Jack Russell’s Great White Set Sail with NEW RELEASE
The best part of reviewing a release when you’re a super-fan of a band is you’ve been given something you WANT to review, the worse part of reviewing a release is you have to be objective and detached from it too. Way too many times I will find myself being too critical and other times I throwing too many accolades on mediocrity.
With this release it’s even harder for me because I’ve been a fan of Jack Russell’s for so many years and love the band of musicians he’s no longer with in the “other” Great White.
A little over 8 years has passed since my initial disappointment in the last Great White/Jack Russell fronted release, “Rising”. This was a time when Jack was swimming close to the bottom of his beloved open seas, close, but not the bottom…not yet. Jack would hit bottom a bit later not only with losing his vocal spot with the band he helped create and the passing of his close friend, Jani Lane, but with Jack seeing he really was “that” guy that people were whispering about behind his back. The eventual shock that comes with losing two important things in life you love, you start looking at things a little bit different and Jack knew if changes weren’t made, in lieu of just a singer taking his place in Great White, they’d be singing at HIS memorial. It came time for Jack to actually “Face the Day” or say the “Big Good-bye”. Though it wasn’t without some falling back on some of those bad habits, Mr. Russell came a bit further than most people ever thought he would, he lived. That in itself was a feat that no one would have taken the bet on and this album kind of touches on that feat.
Eventually some hard work, getting back in touch with his beloved fans, Jack wiped away the blood that he drew and others contributed to and set sail once again. There was still life in the old salty dog and definitely a lot of life in those vocal chords.
Let me first state, do NOT judge the album by the cover. If there is anything I’m going to be unapologetically negative about with this disc, it’s the cover. But as I remind you all, I had to remind myself, the “art” is in the music, not its cover. The content is far superior than which it is contained…ok then…
There is a little bit of everything in this release from Frontier Records that makes you wonder, did he hold back, was the old band worried about spreading their wings? There’s some funk in a few songs such as “She Moves Me”, “Crazy” and especially “Don’t Let Me Go.” The latter had me doing a double take at my computer to make sure I wasn’t picking up cross signals from an old episode of “Soul Train”. Now don’t be fooled, Russell and the boys don’t sail too far away from their mixture of blues and rock roots.
The opening track sets the tone if you will; this is JACK and no one knows Jack like JACK KNOWS JACK! You’ll find it as I said in the lead track, “Sign of the Times”. This song shows the Jack Russell voice we all fell in love with back in the day with a bit of musicianship showing some of the past. Guitarist Tony “Montana” Cardenas finds himself behind the six-string this go round than the 4 string he thumped in the old “Great White” band; he also shows he’s got some chops. Of course he’s the perfect complement to long time sidekick and guitarist, Robby Lochner who holds down the fort. This song is the closest that we actually get to being able to compare apples to apples. One of my favorites because Jack shines with his vocals and the musicians step right up alongside the “Captain” and neither overshadows the other. The into with its “mixed” acoustic and subtle electric guitar nuances are a bit reminiscent of “Save Your Love”, but more power than ballad here.
“Love Don’t Live Here” is a tune that puts Jack and the band right in the pocket without replicating or imitating the past. This tune is a little lighter and “poppier” than what you might expect from this band, but different can actually be a good thing. Hell this song could fit in a Styx, Firehouse, etc. catalog as much as it could in Great White’s discography. The newest editions in the rhythm section of Dan McNay on Bass and Dicki Fliszar on drums make this version of JR’s Great White the strongest to date. Each musician brings it in their own right, each complimenting one and other while shining with each other instead of casting a heavy shadow on the others.
Lochner shows his nimble fingers and his inner EVH with the opening riff of “Spy Vs Spy.” This song keeps that EVH thing and a “Drop Dead Legs” feel to it. This track could have been the new “Bond” theme if and when they make another Bond film. This song, as well as a few more tracks on the album take a few studio liberties to “enhance” Jack’s vocals. The biggest problem is…Jack doesn’t NEED those damn enhancements! Just because you have the ability to do it, doesn’t necessarily mean you HAVE to do it.
In his late 50’s, Russell isn’t one of “those” guys who needs help vocally. He may have partied more, snorted more, drank more, smoked more and stayed too long doing it, but the chops he was gifted with leave little trace of any of the abuse on them. Press the fast forward button to track 6, “Anything for You” if you don’t believe me. First, if you’ve never experienced vinyl, this song will let you hear and feel the “scratchiness” of old school plastic, secondly, you will experience “THE VOICE” untouched in all its beautiful glory on this song. I don’t know, but I’m picking up a bit of a “Beatle” vibe, not just here but on a few songs scattered throughout.
Take for instance, the title track, “He Saw It Comin’”, while a strong tune, I’m picking up a bit of “Benefit for Mr. Kite” vibe and with some of the “enhancements” getting some of that Beatles “Magical Mystery” feel. I also heard it in “Crazy” when they use the mixer on his vocals there giving it the “Beatlesque” thing, though the song itself also has that Aerosmith rhythm pattern in it, not to mention that Jack spits some lyrics in this tune too. I like outside the box, but this might be a little too outside the box for most people, but not this guy.
You could say he pays a little homage to one of the songs that put GW into the Pantheon of rock and roll, “Face the Day” in the song, “My Addiction”. Jack lays down that deep bluesy voice and mixed with that bass…sweetness all over it!
The tune “Blame It On the Night” has a little Asia meets Blue Oyster Cult guitar assault feel with Jack cutting in with more of that smooth dirtiness. This track is one I’ve listened to over and over, first for the musicianship, and then the vocals, then the whole enchilada…love this tune.
The album closes out with “Godspeed” that is a little of this, that and the other thing. When I say that I mean, some Beatles, Beach Boys, Small Faces and some doo wop. If you don’t smile and get in a good mood upon listening to this tune, you need to get your meds adjusted. This is just a really happy song. The same can be said for the entire album, though a few are heartfelt and heartbreaking song, some songs stronger than others, but all of them strong in their own right.
I guess you could say this album could have been recorded by the old band, but it wouldn’t have the same feel. I would put this album’s enjoyability factor up against ANY album that Mr. Russell has laid his vocal touch on throughout his career. The thing about this record that makes it different? Each song can stand on its very own meaning there’s more meat than filler here as on most releases nowadays. I’m going to be happy to place the “VINYL” release proudly in my collection right next to one of my Top 5 favorite bands ever…Great White. Jack’s is only going along side of it and not in it because G comes before J, otherwise….who knows!
Acclamazioni miei amici!