that Slash then covers a Myles Kennedy song.  It’s quite different from Alter Bridge, more snakey.

The show ends on some classic tunes:  “Slither” by Velvet Revolver, Zeppelin’s “Communication Breakdown” and of course “Paradise City”.  By this time Myles’ voice has been through hell and back, a full setlist of very demanding material.  You can tell, but only barely.  The guy has had to sing songs by everybody from Axl Rose to Robert Plant!  He doesn’t cheat notes, he just barrels on through.

Not played at this show but appearing on the back cover is “By the Sword”, originally with Andrew Stockdale.  Slash’s live band included two Canucks:  Todd Kerns and Brent Fitz, with Bobby Schneck on second guitar.  They nailed it, every song, and had the foresight to be putting out an album that night.

4/5 stars

REVIEW: Slash – Slash (Deluxe edition)

SLASH – Slash (2010 Universal Deluxe edition)

This album was a revelation to me.  Truth be told, I didn’t expect too much.  I didn’t consider Slash to be among the best songwriters in Guns N’ Roses (Izzy and Duff for that honor).  So, a couple things about Slash struck me right away. One, every track on this album is strong, almost every one would make a great single. Two, I was surprised how these songs kind of chameleon themselves to resemble the bands that the singers come from. Almost every guest does a co-write, which might explain this.

I’ll discuss my favourite tracks. I have always been a Cult fan, so Ian Astbury’s “Ghost” kicked off the album with a bang. It doesn’t quite sound like the Cult, but at first it didn’t sound like Slash either. Astbury’s voice, deep and low, is almost as strong as ever. Ozzy’s track is next, and my immediate feeling was, “This song could have been a Sabbath number with a little tweaking.” I very much enjoyed this song.

I’m not a Black Eyed Peas fan; at all!    All I really know about Fergie is “Big Girls Don’t Cry”. To my surprise, she is capable of the rock. Her vocal is highly stylized (as are many on this CD) and she just rips it up on “Dangerous Beautiful”! Of all the singers on this CD, Fergie is the most similar in attitude to Axl. Every once in a while she does a squeal or two that sound positively Axl. This is a decent song made memorable by Fergie’s vocal, although I think the lyrics leave something to be desired.

I wasn’t at all familiar with Alter Bridge, but Myles Kennedy blew me away. I guess there must have been a reason that the Led Zeppelin guys were jamming with him as a potential replacement for Robert Plant. I get that, but although he has a powerful voice with great range, he has his own sound. My new favourite singer! His two songs, “Back To Cali” and “Starlight” couldn’t be less alike. However they both boast one thing in common, and that is a chorus to raise the roof. These two choruses are among the strongest moments on Slash.

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Chris Cornell is up next with “Promise”, a good song which struck me as more similar to Cornell’s early solo work than Soundgarden. Let it be remembered that Chris opened for Guns N’ Roses on their 1992 European tour. The first single “By The Sword” featuring Wolfmother’s Andrew Stockdale is another one that blew me away. It struck me as very “metal” with the kind of lead vocal that is high and powerful, like Wolfmother itself. Great song, and bears similarities to “Beggars and Hangers-On” from the first Slash’s Snakepit album.

I’m especially not a Maroon 5 fan.  I burned out on them in the record store, and the person responsible knows who she is, I do like Adam Levine’s stylized vocal on the ballad “Gotten”.  This guy is smooth like butter. My only wish is that there was more of his music with Slash. The way his vocal and Slash’s guitar melodies intertwine is quite beautiful.

Lemmy’s tune sounds like some sort of Motorhead outtake (don’t forget Slash appeared on Motorhead’s March Or Die CD). Anything Lemmy touches automatically sounds like Motorhead. Up next is an instrumental featuring Dave Grohl on drums and Duff McKagan on bass. Immediately, that familiar Dave Grohl drum sound kicks you in the face, on this rocker that is pure groove, with Slash playing a low grinding riff.

I didn’t mind Kid Rock’s “I Hold On”, and I found his vocal quite appealing. Another one that surprised me was M Shadows’ “Nothing To Say”. I’ve never listened to Avenged Sevenfold but this guy’s voice has enough melody to carry the tune. The song itself was riffy, like late 90’s Megadeth or black album era Metallica. Good song. Very similar to “Chains and Shackles” (more on that song later). I have to listen to both back to back, but it’s possible they are both based on the same music.

I have no idea who Rocco DeLuca was, but his tune is another winner. The final track of the regular album songs is the immortal Iggy Pop’s “We’re All Gonna Die”. One of the most fun tunes on the album with great lyrics, Pop and Slash have an obvious chemistry. What a great tune with which to close the regular edition!

Oh, and three ex-GN’R members appear: Duff, Izzy, and Josh Freese (who was in the band after Slash).

Among the bonus stuff, an English version of “Sahara” featuring a singer I never heard of called Koshi Inaba. Good song, but is is followed by Alice Cooper’s track with…someone I never heard of apparently from Pussycat Dolls. This actually sounds a lot like an Alice Cooper song, say circa The Eyes of Alice Cooper. Another good song, and we all know how big a fan Slash is. Lastly there is Fergie and Cypress Hill’s “Paradise City” remake. Good choice for the very Axl-ish Fergie to sing, and Cypress Hill add their sound to the verses. Great version, a guilty pleasure. There is also a Japanese version of “Sahara”, and a song with Beth Hart called “Mother Maria” which is a really nice one featuring her strong bluesy voice. I’m telling you, Beth Hart can really sing, she is a the real deal. I just wish they didn’t add distortion to her voice…she does not need it.

The new acoustic live material with Myles Kennedy is sheer awesome. Kennedy’s got an incredible voice and you can tell this is really live. The backing guitar player makes a few mistakes during Slash’s solo in “Sweet Child” and it’s right there, unfixed. I like that. It’s like a guarantee. It’s like the Stones and Henry Rollins say — “The only way to know for sure.”

I’m disappointed that Nick Oliveri’s “Chains & Shackles”, the best song in my opinion, is not present on this edition. It remains exclusive to the Australian iTunes. However, by my reckoning every other bonus track from every other format is on this disc. There are also two previously unheard demos. These demos are interesting jams and they show great interaction between Slash and his players. Also included are some live electric versions (also seemingly unpolished) and a bonus DVD. All of this is worth owning if you really love the album like I do.

IMG_00000702I made a bonus CD with the Oliveri track, and other “bonus tracks” that I found online, as well.  How official these downloaded tracks are I can’t say; Wikipedia is silent on the issue.

You may have noticed I didn’t comment on Slash’s presence too much. I dare say it, the only weakness to this album is that Slash is overshadowed by his guests. That happened to Santana on some of his records as well. Slash’s guitar playing is still unique and stylish, not hogging the spotlight but sharing it more than fairly. Slash himself explores more sounds on his Gibson than I’ve ever heard him play before. When he solos, it’s Slash; it’s the old GN’R sound, and it sure is cool.

5/5 stars