Sound — 8
Much like Slash, Duff McKagan makes no apologies for remaining true to his rock roots, and his third studio release with Loaded proves he has no intention of abandoning those ties. Perhaps the most intriguing aspect of the release is the fact that an accompanying film (created in the vein of A Hard Day's Night and The Song Remains the Same) is due out this summer, but unfortunately a viewing isn't possible yet. Knowing there is an impending film, you perhaps might expect that The Taking has a fairly cinematic/dramatic approach. The truth of the matter is that McKagan hasn't made some larger-than-life score, but instead has stuck with the sound he's cultivated over the years. Yes, there is a bit of GN'R influence injected into it all, but there's just as much a heavy helping of punk and even 70's glam. McKagan's no-frills vocals can be somewhat of a tough pill to swallow for those not familiar with his style in the past, but it definitely adds plenty of character to each song. There's an honesty to his delivery that in a way does make him an intriguing storyteller and perhaps quite fitting for the accompanying film. In any case, the core songwriting isn't necessarily anything you'd raise your eyebrows to or feel was a huge creative leap, but in the same token it's likely that McKagan's fans (again, much like Slash's devotees) wouldn't want their rock gods to branch off into the grandiose territory that Axl dwelled in for the past decade. The album kicks off with the grooving Lords of Abandon, which much like the other 10 tracks, features gritty, bluesy riff work from Mike Squires. Executioner's Song sounds like it's been given a nice dose of the wah pedal, while She's An Anchor takes the chugging approach to the power chords. With each new song, however, there always seems to be one or two sections that feature some interesting guitar tones/effects. If there is one standout aspect to The Taking, it's the gear or perhaps just the guitarist's skilled execution that makes it a highly fascinating listen. Easier Lying broaches David Bowie territory circa the Ziggy Stardust era thanks to McKagan's quirky style. If you're curious about whether McKagan gave a nod to the punk world (which always seemed to be his first love), you'll find the most satisfying entry to be the raw, in your-face King of the World. Elsewhere a major standout is the dissident-sounding Your Name, which at times channels the unsettling chord/note changes you might hear in an Alice In Chains' offering.
Lyrics — 8
The lyrical content, although at times formulaic, does have some fantastic moments. Whether it's in the surprisingly pensive Executioner's Song (Brothers and sons; March off to war; Without victory; There's no history) or the offbeat Wrecking Ball (Up turns down; You drink in wasted; Turnin' round; This drunken jester's crown), the typical rhyme schemes and/or themes aren't necessarily the dominating factor. The Taking does have its stereotypical rock moments (a nod is given to that oft-discussed demon drug in Cocaine), but McKagan sells it well.
Overall Impression — 8
If you're looking for something other than gritty rock/punk tracks, then you'll have to look elsewhere. But there's a reason why McKagan' place in history is solidified, and it's because the man knows how to strike a perfect balance between raw power and melody. His voice may lean more on the raw side at most times, but when it's combined with the thick, meaty guitar tones throughout The Taking, the end result is a satisfying one.