As a huge fan not only of Motorhead, but also more specifically the Phil Campbell era, when I saw this arrive at Ave Noctum towers, I was really excited to hear what Phil had been up to. Apparently he’d harboured designs on having his own solo album for a number of years but never actually been able to do so because of the infamously hectic recording and touring schedule of Motorhead.
In fairness, Phil has enlisted a whole lot of chums to help him record this album. I was expecting something along the lines of his hardrock outfit, Phil Campbell and the Bastard Sons, but album opener “Rocking Chair” is a laid back, bluesy number with the soulful vocals of Welsh vocalist Leon Stanford. An autobiographical account of Phil’s own career, name-checking Persian Risk, driving a van for his dad and buying his first Les Paul in the New Year’s sales. It’s hard not to feel even a little misty eyed, while Phil’s words about his own storied history are sung with a deal of pathos.
“Straight Up” features none other than the Rob Halford, and fittingly, it sounds as if it’d be right at home around track six on “Screaming for Vengeance”, being a fairly traditional old school heavy metal track that I could also have imagined being fronted out by Biff Byford to similar effect.
“Faith in Fire” has the fearsome lungs of British metal behemoth Ben Ward (Orange Goblin), and to be fair this also could have featured on some of that band’s stronger albums. What this track really brought home to me is the sizeable debt that many British guitarists owe to Phil; I think Joe Hoare is a fantastic axe man, and he has so many licks that sign post to Motorhead in the last three or four albums, that’s it’s finally nice to see a proper Orange Goblin / Motorhead staff number. As a slow to mid paced number, it allows for the chunkier guitar sound of Phil to really shine through, especially in the galloping mid section, which in itself gives way to a solo so tasty you’d ask for seconds.
“Swing It” is fronted by bona-fide rock legend Alice Cooper, and it’s a snarling, sleazy, denim-clad stomper that features a really infectious chorus. After hearing Phil’s riffs being sung on by Lemmy for so many years, it’s actually a little eye opening to have them fronted by a host of other talents.
“Left for Dead”, while I’m sure is a fine enough track, has too much of the power-ballad Aerosmith-y feel to me, while Nev MacDonald’s voice fits like a glove. It might be the kind of track that plays at 2am in your favourite rock club right before the lights come up, but it’s not really one for me.
“Walk the Talk” has Nick Oliveri as the main vocalist, he of ex-Kyuss and Queens of the Stone Age infamy. The guitar tone on this bad boy has more fuzz on it than a 14 year old’s moustache. As you might expect, it has more than a touch of stoner rock about it, but it’s none the worse for all that, and particularly coming after “Left for Dead” feels even more muscular.
“These Old Boots” rings out with the unmistakeable voice of Dee Snider, and is probably the album stand out for me. With an effective one-two punch combination of excellent riff work and on-point rasping vocals, this is probably as close to the classic Motorhead formula on the entire platter as you will find, with enough invention on the chorus to ensure that it doesn’t sound like some kind of pastiche. It sounds very much to me that this song was written with being played live in the forefront; it really sounds as if it would suit clapping-along and call-and-response to the crowd.
“Dancing Dogs” features long time collaborator Whitfield Crane, and is a great way of proving that Whit has one of the most under rated voices in hard rock. It’s a downbeat number, with a dizzying, spiralling riff that dominates the chorus to an almost Sabbath like effect.
‘Dead Roses”, with Benji Webbe is another power ballad, this time with hefty doses of piano and almost Gary Moore-esque blues guitar melancholic wailing in the background. Now, while I’m clearly not a fan of the ballad (power or otherwise), I would say that the overall mood and tone of this really elevates it to more than listenable. Lift your lighters up if you’ve got ‘em.
Final instrumental “Tears from a Glass Eye” is a fitting closer to the album. All in all then, what to make of this album? It’s clearly a passion for Phil, and I suspect that there will be something here for everyone who is even passingly au fait with his work. Personally, I prefer the more metal-ish numbers on here – the Halford / Snider / Ward and Crane numbers, but there’s plenty of other tones to be found here too. If you’ve got any interest in hard rock, you’re going to find something here to whet your whistle.
(8/10 Chris Davison)