Review: Slash – ‘Orgy Of The Damned’

14 years between solo albums is a lengthy time, but it’s not like Slash hasn’t been busy since he released his 2010 self-titled debut album. 4 studio albums with Slash featuring Myles Kennedy & the Conspirators, countless tours with SMKC as well as the small matter of packing them in with the reformed Guns N’ Roses. Oh, and then there was the small matter of a performance with Ryan Gosling at this year’s Oscars.

Chances are though that the iconic and instantly recognisable guitarist (instantly recognisable by sound almost as much as by sight) has not had as much fun in the 14 years since ‘Slash’ as he no doubt did recording the sophomore effort: ‘Orgy Of The Damned’.

‘Orgy Of The Damned’ follows the same path as the debut album: different vocalists for each track, and one killer instrumental track thrown in to allow Slash to flex his muscles. But unlike ‘Slash’ which only featured original songs; the follow-up is all cover versions, with a heavy lean toward the Blues.

Rockers returning to their roots by recording a Blues album is nothing new. Unlike fading pop stars reaching for some credibility (and Christmas sales) by sticking on a monkey suit and recording a Crooners album, the result is usually top-notch (Paul Rodgers’ ‘Muddy Water Blues: A Tribute to Muddy Waters’ and Gary Moore’s ‘Blues for Greeny’ immediately spring to mind), but ‘Orgy Of The Damned’ is something else. It is great fun.

Part of that fun factor is that Slash (as he did in his debut) has created a welcoming environment. In some instances his choice of vocalists (Demi Lovato and Dorothy immediately spring to mind) has him thinking out of the box in a way that will have Blues purists/keyboard warriors breaking out in a cold sweat as they furiously type “To play the Blues, you have to have lived the Blues”.

You fancy some traditional Blues? Feast on a riotous ‘Crossroad Blues’ that features the insanely talented Gary Clark Jr;  a slide-tastic ‘Hoochie Coochie Man’ has Billy F. Gibbons doing what he does best: be Billy F. Gibbons; Grammy Award-winning Chris Stapleton just about steals the show from Slash on Fleetwood Mac’s ‘Oh Well’ (just about, but this is, after all, Slash’s gig) and ‘Killing Floor’ is a perfect example of a band settling into a killer groove with telepathic-like qualities, and said band – Johnny Griparic (bass), Teddy Andreadis (keyboards), Michael Jerome (drums), and Tash Neal (vocals/guitar) sound right at home alongside Brian Johnson’s rip-roaring vocals and Steven Tyler’s enthusiastic harmonica.

It’s the more leftfield choices that impress the most though. Blues standard ‘Key to the Highway’ has been performed over the years by countless players, here, in the hands of US vocalist Dorothy Martin it swings like a nasty motherfucker; Iggy Pop (the only performer from the 2010 debut to also appear on ‘Orgy…’) pops up on Lightnin’ Hopkins’ 1962 track ‘Awful Dream’ and the sparse, stripped-back version that includes Iggy singing the harmonica parts is a thing of beauty.

And then there are the 2 tracks that are more R&B and Soul music rather than Blues. Tash Neal takes the opportunity that Slash gives him on Stevie Wonder’s ‘Living for the City’ and runs with it to great effect, and Demi Lovato knocks it out of the park on the bonafide R&B classic ‘Papa Was a Rolling Stone’. While ‘Killing Floor’ is the most fun moment on the album, this is the standout. Near 8 minutes of perfection that includes Slash on the talkbox, copious amounts of wah-wah from both Slash and Tash Neal, and Michael Jerome, impressing time and time again behind his kit. 2 moments to single out: at 03:58 when Slash ramps it up and the band comes in for a monster jam, and a few minutes later at 06:23 when Lovato’s stunning vocals and Slash’s guitar merge seamlessly. 2 moments worthy alone of the purchase price of  ‘Orgy Of The Damned’ and somewhere out there there has to be Slash’s version of the 12-minute original from Motown giants The Temptations.

Slash sounds as good here as he ever has. Free from the Rock God restraints, he sounds invigorated and plays out of his skin; as steve-oh5 commented on the video for ‘Papa Was a Rolling Stone’: “…yet another masterpiece stitched together by Slash and his ability to get the right musicians playing on the right tracks”. Spot-on steve-oh5, spot on.

‘Orgy Of The Damned’ is available now via Gibson Records.

All forthcoming Slash live dates can be found HERE.

Review – Dave

Slash photo credits – Gene Kirkland

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