Friday 2 July 2021

Myles Kennedy - The Ides of March (2021)

Country: USA
Style: Rock
Rating: 7/10
Release Date: 14 May 2021
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I'm not the biggest fan of the safe commercial brand of alternative grunge rock that Alter Bridge play but I can acknowledge that they're very good at what they do and it's difficult not to be happy when a song like Open Your Eyes comes on at the bowling alley, given everything that was playing before it. In that scenario, even a band like Creed sounds good! However, I have a special level of respect for Myles Kennedy, their lead singer (and a capable guitarist), because he can put his ego on hold to support a different artist, as he does when his solo band, Myles Kennedy and the Conspirators, transform into a backing band for Slash. I'm not aware of a lot of examples of this, but I think of it as a Nils Lofgren sort of thing, given that he gave up a successful international solo career to play for Bruce Springsteen.

This is a solo album and, while Kennedy has said that the song Moonshot is about wanting to get back on the road with his bandmates, I'm not sure which bandmates he was talking about. There's nobody here from either Alter Bridge or the Conspirators and Slash does not show up for a guest appearance. Kennedy sings and plays most of the stringed instruments: guitar, banjo, lap steel and mandolin, even the bass when Tim Tournier isn't providing that. Zia Uddin handles drums and percussion and Michael Baskette, the album's producer, contributes keyboards.

What they collectively deliver here is a straight ahead rock album with some songs that look back at a particular artist or style and Kennedy's vocals change accordingly.

For instance, he takes on a David Coverdale approach for the album's closer, Worried Mind, which is a minimal bluesy ballad with emotion paramount. It's an original song, even if it's clearly influenced by Need Your Love So Bad, the old Fleetwood Mac song (originally recorded by Little Willie John in 1955). He does something similar on Love Rain Down, which is less minimal but also worthy.

However, on the title track, easily the longest and to my mind, the best piece here, Kennedy channels David Bowie in the seventies, at least once he gets past the intro. This one is a wildly varied track that goes all over the place stylistically, but always to excellent effect. Once we've heard that one, it's easy to hear Bowie all over the album but it's never remotely as overt as it is on The Ides of March.

The other approach I really like is the use of slide guitar, which is most obvious on In Stride but also on Tell It Like It Is. Kennedy was hired into Alter Bridge on the basis of his voice because they wanted him to sing for them, but they were reportedly shocked at how proficient a guitarist he was too. He's been the rhythm guitarist behind Slash on those collaborative albums and tours, but he plays lead here and clearly has a lot of fun with it. There are bands who would hire him on his slide playing ability alone.

I should also mention that In Stride is an upbeat rocker, as is another highlight here, Get Along, which opens the album in style. Sure, the latter isn't particularly fast but it's always upbeat and ever ready to build into something. What it ends up building into is A Thousand Words, which is the grower on the album for me. It occupies a strange place in between Whitesnake and Soundgarden but it resonates a lot more than the songs around it. It may well be my favourite song here that isn't the title track and I certainly wouldn't have said that after my first listen.

And that probably fairly highlights that this is a worthy album. The first half is great and the second is often pretty good too, even if there are quite a few songs there that never really got a grip on me. It's certainly an album to listen to on its own merits, though, not just because any song chosen at random from it would sound much better than anything else on the bowling alley's dismal playlist.

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