Four albums into the Tracii Guns/Phil Lewis reunion, and the high quality of material on offer from L.A. Guns shows no sign of abating. Always the classic partnership in L.A. Guns’ long history; Phil Lewis and L.A. Guns without Tracii Guns was in a sense like the Joe Perry-less version of Aerosmith but maybe not as good because ‘Rock In A Hard Place’ (the only Aerosmith album not to feature Perry) did have its moments. Since putting differences aside in 2017 and reuniting on the well-received album ‘The Missing Peace’, Guns and Lewis have been on a creative hot streak, and ‘Black Diamonds’ is the fourth album in six years from the rejuvenated L.A. Guns. And the best of the four.
As is the norm with any review of an album by a band with a legacy, the immortal line “The band sounds better than ever” has to be uttered. It’s a United Nations regulation. But in this case, it is actually genuinely true, and not just some cynical attempt by a hack to be noticed by the band. Without all the debauchery and partying, L.A. Guns do sound better than they did in the glory days of the Sunset Strip. Tracii Guns is playing like a man possessed and has cooked up some tasty guitar licks (the guitars on closing track ‘Like A Drug’ are particularly fiery), while Phil Lewis has obviously looked after himself over recent years and the end result is a vocal performance that defies time (pop on some cans and let his howls wash over you on album opener ‘You Betray’).
With Aerosmith reportedly warming up Aero Force One for one last hurrah, the title of “America’s Greatest Rock Band” is not up for grabs just yet, but what L.A. Guns has that Aerosmith doesn’t is that thirst to remain creative. Perry and Tyler have (hopefully) one last classic album within them, and they could do worse than look at Guns and Lewis for inspiration. Because in places, L.A. Guns are certainly displaying an Aerosmith influence or two – ‘Shame’ has that same cooler-than-cool strut that Aerosmith’s secret weapon Brad Whitford makes look effortless.
Zeppelin is another goldmine that gets plundered on a handful of occasions; the aforementioned album opener ‘You Betray’ is a swirling mix of middle-Eastern guitar tinges, Plant-like howls, and a crunching drum sound courtesy of Adam Hamilton (the stripped-back right-here-right-now production from Tracii Guns is a joy to behold); the acoustic parts of the rather gorgeous ‘Diamonds’ bring a ‘Zeppelin III’-vibe at times – wonderful vocals from Lewis on this one, while the big-ass guitar licks from Guns are at times monstrous (in case you haven’t picked up on it yet, ‘Black Diamonds’ is a guitar-driven album of the highest order – point that dial to track eleven ‘Like A Drug’ and purr with delight over Tracii Guns’ tones); and while ‘Gonna Lose’ stays on the Zeppelin path, ‘Babylon’ ducks down the path marked David Bowie/Alice Cooper glam and delivers (along with the nailed-on drum sound on ‘Got It Wrong’ and the punkier, seedier ‘Lowlife’) one of the standout moments on the album.
Anyone unfamiliar with the recent output from L.A. Guns might class ‘Black Diamonds’ as an unexpected delight, but to everyone that rejoined the Guns/Lewis train in 2017, there is nothing unexpected about this. Had the album been below par, then that would be unexpected. But it isn’t.
Available now via Frontiers Music SRL.
Connect with the band, here.
Review – Dave