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Non-Prog CD Reviews

The Winery Dogs

The Winery Dogs

Review by Gary Hill

When I heard the lineup on this, I assumed it would be a progressive rock release. There is some prog built into this, but overall this is just great hard rocking grooves. At Music Street Journal we often put things under the prog category based on the musicians involved, even when the music doesn’t quite fit, but in this case, I opted to go elsewhere. 

So, let’s talk about that lineup. First, we’ve got Richie Kotzen. He’s the non-prog guy of this trio. He’s played with Poison, Mr. Big and more. Next up is drummer Mike Portnoy. Portnoy has been part of prog acts like Dream Theater, Liquid Tension Experiment, Transatlantic and more. Billy Sheehan rounds out the lineup and he’s been known for a number of progressive rock acts like Niacin, but also for his work with David Lee Roth’s band and alongside Kotzen in Mr. Big. Of course, for that reason, it should be no surprise that the quickest comparison here would be to say that this sounds like Mr. Big. It’s not a perfect fit, but that resemblance is natural and definite.

With those three guys you’d expect something great. Well, they deliver. This doesn’t break any molds or create anything really new. Instead it carries on the tradition of a lot of hard rocking acts from Led Zeppelin going forward. They do it incredibly well and this just an album you’ll find yourself spinning over and over. It’s that good.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2014  Volume 2 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Elevate

This beast fires off in a hard rocking jam that’s got some Lenny Kravitz vibe built into it. This thing is riff driven and powerful. The chorus is in more of a melodic, anthemic AOR approach. This makes me think of Van Halen in a lot of ways. Still, as one might expect there are progressive rock leanings in some of the little breaks between vocal sections. Billy Sheehan simply screams on the jam mid-track and that section combines progressive rock with heavy funk rock nicely.

Desire
The hard rocking groove on this is even funkier than that on the opener. This is a really accessible jam that’s modern, but also classic at the same time. The mid-track jam is where the progressive rock leanings come out. Again Sheehan just blows me away. They bring this into some fusion-like territory, too.
We Are One
This comes with a real fiery energy. It’s more melodic at the onset than the two openers, but it’s also still very hard edged. There are some great hooks on this and it’s got more prog built into it than the other two songs did. This is powerhouse modern hard rock with some classic nods. Mike Portnoy finds some opportunities to shine here, too.
I'm No Angel
The guitar that opens this seems to scream out in pain, with a real bluesy kind of vibe. The tune works out from there into a blues rock kind of jam.
The Other Side
While there are no huge changes here, this is another hard rocking jam that just plain grooves. I think the vocal arrangement on this is one of the best of the set and this is just so fresh and tasty. The soaring instrumental section in the middle of this does bring some progressive rock to the table.  There is another hard rocking jam that serves as an extended outro. That has some fiery guitar soloing and metal, prog and jam band sound all merged.
You Saved Me
The mellowest cut to this point, there is a lot of prog built into this. The vocals, though, ground it more in an AOR modern rock sound. It’s sort of a power ballad in terms of construction. It’s also very powerful.
Not Hopeless
Wow! This is one heck of a cool groove. It’s very retro sounding in a lot of ways. Still, it’s modern at the same time. The instrumental section features some astounding bass work. That section brings it more into progressive rock territory.
One More Time
This is more in line with some guitar hero type music. It’s also got a great groove and some catchy hooks.
Damaged
A mellower, melodic rocker, this one has some fusion in the mix. It’s essentially a ballad and it’s quite cool.
Six Feet Deeper
Based on a killer groove, this is riff driven magic. There is a metallic jam later in the track that feels like an updated version of Robin Trower’s sound to me.
Time Machine
This is an unusual cut with some real surprises. It’s the closest to real progressive rock here and it’s got some great hooks, both vocally and musically. It’s more of a melodic number and it’s one of my favorites here. I really love the powerhouse instrumental break on this thing.
The Dying
This mellower bluesy ballad almost makes me think of Gary Moore meeting Joe Satriani. That said, there is some progressive rock in this and again Robin Trower might not be a bad reference point.
Regret
Here we get a mellower rock ballad with plenty of retro elements built into it. It’s a great tune, but I wonder if more of a rocker might have made a better closing number.

 

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