May 7, 2009

CD Review: Duff McKagan's Loaded - Sick

Way back in 1987 Duff McKagan arrived on the national scene as the bass player for Guns N' Roses. The band absolutely exploded and their debut stands as one of the greatest hard rock albums ever created. Unfortunately, all good things come to an end and by the time the mid-1990's rolled around the Guns as we knew them were all but disintegrated. During the latter half of the decade Duff formed a project called Loaded and released a couple of albums I've never heard of. Then came his reunion with Guns-mate Slash in Velvet Revolver, which put him back in the spotlight with a pair of strong releases. Now that project seems to be in a holding pattern, Duff is back with Loaded and an album full of new tunes.

This time out Duff trades in his four string for a sixer and steps up to the microphone as the band's front man. Joining him are Mike Squires on guitar, Geoff Reading on drums, and Jeff Rouse on bass. No, I have never heard of them either. So what? These guys come together as a solid unit delivering the goods on Sick.

The music is bluesy hard rock that occasionally borders on the punk side of the coin. It is simultaneously slick and raw. It does not have the raw power and fury of old school Guns N' Roses or the full on power of Velvet Revolver, but there is something decidedly infectious in the stripped down nature. This is not an album that takes itself too seriously and neither should you. Yes, it does seem to play it safe most of the time, but no mind. Once you start playing this, you will be hard pressed to turn it off. It is a solid collection of tunes.

loadedMore in line with old school Guns N' Roses than the current incarnation of Guns N' Roses, Loaded loads up and strikes out with thirteen infectious cuts that feature grooves to get into, vocals that will hold your attention, and enough sleaze to remind you of the glory days.

Sick opens wit pair of catchy rockers in the title track and "Sleaze Factory." The pace is kept solid through the first six tracks. Fuzzed guitars, a constant sense of forward momentum, and Duff's experience and focus lead us through the rockers. Even though the songs may not be the greatest, there is something about them that makes them inviting, encouraging you to just rock along for the ride.

With track seven we slow down for a much quieter and introspective side of Duff with "Mother's Day." The song is a bit of a downer and could threaten to draw a tear from even the hardest of souls. There is something about the way Duff's voice takes on that somber tone with the even bass line playing behind him that really hits home.

The pace picks right back up with "I See Through You" as we begin the charge through the second half of the album. The second half is highlighted by "No Shame," which reminds me of another song that I cannot quite put my finger on, and "Blind Date Girl," which is just plain fun.

I like this album. Everyone involved just hits the right note. It has the feeling of experience grounded by an energy that makes it feel youthful. This is definitely one to check out if you like bluesy hard rock, or want to catch up with what Duff has been up to. It is well worth the time.



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