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Carmine Appice

Ultimate Guitar Zeus

Review by Gary Hill

An album like this could be a tricky venture. Essentially the concept is a series of songs with the same basic core band. Each track, though, features a different guitar “Zeus” laying down the solo. In some instances there are guests taking the vocal duties. Something like this, if not done well, can come across as a novelty record. Well, rest assured Carmine Appice wouldn’t do something in that kind of a shoddy way. He paid close attention to creating strong tracks that stand up on their own. The result is an album that might well be the best disc to come out this year. This thing does not have a weak cut. Also in it’s favor there is a lot of diversity from track to track, which keeps it from lagging at all. This is one classy operation. The core band is composed of Appice, Kelly Keeling (Michael Schenker Group) and Tony Franklin (The Firm).

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2006 Volume 5 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Days Are Nights
A Hendrix like feedback sound leads this off. As they jump into the song proper it’s a smoking, funky, rubbery hard-edged rocker. There’s a little bit of a Black Sabbath texture to this, but one can also hear a healthy dosage of Robin Trower in this mix. This is a scorcher. Ted Nugent provides the screaming guitar solo on this one in his typical fashion. The bridge on the track feels a bit like Guns ‘N’ Roses. It’s hard to imagine a stronger opener for a disc like this.
Nobody Knew
Queen’s Brian May brings the guitar solo to this track. This starts off with a ballad approach. After the first verse they pound out in a thunderous hard rocking style. The interesting thing is, even within this motif there is a Beatles kind of approach. The vocal arrangement on this one is quite cool. The lyrics seem to be an indictment of the current US administration. The song is definitely a dynamic one, moving between sounds and modes adeptly. It’s catchy and very strong.
Stash
The sounds of a turning radio dial starts this. When it kicks into the song proper, though, we are treated to another rubbery, funky, gritty jam. In fact this one is so tasty it’s unbelievable. The funky groove is incredibly hot as is the vocal arrangement. This might well be the best cut on the disc, but when an album is this strong it’s hard to pick. Stevie Salas is the man responsible for the guitar solo this time around – and it (like this track) is a tasty screamer.
Where You Belong
Piano starts this in a tentative manner and gradually builds to a pretty melody. Guitar joins in this sedate arrangement. The vocals enter, but the gentle drama is not interrupted at this point. In fact it builds as a bluesy rock and roll ballad approach with a very understated arrangement. Eventually it powers out into a harder rocking mode that is very Beatles influenced. This is another killer cut on a disc that has no shortage of them. This time around the go to guy for the guitar solo is Slash. This cut has elements of The Beatles, Led Zeppelin, Kings X and more.
4 Miles High
Well, my guess is the title is a play on the classic rock standard. That’s the only link to history, though. What we have hear is a gritty, smoking hard rocking jam with a decent amount of funk thrown into the mix. The inimitable Steve Morse handles the lead guitar duties on this one.
Gonna Rain
This cut starts off with backwards masking. As the central song structure kicks in, though, it’s loaded with psychedelic charm, feeling like a modernized Beatles sound. This rocker features guitar soloing from Bon Jovi’s Richie Sambora. This one on another album would be a standout. It’s a true testament to the strength of this release that it kind of pales in comparison to the rest of the music here. Still the ramped up closing segment really pulls the track back to the high standard set down by the rest of the disc.
This Time Around
King’s X’s, Doug Pinnick provides the vocals on this cut. This is another gritty, funk-laden jam. This one has a lot in common with the music of King’s X and also Black Sabbath. It includes a cool drop back in the mid-segment with a sort of rap. The guitar solo on this one is provided by none other than Yngwie Malmsteen.
Killin Time
From one King’s X guy to another, this track features Ty Tabor delivering the guitar solo. It also has a very healthy dosage of that Black Sabbath sound, but contains a heavy blues-rock texture to go with it. This is kind of like Black Sabbath meets ZZ Top in a King’s X mix. The chorus is very catchy in a ‘70’s hard rock way.
Doin Fine
A pretty acoustic ballad approach leads this one off. They power it out later in the arena metal ballad method. This is a solid cut that works quite well. It is another, though, that doesn’t hold up to the rest of the material. Still, Vivian Campbell produces a great batch of soloing and the bass work on here is impressive.
Under the Moon And Sun
This one features Edgar Winter on lead vocals and Motley Crue’s Mick Mars laying down the guitar solos. It’s another gritty hard rocker that feels a little bit like a more pumped up early Aerosmith with a little Mountain thrown in for good measure.
Code 19
This is another rather Sabbath-like rocker. It has a killer texture and is yet another killer jam on a disc that is simply overflowing with them. Zakk Wylde provides the guitar solo on this one.
Out of Mind
This time around Neal Schon (Journey) takes on the lead guitar duties. This cut starts with what can best be described as “spacey weirdness” and this carries it for a while. Eventually, though, it pounds out in a screaming hard rocking, but catchy jam. The chorus brings in more of those Beatles elements in a very catchy arrangement (possibly the best of the whole disc). At points this one reminds me quite a bit of Cheap Trick. It turns quite heavy for a break near the end, too.
Do Ya Think I'm Sexy
Yep, this is the Rod Stewart track, but you have to remember that both Appice and Keeling have played in Stewart’s band. Appice himself takes the vocals on this one. He opens it with a talk box excursion, but then the cut kicks into a smoking blues-rock jam on this classic. With this gritty hard-edged approach no one is likely to mistake this for the original. Pat Travers is the lead guitar hero on this one. While loaded with wah throughout the solo segment, his solo might well be the tastiest one on show here. The trouble is there are so many killer ones that it’s hard to pick. I think I pick up a bit of Hendrix’ “Foxy Lady” in the midst of the solo, too.
G Z Blues
This time there are two guys laying down solos, and neither is exactly a household name (at least in terms of lead guitar players). Seymour Duncan is better known as a company that creates pickups for guitars. But Duncan the man is an old school blues guitarist who just happened to invent those pickups (and hence form the company). The other name is probably better known, but not as a musician. It’s the actor Steven Seagal. Yes, he’s a guitarist (and more), too. This is a traditional instrumental blues jam that’s effective. I’m just not sure I would have penciled it in as the disc closer.
 
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