A little before Velvet Revolver imploded a year or so ago, Slash announced to the world that he was working on a solo album. And honestly, can you blame him? The world’s favorite top hat totting axeman had to deal with Axl Rose for a decade, and his success with Velvet Revolver depended on keeping Scott Wieland sober. Let’s face it; the only way for Slash to complete the trifecta of pain-in-the-ass performers would be for a collaboration with Kanye.
I talk about frontmen so much because on Slash, there really isn’t one. Not being able to sing himself, Slash brings in 12 singers to lay down vocals for him. The list runs the gamut from rock n’ roll giants like Ozzy Osbourne to pop divas like Fergie. The quality of their music can be questionable (Fergie after all, gave the world “I Gotta Feeling”, and Chris Cornell made Scream), but the collaborators here hit much more often than they miss. On the instrumental side, there’s the man of the hour providing the main lead and rhythm guitar while session giants Josh Freese and Chris Chaney take up the rhythm section on all but two or three tracks (Foo Fighters drummer Taylor Hawkins steps in on Ozzy’s “Crucify the Dead”, Lemmy plays bass on his own “Doctor Alibi”). On paper, Slash has all the promises of greatness.
The catch is that this isn’t a particularly surprising record. Most everyone plays to their strengths, but the problem is that we already know those strengths too well. It doesn’t make anything less enjoyable, but when you throw Ozzy at a hard rock power trio, you already know the result is going to be a dramatic metal number. Or when you toss Kid Rock into the same band, you’re going to get a lame Southern Rock knockoff. Very quickly, the unofficial rule becomes two verse-chorus cycles, Slash plays a bitchin’ solo, optional bridge, final chorus, end scene. This is the record’s greatest flaw: while never cringe-worthy bad, Slash and co barely capitalize on their true potential, usually calling for a “good” when a “great” would have been possible.
The backing band is the most consistent and best thing about this album. Slash, Freese, and Chaney are the constant sound that keeps the record together while simultaneously sounding tailor-made for whoever’s at the mic stand at a given moment. The song that shows this best is Fergie’s surprisingly good “Beautiful Dangerous”; Slash and the boys settle into more of a groove while coaxing a knock-out rock performance by a woman whose trademark is lowest common denominator pop. This approach works with less ideal results on Adam Levine’s “Gotten”, a pop rock number that falters on the heels of Andrew Stockdale’s scorching “By the Sword”. The band definitely does better when they get to turn it up to ten; M. Shadows’ “Nothing To Say” thrashes like a more experienced A7, and Dave Grohl takes the drums and old G N’ R alumni Duff McKagan jumps in on stellar instrumental “Watch This”. Ultimately, things work best with the collaborations that seem the most comfortable; “Doctor Alibi” features rock n’ roll legend Lemmy Kilmester for a three minute romp that epitomizes the letters on the cover of the album: R & FN’ R.
tl;dr: Slash is a fun but predictable modern hard rock affair that might just live in your car stereo this summer.
Three and a half out of five.