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Thursday 23 May 2024

Review: Slash (Review By Paul Scoble)

Slash – Orgy Of The Damned (Gibson Records) 

Saul Hudson, or Slash as he is better known shouldn’t need any introduction for anyone into rock or heavy metal. From Slash’s Snakepit to Velvet Revolver, Slash featuring Myles Kennedy and the Conspirators and of course the little matter of a late Eighties rock band called Guns N’ Roses, Slash has always excelled at great guitar solos and rhythms and must be one of the most recognisable musicians in the world. I have read Mr Slash’s Autobiography, which is filled with the kind of drinking, drug taking and debauchery that I am amazed he is still alive, let alone able to play so well. Orgy Of The Damned is Slash’s sixth solo album, and is an album of covers from a type of music he has loved for years; blues.

The album features eleven covers and one original instrumental, all of the covers feature a different singer guesting on it, so on Orgy Of The Damned Slash is joined by: Brian Johnson (AC/DC), Chris Stapleton, Beth Hart, Iggy Pop, Paul Rodgers, Gary Clark Jr, Billy F. Gibbons (ZZ Top), Chris Robinson (The Black Crowes), Demi Lovato, Dorothy, and Tash Neal on vocals. If that wasn’t enough he has also had some help from talented musician friends as well; Billy Gibbons also plays guitar on Hoochie Coochie Man, Gary Clark Jr plays a guitar solo as well as singing on Crossroads and Steven Tyler of little known band Aerosmith plays a Harmonica and screaming solo on Killing Floor. Isn’t it great to have talented friends!

The album kicks off with one of the lesser known tracks; The Pusher originally by Hoyt Axton. The Verse is soft and slow with a soulful feel to it, and a very powerful chorus sung very well by Chris Robinson of The Black Crows. As you would expect the song has a great guitar solo which is very appropriate to the song. After The Pusher comes one of the best-known blues standards; Crossroads. This is an up-tempo version of the song, Slash hasn’t fallen into the trap of copying the Jimi Hendrix version (the version that rock fans would know best), the song has a soft and soulful section in the middle that features Hammond Organ and a great solo. The vocals and at least one guitar solo was performed by Gary Clark Jr, who does a great job.

Next comes the song Hoochie Coochie Man, another stone-cold classic blues standard that was written by Willie Dixon and popularised by Muddy Waters. This version features Billy F Gibbons on guitar and vocals and, man, his voice is just perfect for this song and its slow swagger. Billy’s slide guitar solo is also perfect, and the song has some very good Harmonica from Les Stroud. I was a little nervous when I saw which track was next; my Dad is a huge blues fan and he Loves Peter Green’s Fleetwood Mac, so seeing Oh Well as the next track made me excited but also a little nervous; I’ve known that song all my life, what if this version isn’t very good? Well, I had nothing to fear as the version of the song on Orgy Of The Damned is very close to the original, even down to the guitar tones, and is done in a very respectful way. Chris Stapleton does the Vocals very well, and bring a lot of personality to his performance, and the faster parts in the second half of the song are great and full of positive energy.

The next song is Key To The Highway, originally recorded by Blues pianist Charlie Segar, probably the best known version is by Eric Clapton. The song is a stomping mid-paced blues with a really powerful vocal performance from Dorothy and some great leads with loads of melody. After Key To The Highway comes Awful Dream written by Blues legend Lightnin’ Hopkins, a dark and broody slow burn track, the vocals are by Iggy Pop whose deep gravely growl is perfect for the song.

The next track is another classic blues standard; Born Under A Bad Sign. The song was originally written by William Bell and Booker T Jones (of Booker T And The MG’s), the most well-known version is by Albert King who released an album with this as the title track, the version on Orgy Of The Damned is a fairly straight cover of the Albert King interpretation, the song needs someone with a great soulful voice to sing it, so it’s lucky that Slash got Paul Rogers to sing it. After Born Under A Bad Sign we get a song that is closer to rhythm and blues rather than just blues; Papa Was A Rolling Stone written by Norman Whitfield and Barret Strong for Motown. The song was recorded by several Motown acts, most successfully by The Temptations. This version is true to the more soulful feel of the song with Fender Rhodes keyboards and a funky clean guitar riff and is sung by Demi Lovato. This is a very strong track, the vocal performance is great, starting subtle and getting bigger and bigger as the song progresses. I love the fact that I can hear the lyrics really well, as they are excellent, and the song has a big powerful second half which has a great guitar solo.

Another classic Blues track next with Killing Floor originally by Chester Burnett, also known as Howling Wolf. Killing Floor is a great, fast, Blues Boogie with Brian Johnson of AC/DC on Vocals and Steven Tyler of Aerosmith on Harmonica. It’s great to hear Brian’s Voice in a different context to his day job in AC/DC, the song has great solos both guitar and harmonica and is an awesome swaggery blast of a song. Next is another R&B classic; Stevie Wonders Living For The City featuring Tash Neal on vocals. It is done in a very respectful way, close to the original including that wonderful chorus. Again there is a great guitar solo, which is in keeping with the style of the song.

Up next is the last of the blues covers; Stormy Monday originally by The Allman Brothers Band. The song features an incendiary vocal performance from Beth Hart. The song is slow and melancholy with a vocal that dominates the song and makes everything else become background. It’s a great track and a very powerful way to bring the covers part of the album to a close. Orgy Of The Damned comes to an end with an instrumental called Metal Chestnut, which is made up of Guitar and Piano and features and very strong melody lead.

Orgy Of The Damned is a stunning album. It is, by quite a long way, the best covers album I have ever heard. All the tracks have been treated in a respectful and appropriate way, Slash hasn’t tried to turn everything into a Rock or Metal song (something that would have been very easy). Even down to the Guitar tones Slash uses on this album, none of them scream ‘Slash’, they are all right for the song, and so each one has its own sound that fits that song. 

The vocal performances are all superb, all of the vocalists have excelled themselves, I have a feeling that after hearing the backing tracks that Slash et al had produced the guest artists decided to push themselves every bit as hard as Slash must have to produce this wonderful album. I hope some rock and metal fans who are drawn to this due to Mr Slash’s involvement end up with a love of the blues, after hearing this tribute to music that Slash loves. I’m already hoping for an Orgy Of The Damned Volume 2 (just in case Mr Slash is thinking of doing another album like this could I get in early with some requests? I’d love to hear Slash’s take on Freddie King’s Palace Of The King, Hound Dog Taylor’s Give Me Back My Wig, or if he’s feeling brave; Buddy Guy’s Stone Crazy, I’d love to hear him give those a go!).

Wonderful Album, do yourself a favour and buy it! 9/10

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