It’s a shame I lost my original 1993 review of this album.
GEORGE LYNCH – Sacred Groove (1993 Elektra)
If you like Dokken but never followed George onto the Lynch Mob, then this album is for you.
George Lynch is a very talented shredder, capable of playing a wide variety of styles. Sometimes he hits, sometimes he misses, but on Sacred Groove he makes the mark every time. Sacred Groove was designed as a solo project shortly after the second Lynch Mob album. The idea was to work and write with different singers and musicians, and George loaded up on some great singers. Glenn Hughes, anyone?
John Cuniberti, who co-helmed many Joe Satriani albums, produced this opus and lent it some serious sonic excellence. The opener “Memory Jack” is a collaboration between producer and guitarist, but this is little more than a sound collage to kick off a killer instrumental called “Love Power From the Mama Head”. This isn’t to say that “Memory Jack” does not contain some shredding licks, because it does…but they are not the focus. The sound collage itself is the focus. Into “Love Power”, George lays down some serious riffy rhythm guitars. This is topped with a very Satriani-esque guitar melody. “Love Power” is constructed very much like a Satch rock instrumental track, with memorable guitar melodies and song structures.
There is a very cool moment in the guitar solo in “Love Power From the Mama Head”, at exactly 4:47. While George was essentially assaulting his guitar with the whammy bar, he accidentally dropped the instrument on the studio floor. “Shit!” said George, while producer Cuniberti ran over and stopped George from picking it up. The producer then kicked the guitar for added effect! Cuniberti assured George it would sound cool, and it kind of does! The guitar just stops on this weird chord-like sound, before they punch out of that and into more shredding. It’s different and spontaneous and I love shit like that.
“Flesh and Blood”, contender for best track on the album, is the first vocal, featuring Badlands’ Ray Gillen (R.I.P.). It’s a Dokken stomper for sure, but with Ray Gillen’s bluesy Coverdale-isms all over it. Killer. The lyrics were co-written by George’s ex-Dokken bandmate Jeff Pilson, who also co-wrote and plays bass on the next track, “We Don’t Own This World”.
Now here’s the interesting thing about “We Don’t Own This World”. Lyrics by: Don Dokken? The fuck?
George, Don and Jeff had planned to reunite on this one song, that Don supplied the lyrics for. Don however cancelled or chickened out (either/or) and didn’t make it to the session. It just so happened that the Nelson twins, Matthew and Gunnar, were in town and eagerly sang on the track in Don’s absence. With their harmonies, “We Don’t Own This World” sounds nothing like Dokken, except in basic ways. It’s the most commercial track on the album; a pop rocker. The vocals soar over one killer melody, and the solo is one of George’s best. If this song had come out only two years sooner, it would have been a hit single. The Nelsons have done some cool music over the years, and not gotten a lot of credit for it, so this song is pure delight.
I still think of CDs as “albums” with distinct sides, and on the cassette version “I Will Remember” closed Side One. This instrumental ballad has a vaguely dark tropical feel, although it is an electric guitar song. George’s solos are sublime and I love his unexpected timing on certain notes. He has flawless chops mixed with feel…a rare combination.
Side Two’s opener is an epic in two parts, but it’s as close to a skip as this album gets. The problem is vocalist Mandy Lion, of WWIII. You either like his glass-garling-elfin-metal voice or you do not. I do not. However, “The Beast” Parts I and II are such a slamming groove that I tend to block out the words and the voice singing them. This is another track where the original vocalist slated could not do it. Udo Dirkschneider wanted too much money and Rob Halford was too busy, but Mandy Lion would do it. He showed up at the studio in the heat of summer wearing head to toe black leather.
“The Beast” could be a dirty sex anthem, I guess, but it’s far too heavy for the 50 Shades crowd. I dig when halfway through, George breaks out his newly-bought sitar. (I remember seeing pictures of George in Metal Edge magazine buying it!) If only Mandy would have chosen to shut up at this moment. Bassist Chris Solberg comes in and grooves through to a false ending, and then it’s “Part II (Addiction to the Friction)” — a 10 minute track in total. Thankfully a huge chunk of it is instrumental.
The regal Glenn Hughes raises the bar any time he opens his mouth. His two songs were the first new Hughes singing I had heard since Black Sabbath. I detect some fragility in his voice here. I think this may be from a period where Glenn was recovering from addictions. Regardless, he sounds a lot better today, whatever the reasons are. That’s not to say he’s bad here, because he’s still the best singer on the album. You just feel he’s not giving it everything like he does today.
“Not Necessary Evil” is Glenn’s first song, a Dokken groove with Hughes’ soulful signature style. This one too had hit single potential, but only in an alternate timeline in which Rock never fell to the Grunge Hordes in 1991. “Cry of the Brave” is his second track, a slower and more soulful rock track. This is a song about injustice to the American Indian (reading the lyrics, I’m assuming specifically Leonard Peltier), and it’s worth noting that Glenn wrote the lyrics by himself.
The album closes with a final instrumental called “Tierra Del Fuego”, and if you couldn’t guess, that means George breaks out the flamenco guitar. There’s also a guest electric guitar soloist named Daryl Gable. If I remember the story correctly, Daryl Gable was a lucky fan who was selected to have a guest shot on the album. How cool is that? And he’s pretty good, too! I have to admit I like these dusky tropical flamenco things, so I consider “Tierra Del Fuego” to be a very successful album closer. But fear not, there’s plenty of electric guitar too!
Sacred Groove is pretty damn near flawless. If only they could have got Udo instead of Mandy, eh?