Monday 3 May 2021

Gilby Clarke - The Gospel Truth (2021)

Country: USA
Style: Hard Rock
Rating: 7/10
Release Date: 23 Apr 2021
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The title of this album from former Guns n' Roses guitarist, Gilby Clarke, feels appropriate, because it often feels like he's preaching to us, even if it isn't in any religious way. It's there in the upbeat nature of the sound and it's there in the Hammond organ on Wayfarer and the perky brass on the title track. The cover art suggests country music too, which adds another tie to gospel, even if it doesn't ever get close to that genre. It's all in the presentation, I guess.

The problem, I think, is that we're never quite sure what is being preached, because the album moves all over the place. Just rock 'n' roll? If so, that's cool, but at least half the songs feel safe, not the take I'd want from a guitarist on his fifth solo album almost thirty years after the first. It says tired and not particularly driven any more. I'd write the album off on that line, except that there are other songs in which Clarke shows some real attitude and edge, exactly what I want hear from a guitarist on his fifth solo album almost thirty years after the first. It says hungry and driven. Is Clarke both?

It sounds good from the outset, but safe up to Tightwad, which is at least catchy and features a couple of name guests: Nikki Sixx (Mötley Crüe) on bass and Stephen Perkins (Jane's Addiction) on drums. All these early songs are built out of good riffs so they're perfectly enjoyable, but they need some more oomph to them, as did the album after three songs like these. Fortunately, that's exactly what Clarke delivers on Rock n' Roll is Getting Louder, which is punkier and edgier, led by a really vibrant bass from Muddy Stardust and a sassier riff from Clarke, even if it's one he borrowed from Elton John's Saturday Night's Alright for Fighting.

The best song here, by far to my way of thinking, is Violation, which is a glorious way to see how close a lot of rock music actually is. It's a song that finds its groove immediately and reminds just as quickly of the Rolling Stones. This is blues rock that's been hardened and toughened by decades on the road but is still ready for dancing. There's even a honky tonk piano in there at points. However, the vocals have not just some Mick Jagger sass but some Iggy Pop sneer. This is the Stones covered by the Stooges and then they hit the chorus and it's suddenly Hawkwind covering the Stooges covering the Stones and it's all seven shades of wonderful.

Even after a couple of times through, I was considering a 6/10 for this album, but Violation is well into the 9/10 range and some of these riffs are really infectious. The one on The Ending is simple but very effective. There's a fantastic pick up late in Dangerous Sin to give it edge enough to live up to its title. There's attitude in Rusted n Busted that echoes Rock n' Roll is Getting Louder. It's suddenly like the album does want to kick our ass, even if it can't be bothered for half the songs. So I'm sneaking my rating back up to a 7/10. After all, none of this is bad and some of it's good, with Violation unmistakably great. I just wish I could get my head around why it's so inconsistent.

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