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Black Label Society

Hangover Music, Vol. 6

Review by Gary Hill

I have to say, when I got this one for MSJ's coverage of Ozzfest, I never expected to hear what I did. Most of the Ozzfest crew's discs usually tend to be fairly monolithic hard and heavy releases. Of all the people to break that mold is Ozzy's own former axe-man Zakk Wylde with his Black Label Society project. Wylde shows himself on this one to be not only an exceptionally talented musician (he plays virtually everything on the album), but also a great songwriter.

The music here is more in the tradition of great old-school hard rock than it is heavy metal. Certainly Guns and Roses influences abound, but you might find yourself thinking that you hear such other artists as Nazareth and Poison here, too. Wylde shows that he can run the flashy guitar solo that is expected of him, but more importantly he can NOT run that solo, instead focusing on a song structure. This album has very few weak points, and I have to say that picking out one or two high points is not easy. I really do enjoy his cover of Procol Harum's "Whiter Shade of Pale", and the closing number even comes across as almost progressive rock. This is a great disc, and I am sure it will be a frequent visitor to my CD changer.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2004 Year Book Volume 2 at lulu.com/strangesound..

Track by Track Review
Crazy Or High
Acoustic guitar starts this, and as the rest of the instruments join in this feels like a strong alternative rock cut. Wylde's vocals on the verses sound a bit like Ozzy, but when he screams out on the choruses you could almost swear that it's Axl Rose. He also puts forth a meaty metal break with some serious "show off" riffing, but this is really a very tasteful and tasty number.
Queen of Sorrow
This one starts out acoustic, also, but in a bluesier fashion.. As it powers up, this one really does feel a lot like a choice Guns N Roses cut.
Steppin' Stone
When I saw this title on the CD back I was hoping that it was a cover of the Neil Diamond penned number made famous by the Monkees. I have always thought that that one would make a killer hard rock/metal tune, but apparently this is not the album to make that happen. Instead we get one that comes in gradually and feels rather heavy, but still melodic. It is a great piece and one of my favorites on the album. The mood to this one is killer. It feels a bit like the best of old Nazareth, but heavier.
Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow
This one starts with piano and vocals, and again the GNR comparisons are well in place. This is a more pop-oriented ballad and pretty strong if a bit generic.
Takillya (Estyabon)
This brief acoustic solo is fast paced, and rather flamenco in texture.
Won't Find It Here
Another solid mellow rocker, this one is rather balladic and quite cool It turns heavier later in a great jam.
She Deserves a Free Ride (Val's Song)
This is the most mellow piece on show here and a cool, rather out of the ordinary ballad. This is another that fells a bit like GNR at times. It tends to get a bit long without any significant changes, though.
House of Doom
Coming in a bit harder edged than the previous one, this is another where those influences of Guns N Roses are all over the place. This stellar track is one of the highlights of the album.
Damage Is Done
This feels at first like what Poison's "Every Rose Has Its Thorn" might be if it were a better song. The truth of the matter is, this ballad is far superior to that one, with the vast majority of its charm coming from its awesome texture and lots of emotion.
Layne
This slow paced rocker is another where the ghost of GNR can be heard. It gets fairly heavy as it carries on and is another high point of the album. This one even wanders almost into space rock/jam band territory before it's over.
Woman Don't Cry
Starting on piano this one feels almost like GNR taking on The Beatles. It's a bit more accessible and pop-oriented that some of the other material here.
No Other
This is a killer bluesy rocker that really works well. It is another standout.
Whiter Shade of Pale
Here Wylde takes on the classic proto-prog number, playing it quite stripped down, just piano and voice. This is a considerably effective rendition of a great tune. His vocals on this one come across more in the vein of the Allman Brothers. I have to say, this rawer take on the piece really works.
Once More
A fairly slow rocker again in the GNR mode, Wylde rocks this one out quite a bit, but knows just when to pull it back.
Fear
Showing even more versatility, Wylde closes the album with a cut that at times comes very close to progressive rock It does include some scorching guitar work, but still stays fairly close to the prog rock ballad type of sound. This is a great one, and an excellent choice to end the CD.
You'll find concert pics of this artist in the Music Street Journal members area.
 
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