Sound — 9
Slash has pulled out the big guns for his debut solo CD, and Guns N' Roses (and Velvet Revolver) devotees will be relieved to know that the iconic guitarist doesn't misfire. You might make the automatic assumption that Slash would deliver an album full of his trademark blues-rock riffage, and there is some truth to that notion. But the self-titled CD, although creatively driven by Slash, branches off into several musical arenas due largely in part to the eclectic group of musicians recruited for the project. There aren't many artists who would have the guts to include the likes of Adam Levine (Maroon 5), Fergie (Black Eyed Peas), and Iggy Pop on the same album, but you've got to hand it to the man with the top hat. He works it out. The album's 14 tracks (which include the last-minute addition Back From Cali, featuring Myles Kennedy on vocals) always bolster trademark Slash moments, but the unique styles of the guest artists are also huge driving forces. It's a veritable laundry list of the who's who in rock, with Slash usually writing the musical portion with specific individuals in mind. Iggy Pop's We're All Gonna Die certainly carries the most punk-heavy vibe on the album, while the Lemmy Kilmeister-fronted Doctor Alibi contains all of the attitude and rawness one would hope and pray would embody the spirit of Motorhead. With pretty much every track, you'll receive a good dose of soloing from Slash, who wows with his wah-fueled work in the first single By The Sword (featuring Wolfmother's Andrew Stockdale). Utilizing the skills of Fergie and/or crooner Levine could possibly induce fear and trepidation into any Guns N' Rose purist. Thankfully Slash's songwriting is steering the ship. Fergie's performance on Beautiful Dangerous takes a huge leap from her usual hip-hop repertoire, and the slithering rock tune ends up being one of the most satisfying tracks on the album. Levine does not necessarily shock with the pop-rock ballad Gotten, but Slash has mentioned in interviews that writing that particular track was a labor-intensive process. Between its intricate arrangement (complete with a string section) and emotional intensity, Gotten is an uncharacteristic, but oddly satisfying offering. For as much time as Slash poured into a complex arrangement like the one heard in Gotten, it's the straight-on jam song that makes one of the biggest impressions. Watch This, which showcases the talents of drummer Dave Grohl and bassist Duff McKagan, is a grinding rock instrumental that is reminiscent of GN'R's early days. Apparently Grohl refused to provide vocals, and the man must have known what he was doing. Watch This is a celebration of all the qualities that has elevated Slash to guitar god.
Lyrics — 9
While Slash is essentially the man behind the music, the vocalists took control of the lyrics. Given the varied nature of the artists, Slash's record delves into a broad range of themes. In one moment the record tackles relationships (Levine's Gotten ) and in the next Kid Rock's I Hold On is delivering the staple message of just-take-life-one-day-at-a-time. Who gets the award for being most brutally honest? Mr. Iggy Pop in We're Gonna Die, of course. You can't deny the punk appeal of lyrics like: I'm in the mood; So let's intrude; Pee on the ground and jump around.
Overall Impression — 9
Don't expect a carbon copy of Appetite For Destruction or Contraband with Slash's self-titled debut. The guitarist has plenty more up his sleeve, and his diverse musical tastes have never been more evident. While that variety may still scare some listeners out there, the vast majority of tracks are memorable, infectious, and inspired. Slash channels Jimmy Page with By The Sword, and may singlehandedly revive Ozzy Osbourne's music career with Crucify The Dead. A word of advice to any beloved musician who is looking to go solo in the future: Take notes from Slash.