Type: CD Company: Frontiers Release: 2017 Genre: Hard Rock Reviewer: Eric Compton Published: 2/17/2017
Smooth, commercially friendly hard rock with an iconic voice
Okay, let's get the unpleasant out of the way first. Great White, like plenty of other hard rock and metal bands, is a divided camp. Original members Kendall (co-founder), Lardie and Desbrow have their own "Great White" with singer Terry Ilous (XYZ). In 2013, Federal Court legally allowed Russell (co-founder) to have his own version of "Great White" entitled "Jack Russell's Great White". In scenarios like this I just think the glass is full all the time. We get two creative forces instead of one. Twice the performances, twice the productivity. I'm okay with it.
Jack Russell's Great White release 'He Saw it Comin', via Frontiers, is nearly perfect. It's early and I'm stepping way out here but I think it could be my album of the year thus far. Russell is healthy for the first time in a long time and his pairing with longtime Great White bassist Tony Montana really enhances this "songwriter's album". Montana switches from bass to guitar for the record and his presence is, as Russell has stated in interviews, a momentum builder for this band and album.
Opener "Sign of the Times" is a classic song that fits with Great White's legacy (although I hear a bit of Priest's "Desert Plains"). The mid-tempo pace is built around simple blues riffs and a steady beat from Dicki Fliszar. It's elementary, but its the perfect sing-along to stir the juices. Next is "She Moves Me", a 70's swanky funk job that builds to a smooth chorus. It's not heavy by any means and is way more commercially accessible than I tend to like, but a good song is a damn good song, pop or not. Listen to that elegant little lead at the two-minute mark. Third is "Crazy" and one of the few negatives on the album. It's not terrible, but the hooky blues riff and writing reminds me of the 80's plague of bands like Poison. "Love Don't Live Here" should be on the radio right now; what a classic ballad. Love the writing, the verses and the bigger chorus--pure ear-candy indulgence. Russell sounds phenomenal. "My Addiction" has a cool bass warm-up with a little down-tuned riff with Russell sounding a little different. Love the slower pace as it winds up. It's everything "Crazy" could have been.
The second half kicks off with a tear-jerker. "Anything for You" is a slower ballad that is incredibly emotional with Russell's vocals and the simple acoustic strings. "What would we do if we had no tomorrows, what would you say as the last thing before I pass away". Heavy stuff. Another radio hit if we had radio--"He Saw it Comin'"; fun stuff that leads into an Alice Cooper-esque piano rock. It's slightly cabaret and I love every second of it..."America loves idols, they build them up to watch them fall". 'Don't Let Me Go' follows with one of two tracks that is early rock oriented. It's bubble gum, slow-pace, late-night-drive-in stuff. It's way commercial and fits the current retro fad.
Another radio hit and possibly my summer song this year-- 'Spy vs Spy'--is an incredible throwback to something like Johnny Rivers' "Secret Agent Man", a little rock nugget with really cool harmonized vocals and short riffs. The production leaves this song and others with a softer edge to the strings. It blends the whole thing into a smooth delivery. 'Blame It on the Night' starts out like a Scorpions track and proves to be one of the heavier songs. It's 80's AOR and soaked in nostalgia and clichés, but it's a guilty pleasure I'm proud of. "Godspeed" is the furthest thing from a hard rock entry. Other than a soft bass the track features no instruments. It's Beach Boys harmonized pop in the vein of "Don't Let Me Go". It's at the end for a reason but I think it is a fitting end to one Hell of an enjoyable record.
You can take the album as a whole or fragment it and pick out songs individually. How it affects you is up to your open-mindedness. This isn't a heavy album by any stretch of the imagination. It isn't a raw rock record and doesn't proclaim it's from the streets or the gutter. It's polished smooth rock and roll that's easy to digest and works like comfort food. I'm on it like a rat on a Cheeto.
About this Writer: Eric Compton // Eric Compton lives in the most haunted city in the world, St. Augustine, Florida with his family and two yorkies. He has served as senior editor for MaximumMetal.com for nearly 10 years and is the author of the heavy metal book series--Denim & Letters. His reviews, interviews and social commentary has been featured on websites like Brave Words, Blabbermouth, Metal Temple, Metal Rules, Ultimate Metal, Metal Maniacs and Wikipedia.
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