Every now and again you hear rumours of a musical collaboration that makes you sit up and pay attention, The Winery Dogs certainly did that when word first started coming out of a possible album. The reason being the stellar line-up that was touted; Richie Kotzen on vocal and guitar duties, Billy Sheehan as bassist and Mike Portnoy as drummer.
Luckily for us the rumours were true and the album was recently released in America to rave reviews and a respectable chart position considering it is far from the mainstream.
One of the problems with a super-group is the focus on what the various band members have done previously so I am going to consciously try to avoid falling into that trap and instead concentrate on what they are doing now. All I shall say about these three is that they are all hugely successful in their own rights, have produced countless albums and are widely regarded as master in their respective musical fields. If you do want to know more then Wikipedia is your friend.
What is interesting about this project is just how well the three work together, there are countless albums out there from amazing and technically gifted musicians who have got together and ended up producing an album of musical mastery that is tediously boring and all sounds the same. All too often when you get musos together they focus on the technical side of things at the detriment of ‘the song’.
Kotzen, Sheehan and Portnoy have reached a point in their careers that they have been there, done that, learnt the lessons and so with this album they have nailed thirteen well crafted and immensely listenable tracks that have technical elements carefully woven into them. Instead of hitting you in the face they supplement and add to the music rather than being the focus, a rare feat indeed.
What all this gives you is an album that can be consumed on many different levels; you can sit listening intently, picking out the subtle passages that can be found throughout the album or you could be tapping the steering wheel as a songs comes on the radio in the car.
The power-rock trio format may seem a bit of a cliche but it offers the chance to produce a record with space, it allows the music to breathe and allows each instrument to shine in a way that isn’t possible in a four piece. This is especially the case when you pull together three musicians with such confidence and proficiency in their own respective fields, I have listened to this album at least 10 times now and I am still discovering something new each time through.
One thing that struck me at first when I was listening was that it sounded rather American but on further consideration I concluded that as all three members ARE American that shouldn’t really come as a surprise. The lyrical content isn’t dealing with anything out of the ordinary but is varied and intelligent enough to have me listening to the message in each song, rare for me as I tend to focus on the instrumental over the vocal content.
Putting my geeky hat on briefly I have to comment on the production of this album as it is fantastic. Kotzen’s voice is nicely in the mix and his guitar oozes with creamy blues. Billy Sheehan has one of the most distinctive bass sounds in the business and they have ensured he gets equal footing, his growling tone and unmistakable style serving almost as a second guitar at times but without forgetting to keep things nailed down in the rhythm department. The kit sound that Portnoy has achieved on the album is one of the best I have heard.
I highly recommend popping your headphones on and listening to ‘You Saved Me’, the intro section sounds gorgeous and is a real delight as each instrument joins, the kick drum is something else! While you are there, make sure to have a listen to ‘Time Machine’ and admire the fact that all three of the band can sing and produce some stunning three part harmonies.
So in summary what you have is the culmination of experience from three talented guys who have come together to produce something really special, a rock album that delivers on numerous levels to a wide audience and doing it with style at the same time.
3. We Are One
4. I’m No Angel
5. The Other Side
6. You Saved Me
7. Not Hopeless
8. One More Time
10. Six Feet Deeper
11. Time Machine
12. The Dying
The Winery Dogs is out in the UK on the 2nd September through Loud & Proud Records and you can catch the band at the o2 Academy Islington in London on the 5th September as part of their 15 date European tour.
For more info visit www.thewinerydogs.com