Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Album Review: The Winery Dogs

Elevate me take me higher
I dont want to be wasted
I've got nothing left to lose...

This happens alot to me. I'm late to the party on getting an album. Bands, movies, etc don't feel bad. I'm late on everything. I was the last person on the planet to get a CD player, the last to get a DVD player, the last to get a PC, and the last to get an MP3 player. Its just how I am, I guess. 

Anyway, on to The Winery Dogs. I'd heard all about Them from every musician friend that I know. I was very interested in hearing them. I listed them as an honorable mention on my Top 10 Releases of 2013 post because I had only heard 2 tracks off the album at that time, and I thought if I didn't mention them, my friends might lynch me in the middle of the night. If I had heard the album at the time, they would most definitely be on the list, rather than an honorable mention. 

The Winery Dogs are:

 Richie Kotzen is the guitarist who briefly replaced CC Deville in Poison. I was expecting Mr Big meets Dream Theater with kind of a glam feel. I was wondering why they went with Kotzen. Since he has really been out of the loop for a long time as far as I knew, and his only credit (that I knew of) was being in Poison, I was really skeptical about him. 

Mike Portnoy of course is the original drummer/founder of Dream Theater. One of the best around. Honestly, since being replaced in Dream Theater, he seems really happy based on the interviews and appearances I've seen him in. He has a damn good reason to be happy now, for sure. He has a great band, with a great debut album. Ask me to choose between seeing Dream Theater and The Winery Dogs in concert, and its The Winery Dogs, without even a second thought. 

And the third piece, of course is Billy Sheehan. Bass guitar virtuoso, who played with great guitarists like Steve Vai with David Lee Roth, and Paul Gilbert with Mr. Big. I think that Sheehan was a great guitarist as a kid, but because he grew into such a tall guy, he had to switch to bass because he was more comfortable with it. (That was a lame joke) Seriously, he can do on a bass what lots of guitarists wish they could do on guitar. 

I Underestimated Kotzen. Many people did. What I got was a pleasant surprise. On top of its classic feel, it  has a much more modern feel, balancing influences from the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s. Also, Richie Kotzen is a phenomenal guitarist, who was either holding back in Poison, or he did lots of practicing since then. The man duels with Sheehan, and some of the solos and song arrangements are nothing short of spectacular. Something you would expect from the virtuoso type guitarists. I listen to this, and I realize that Richie Kotzen is an extremely underrated guitarist. He's a pretty damn good singer too. And of course, Sheehan and Portnoy form one hell of a brutal rhythm section.

I think that the most amazing thing about this album is the fact that 11 of 13 songs were written by Kotzen, Sheehan, and Portnoy collectively. It shows. The other 2 songs; Damaged and Regret were written by Kotzen.

The first song on the album, Elevate has a very uplifting feel and message. It’s a fun song that would make time pass on a long road trip. It is a very good opener for the album because the entire album is that way. The video for Elevate is just the three band members playing, but we see something about Kotzen that sets him apart from lots of other guitarists. He does not use a pic. He uses his fingers like Mark Knoppler. This means that he is fingerpicking or tapping those fast leads that he does throughout the album. And to do that intricate picking while singing is impressive. Time Machine has a kind of dark Deep Purpleesque feel to it. But the solo at the end of the song makes my head explode considering Kotzen is finger picking on it.

While it does have a modern rock/metal feel to it, it also has the feel of metal that has been AWOL since the late 80’s to early 90’s. For example, Damaged is a power ballad, that has roots and influence in 80’s metal, and even a Soundgarden feel, but flows like a ballad that you might hear on the radio today. Not to mention Kotzen’s beautiful guitar solo.

The Winery Dogs basically have all the talent of Dream Theater, but the album much easier to listen to for non musician fans. Yes, this is a 'supergroup,' but one thing I like about this over other recent 'supergroup' outings is that while the songs are brilliant in musical composition, they are easy to listen to. They aren't just each individual member showcasing themselves. All the songs sound different, yet they all have the feel that the same band wrote them. That’s one thing that makes this ‘supergroup’ more appealing to me than others. The Winery Dogs have a chemistry that makes them sound like they have been together as a band for a decade, and I hope they are. I'm waiting for them to come to my area in concert, and I'm already anxiously awaiting their next album. So, if you haven't yet, go pick this one up. You will wear it out.

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