Slash Returns To Form, John Mayer Transforms and The Hip are At Transformation

Add It To The Collection: Hot on the heels of being inducted into the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame as part of Guns ‘n’ Roses, iconic guitar god Slash has released his second solo album, Apocalyptic Love. While the album is billed as a Slash solo album, it has more of a band-like feeling than anything Slash has been involved with since perhaps Appetite For Destruction.  Unlike his debut solo effort, Apocalyptic Love features only one lead singer – the very capable Alter Bridge vocalist Myles Kennedy, who also acts as the albums lone lyricist – and the all-Canadian rhythm section of bassist Todd Kearns (Age Of Electric) and drummer Brent Fitz (Theory Of A Deadman/Econoline Crush). 

The foursome share all writing credits and there are no guest musicians on the album – just four guys churning out a big riff rock album.  Unlike Slash’s Snakepit or even Velvet Revolver’s output, Slash’s latest has a very focussed sound, following the same formula as the very best of the early GnR material – riff, bluesy vocal, soaring guitar solo and a fist-pumping beat. And despite the fact that you won’t hear this album on mainstream radio and it won’t sell like a GnR reunion album/tour would, it all works.  “One Last Thrill” is the most GnR track to come out since the “Use Your Illusion” albums.  The track chugs along at breakneck speed with Slash and Kennedy in perfect, if not frantic, unison. The album features some of Slash’s best recorded guitar playing in years, from the bluesy “Far And Away” to the wah-wah wail of the title track.  Must have track: “Anastasia” – Slash takes a classical Bach (not Sebastian) melody and melts it into a huge riff and epic soaring guitar classic.

Worth Another Listen: Who is John Mayer?  Since arriving on the scene with his debut Room For Squares in 2001, Mayer has gone from pretty-boy singer songwriter to bluesman, pop star to guitar god, and everything in between.  On his 2008 live concert film, Where The Light Is, Mayer impressively delivers three distinct sets of acoustic, blues and pop numbers in one show with two different backing bands.  Is he experiencing multiple personalities or does he suffer from ADD? His latest effort finds Mayer delivering on yet another musical personality – the 70’s singer/songwriter.  The dimpled, clean-shaven image is replaced by a shaggy, Johnny Depp-esque vagabond and the sound is sunny southern California meets Nashville, Tennessee.  If the Eagles, James Taylor, Neil Young and the Allman Brothers collaborated on an album it would likely sound like Mayer’s latest, Born And Raised – and that’s not a bad thing.  At the center of the album is the title track and it’s the perfect anchor for the entire record.  Acoustic guitar, harmonica, slide, lush harmonies and beautiful melodies coming together perfectly on a track that would’ve fit seamlessly on CSNY’s Déjà Vu record.   Recently Mayer has been sidelined from playing live due to throat surgery, but this is the kind of material that would be great to see performed, cover-to-cover in an intimate setting. Must have track: “Walt Grace’s Submarine Test, January 1967″ – Mayer weaves an incredibly moving musical and lyrical journey while developing a crystal clear main character and plot. 

Quick Hit:  Canada’s beloved The Tragically Hip are back with a new single, “At Transformation”, from their forthcoming fall release, tentatively titled Now For Plan A.  Why you would release a single four months ahead of the album is beyond me, but I have to say, “At Transformation” sounds like a return to form for Kingston’s third greatest exports (behind Don Cherry and Doug Gilmour).  The Hip aren’t breaking any new ground with this track but it’s the first song since 1998’s “Poets” that gnarls and rocks the way a Hip song should.  Perhaps “At Transformation” is a sign of good things to come…

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