(Loud & Proud Records)
Amid the strains of my woefully misspent youth, there were several Hard Rock and Heavy Metal releases that would have a profound impact of my adult musical tastes. A prime example of this was Skyscraper (1988), the second full-length solo effort from then former Van Halen frontman David Lee Roth. Fueled throughout by truly significant lyrical and compositional contributions from ex-Alcatrazz/Frank Zappa guitarist Steve Vai and former Talas and future Mr. Big/Explorer's Club and Niacin bassist Billy Sheehan, I quickly became unabashed devotees of their respective, notoriously prolific careers (most notably the ingenious instrumental tome Passion And Warfare and the chart-topping “To Be With You”-fueled gem Lean Into It). Now, nearly thirty years after initially becoming acquainted with his career, I once again find myself intrigued with Sheehan's groundbreaking style with the release of Hot Streak, the highly-anticipated sophomore effortfrom the mighty The Winery Dogs.
On the brilliant Hot Streak (2015), an expertly assembled thirteen son collection of Blues-inflected Hard Rock and Heavy Metal, each track, beginning with the shred-laden first single “Oblivion” and the swaggering, emotionally-charged “Captain Love”, immediately commands the rapt and undivided attention of all parties involved, myself most definitely included. Understandably intent on proving themselves capable of avoiding the dreaded 'sophomore slump' that has befallen so many of their like-minded brethren, the group punctuates their musings with enough hooks and harmonies to appeal to a truly broad target demographic. Reminding us all of their more-than-considerable instrumental capabilities without, believe it or not, overwhelming the listener amid an avalanche of mind-numbing redundancies, the group delivers a sonic barrage that accurately embodies the finest musical elements from each member without the well-publicized 'baggage and strife' of their prior groups.
Continuing with the shimmering and oft-surreal “Ghost Town” and the rumbling, albeit thought-provoking, “War Machine”, the steadfast--to say the very least--combination of vocalist/guitarist Richie Kotzen (Mr. Big, Poison), bassist Billy Sheehan (David Lee Roth, Mr. Big, Talas) and drummer Mike Portnoy (Adrenaline Mob, Avenged Sevenfold, Dream Theater) steamroll ahead with what can only be described as a truly sickening ease. With Kotzen effectively anchoring the group via the passionate vocals and razor-sharp riffs and solos that have repeatedly personified his notoriously prolific solo career (Peace Sign and Cannibals serve as prime examples), the axeman's absolute command as a frontman allows both Sheehan and Portnoy to shine within their respective realms. Driving home each key focal point by offering their myriad of uniquely-dedicated constituents exactly what they've been longing for, the group wastes precious little time 're-engulfing' the proverbial average listener.
Serving as the quintessential companion and/or sequel to their universally-heralded self-titled debut (2013), other standouts, including the relentlessly pummeling lament “Devil You Know” and the equally impressive, emotionally-charged closer “The Lamb”, further showcase the group's increasingly rare ability to effortlessly 'deliver the goods'. Most definitely not for those without a genuine and sincere interest in the broadening of their musical horizons with equal doses of Blues, Hard Rock and in some cases, Prog, the group's efforts portray a cohesive, multi-dimensional unit operating amid a bona fide creative peak. Although the veritable wealth of virtuosic posturing showcased throughout only further solidifies the already well-documented talents of each individual member, what ultimately separates the group and, as a result, makes the mighty Hot Streak one of the waning year's most pleasant surprises is a collaborative emphasis on crafting lastingly memorable compositions.
But why should you really care? While not as immediately palpable as their debut, the majority--if not all--of the deftly-executed wares contained herein offer a much-welcomed reprieve from seemingly nameless artists and groups of the hopelessly blasé mainstream. Even if you somehow find yourself less than enthralled with the arguably bloated premise of three of the genre's most gifted artists joining forces (as with all 'Super Group' projects, the initial potential for disaster was alarmingly high), one must, at the very least, sincerely admire the veritable wealth of dedication and unabashed talent that the Kotzen, Sheehan and Portnoy have so blissfully unleashed upon a largely unsuspecting public. Needless to say, if you've once again found yourself in search of a refreshingly flavorful alternative to the puréed Pop and Hip-Hop noise that is so often forced fed en mass, then this, my friends, might just be the high-octane cure-all for what ails you. Trust me, you will not be disappointed.
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