In Slash’s debut solo album Slash, the legendary guitarist cements his status as a modern rock hero with songs that showcase the diversity of rock music styles. Although the album is at times inconsistent, it will likely be appreciated and admired by both existing Slash fans and rock music aficionados.
When a musician decides to launch a solo venture, that album typically falls into one of three categories:
The release is so personal that it becomes an exercise in introspection that will only appeal to the most steadfast of fans
The album pays homage to musicians of particular importance to either the artist or genre and features songs and solos in their styles
Songs are chosen that reflect the types of songs that the artist enjoys and wants to share with the masses
Slash’s album is the latter. In Slash, the guitarist flaunts his love for rock music and showcases all genres of the form. As a frequent guest guitarist on other artists’ recordings, he has developed a reputation as a great listener who is able to add a nuanced guitar expression that makes a good song into something far more memorable and exciting.
In each song, he places precedence on the overall music rather than on instrumental abilities. However, some of the song arrangements and vocals should have been pushed further which would have raised the status of his debut effort from solid to legendary.
The Tracker (US Release)
Track 1: Ghost (feat. Ian Astbury & Izzy Stradlin) (3:34). Ian Astbury, singer from The Cult and Izzy Stradlin, Guns N’ Roses’ former rhythm guitarist help forge a pulsating, relentless song to kick off the album. Featuring lyrics that are a call to action such as “Kill the ghost / That hides / Your soul / Rock and Roll,” this song is a genuine rock anthem from its opening to closing note.
Track 2: Crucify the Dead (feat. Ozzy Osbourne) (4:04). A relatively straightforward effort with the singer/songwriter from Black Sabbath and solo efforts that showcases Osbourne’s soaring (and ageless) vocals against guitar work that is at times melodic and hypnotic. The arrangement plods at times and ultimately suffers from lack of variety.
Track 3: Beautiful Dangerous (feat. Fergie) (4:35). Fergie, singer from Black Eyed Peas and solo efforts, unleashes her inner rocker on this track. Invoking a playful delivery akin to Aerosmith’s Walk This Way, the song demonstrates potential of her future career direction as a rock artist. As a proven singer with a wide vocal range, however, Fergie’s abilities are somewhat wasted in this limited vocal exercise.
Track 4: Back from Cali (feat. Myles Kennedy) (3:36). With vocals from Alter Bridge’s singer/rhythm guitarist, Cali blends elements of blues, funk and rock with poignant lyrics like “Coming back from Cali / The Angel’s City / Where the Devils Play” about the city and culture of Los Angeles that Slash calls home.
Track 5: Promise (feat. Chris Cornell) (4:41). Singer/songwriter Chris Cornell from Audioslave and Soundgarden lends his distinctive voice to one of the album’s standout tracks. Set against a rhythmical, syncopated beat, Cornell sings with a restraint missing from much of his other work. The result is an understated, powerful performance and one of the catchiest songs on the album.
Track 6: By the Sword (feat. Andrew Stockdale) (4:50). Easily the best song on the album and its first single, By the Sword introduces Wolfmother singer/guitarist Andrew Stockdale as the leader of this unique and captivating aural journey. The song begins with guitar and vocals that mirror one another as the perfect blend of vocalization and instrumentation. As the song progresses, Stockdale’s vocals take flight alongside Slash’s skilled playing. Then, the song transitions into a Zeppelin-esque groove which adds an entirely new level of interest. Stockdale’s echoing wails set against Slash’s shredding effectively stir memories of Robert Plant and Jimmy Page sharing a stage.
Track 7: Gotten (feat. Adam Levine) (5:05). Crooner Adam Levine from Maroon 5 joins Slash on an understated, blues-infused song. The result is a pleasant, unremarkable song that does nothing to offend either Maroon 5 or Slash fans. However, the pop rock style will likely be new to some and may broaden the listening palette of his established fan base.
Track 8: Doctor Alibi (feat. Lemmy) (3:07). Cult favorite Lemmy, the gravelly-throated singer of Motörhead, joins Slash on a track that does not measure up to the musical or lyrical standards set by the rest of the album.
Track 9: Watch This (feat. Dave Grohl & Duff McKagan) (3:46). Dave Grohl – guitarist/vocalist from Foo Fighters and drummer from Nirvana – joins former Guns N’ Roses’ bassist Duff McKagan on an instrumental with virtuosic guitar riffs set against a driving beat. The trio of Slash, Grohl and McKagan hit a soft groove that at times recalls Rush’s La Villa Strangiato — another instrumental from one of the most influential and virtuosic trios in modern rock.
Track 10: I Hold On (feat. Kid Rock) (4:10). Singer Kid Rock brings a musical repertoire that is equal parts AC/DC and Lynyrd Skynyrd to a track that boasts Kid Rock’s heartfelt singing and lyrical abilities. Missing from this effort is Rock’s distinct ability to create a memorable musical hook as he has so often done with his own music.
Track 11: Nothing to Say (feat. M. Shadows) (5:27). Avenged Sevenfold’s singer M. Shadows unveils a surprisingly restrained vocal performance against a heavy metal instrumental arrangement that is the offspring of Metallica, Iron Maiden and early Slayer.
Track 12: Starlight (feat. Myles Kennedy) (5:35). Kennedy returns with a superior performance that allows him to unleash his dynamic range. The song is a captivating effort that straddles the line between blues rock and arena rock. Kennedy, who will serve as Slash’s touring singer, has a dynamic voice that is a first-rate accompaniment to the furious guitar work.
Track 13: Saint Is a Sinner Too (feat. Rocco DeLuca) (3:28). Featuring intricate, layered guitar work that underscores a melodic soft rock vocal from independent artist and singer Rocco DeLuca, the control of Slash’s musicianship is only matched by DeLuca’s ability.
Track 14: We’re All Gonna Die (feat. Iggy Pop) (4:30). Legendary vocalist of The Stooges Iggy Pop closes the album with an irreverent tune that is largely forgettable. As reported by the artist, this was the first track recorded for the album. Other tracks that failed to make the final US cut—such as Sahara with Koshi Inaba, Mother Maria with Beth Hart and a remake of Paradise City featuring Fergie and Cypress Hill—would have made a more fitting and memorable bookend to the song list.
The album is largely uneven at times featuring songs that range from merely adequate to the ultimate in instrumentation. Indeed, some of the songs should have been left in the editing room while others should appear on future rock anthologies as shining examples of the genre. Through it all, Slash’s guitar playing is the one constant that raises the level of listener appreciation. Slash serves as an impressive primer for both Slash as an artist and rock music as a genre. Be on the lookout for further solo efforts and guest appearances in which he will likely continue to push the boundaries of rock music.
Overall Grade: B
If you enjoyed this album, you might also like: Anything by the featured vocalists, Stone Temple Pilots, Into the Silence, The Black Crowes, The White Stripes and anything by Mike Patton.