Slash’s Snakepit

REVIEW: Slash’s Snakepit – It’s Five O’Clock Somewhere (1995)

SLASH’S SNAKEPIT – It’s Five O’Clock Somewhere (1995 Geffen)

Somewhere in the multiverse is an alternate reality where Axl Rose did not reject Slash’s songs for the next Guns album.  In that version of history, the new Guns N’ Roses was not titled Chinese Democracy; perhaps it was called Back and Forth Again.  And it would have sounded a lot like It’s Five O’Clock Somewhere, the debut album by Slash’s Snakepit that we received in our reality’s year 1995.

As it went down, Axl said “no” to the songs Slash had finished, so Slash put them out as his first solo album.  And then Axl wanted them back.  In 1994, on the VHS The Making of Estranged: Part 4 of Trilogy, you can hear Guns working on one of these songs.  In the background, the music that would eventually become Slash’s “Back and Forth Again” is playing with Axl whistling overtop.  In the alternate reality, somebody’s listening to it right now as a Guns N’ Roses song.  In ours, it will only be Slash’s Snakepit.

Although Slash was enthused about his new music, and was eager to make a raw bluesy rock n’ roll album, Axl had other plans.  Who was right in the end?  It’s hard not to see Axl’s point of view.  Slash’s 14 songs had just one hit and 13 fillers.  Most of the best GN’R tracks were not written by Slash; they were written by Izzy Stradlin.  Left to his own devices, Slash’s batch of songs here lack memorable hooks.

Let’s start on a positive note at least — the lead single “Beggars & Hangers-On”.  Written by Slash n’ Duff with lead singer Eric Dover, this is a song that any band from Skynyrd to the Crowes to Zeppelin to Guns N’ Roses would have been proud to play.  Check out that riff — it’s as regal as the blues gets.   Powerful and soulful aching vocals from Dover.  The chorus roars, bright and bold, and you could only imagine what Axl could have done with it.  Matt Sorum’s drums splash at all the right moments, in his trademark fashion.  It’s a damn perfect song.  And it made people really excited for the album that was to come, Guns or no Guns.

Well, there were some Guns.  Slash had been working with Matt Sorum and the recently fired Gilby Clarke.  On bass was Mike Inez from Alice in Chains.  Though not in the Snakepit lineup, Slash also imported Dizzy Reed and Ted “Zig Zag” Andreadis from GN’R.  With those players, it sure sounded like Guns.  Only Dover really differentiates them.  Dover…and the songs.

There are fragments of brilliance through the whole record.  The acoustic intro to “Neither Can I” for example.  The circular snaky riff to the manic “Be the Ball” (not to mention Slash’s lyrics, which seem to be his personal life philosophy).  The boogie-woogie of instrumental “Jizz Da Pit”.  The wicked Inez bass on on Gilby Clarke’s “Monkey Chow”.  The Aerosmith vibe to “I Hate Everybody (But You)”.

And it’s a long album.  70 minutes of solid rock without a lot of variation.  Which is one reason why Slash’s 14 songs wouldn’t have cut it for Guns in 1995.  Appetite for Destruction had a variety of different songs on it, even if all shared a go-for-the-throat ferocity.  Slash did get the straightforward live sounding rock album he desired.  The guitars sound absolutely thick and offer a hint of what Slash and Gilby would have sounded like together on an original Guns studio album (like naturals).

It’s just a damn shame Slash’s solo debut is so disappointing.  It bears witness that Axl might not have been wrong.  You could make a hell of a GN’R album* out of the best tracks its members came up with.  But this isn’t it.

2/5 stars

* Alternate 1995 Chinese Democracy:

  1. Chinese Democracy (GN’R)
  2. Beggars and Hangers-On (Slash)
  3. Better (GN’R)
  4. Dead Flowers (Gilby/Axl – Stones cover)
  5. I.R.S. (GN’R)
  6. Street of Dreams (GN’R)
  7. Tijuana Jail (Gilby/Slash/Matt)
  8. Madagascar (GN’R)
  9. Absurd (GN’R)
  10. Six Feet Under (Duff/Matt – Neurotic Outsiders)
  11. This I Love (GN’R)
  12. Back and Forth Again (Slash)

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