The Record Review

The Place For Honest Record Reviews

Unwrite These Songs

lynyrdskynyrdnewLynyrd Skynyrd – God and Guns
September 29, 2009
Roadrunner Records

Victim of Loudness War? Yes

Listening to Lynyrd Skynyrd’s latest release, God and Guns, it’s hard to fathom how the band strayed so far from their original (and far superior) sound. Gone are the down-home grooves and simple-yet-brilliant lyrical themes present on the band’s classic material, the songs that built their legend and remain endeared by the masses since their debut over three decades prior. What remains are trite rockers and forced ballads, reminiscent of much of the country-pop scene that is dominating the Billboard charts as of late. The bulk of Lynyrd Skynyrd’s current recordings are nothing but throwaways, nothing more than an obvious cash grab wrapped in an effort to keep the present day lineup and its name on tour and raking in the dough. Continue reading

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October 1, 2009 Posted by | Blues, classic rock, Guitar, Guitars, Rock, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Collective Soul Just Can’t Shine

a92351c88da02eda51f53210.LCollective Soul – Collective Soul (Rabbit)
August 25, 2009
Roadrunner Records

Victim of Loudness War? Yes

Collective Soul initially captured the attention of rock fans worldwide with their massive 1993 hit, “Shine,” a catchy mid-tempo track that called upon all the best characteristics of 1970’s rock to produce an undeniable winner. The track was included on the band’s debut, Hints, Allegations and Things Left Unsaid, which featured more of the same kind of music and catapulted the band into mainstream popularity. It wasn’t until the band’s sophomore release, 1995’s Collective Soul, that the band truly came into their own as they unleashed four chart-topping hits and secured themselves as a viable force in rock music.

The thing that was instantly apparent about a Collective Soul album was that it was a place to store four or five songs intended for single release with four or five other songs that could only be deemed as filler. But this was generally okay, considering the songs they had to offer as singles were unmistakably catchy, containing solid riffs and arena-ready choruses that almost defied the listener not to like them. Thus, it was easy to overlook the duds that surrounded them on the album, as the singles were more than enough to make the purchase price seem worth laying out. Continue reading

August 25, 2009 Posted by | classic rock, Guitar, Guitars, Rock, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Ten Years Later: Def Leppard

DLeuphoriaDef Leppard – Euphoria
June 8, 1999
Mercury Records

Victim of Loudness War? Yes

Def Leppard was in a tough spot in 1999. Their 80’s rock sound had gone out of style when grunge swept its forearm across the musical table and their subsequent attempt to update their sound to match the times (1996’s Slang) fell flat on its face despite including some of the band’s best songs. So, they could either forge ahead with their revamped style and face the consequences or retreat to the approach that gained them notoriety in the first place. Perhaps with a bit of cowardice in tow, the band chose the latter. Although sticking to their newfound guns might have proved more interesting, going back to the well proved to be artistically successful, as the water they drew resulted in Euphoria, perhaps their strongest effort since their massive 1987 hit, Hysteria.

Ten years down the line, Euphoria remains a bittersweet victory. The flop of the more adventurous Slang certainly struck a crushing blow to the band, which seemed eager to dabble in darker, less-produced territory. But Def Leppard’s true strength has always lied in arena-ready guitar hooks and infectious choruses, which is exactly what Euphoria delivers. The album’s first single, “Promises,” is straight off of Hysteria’s cutting room floor, complete with the group’s trademark layered choruses and wall-of-sound guitars. More of a callback than a rehash, the track set the stage for much of the same throughout the album, a factor that again appears safe on paper but proves somewhat more risky on tape.

The fact that Euphoria manages to stay reasonably clear of being a rote retread of the band’s past success proves to be somewhat of a miracle, given the odds stacked against it. After all, not only did the band return to its previously-successful sound and title preference (reference Hysteria and Pyromania before it), but they enlisted Mutt Lange to help them along. Lange, who can be largely credited with the band’s 1980’s success due to his production and songwriting prowess, contributes to three of the album’s best songs (the aforementioned “Promises,” “All Night” and “It’s Only Love”) and ensures that his trademark style is embedded throughout. But again, this only helps the band rather than hinder them, despite the fact that the elements Lange adds to the proceedings were so closely tied to the style Def Leppard had previously attempted to stray from in order to remain relevant.

The fact remains that Euphoria makes only one heinous mistake throughout its thirteen tracks, the embarrassing “Back In Your Face.” Like so many of Def Leppard’s peers that fully fell from grace with the advent of the Seattle sound, the band opted to include a track that announces their return to glory that comes off forced and ridiculous. A general rule of thumb should be that if you’re trying to make a comeback, it’s unbelievably hokey to sing a song about it. If the songs are good enough, there’s no need to make such a fuss about the whole thing being a “comeback,” especially with a chorus that includes the lyrics, “I’m back in your face/Like I’ve never been away/I’m back in your face/And it’s where I’m gonna stay.”

Despite such an obvious misstep as “Back In Your Face,” Euphoria is still a phenomenally good record. The band has yet to match it with any release since (despite the stiff competition of 2002’s X) and it still stands between leaders Hysteria and Pyromania as the band’s best album. If you can forgive their obvious desire to bring things back into safe territory rather than forge ahead on the road less traveled, then Euphoria will be an enjoyable listen throughout. After all, it doesn’t take a contrived song to realize that Def Leppard really were back in your face.

– Ian Rice

August 6, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment