GREAT WHITE – Full Circle

Let’s say a word or two about ‘hair metal’. What is hair metal? And which bands plays hair metal? Well, the answer is, of course, that there’s no musical style called ‘hair metal’. Back in the 80’s and early 90’s, no one, that I can think of, at least, used that phrase. The moniker hair metal or poodle rock came later, when melodic rock bands were a dying breed and was invented by pretentious music journalists who wanted to mock that 80’s hard rock scene because they only loved their crappy indie rock bands that couldn’t tune their guitars or sing in key if their lives depended on it. And they put every band that was big in those days into that category. Skid Row, Winger, Mötley Crüe, Bon Jovi, Cinderella, Warrant, Europe, Slaughter and even Kiss and Yngwie Malmsteen. And Great White. So, in order for all those bands to play ‘hair metal’, they had to sound the same and play the same kind of music. If you say that they do then either you haven’t listened to those bands at all or you’re tone-deaf.

Great White is a great example of that. This lot was – and still is – melodic enough but have their roots in old British rock bands such as The Who, The Kinks, Rolling Stones, Free and – of course – Led Zeppelin, which was not the case with, for example Def Leppard or Bon Jovi. But they are still labelled as ‘hair metal’. How stupid! But what Great White have in common with many of those melodic hard rock acts are that they went out of fashion as soon as Seattle became the new hip thing in the 90’s and that they have had a roller coaster career with many line-up changes and internal fighting. Right now there are two Great Whites – one that features original singer Jack Russell and this one that features original guitarist Mark Kendall along with guitarist/keyboardist Michael Lardie and Audie Desbrow from their most famous line-up. Russell’s version released their first album, He Saw It Comin’, earlier this year and now it is time for this version to release their second album with Russell’s replacement, ex- XYZ singer Terry Illouis.

The first one, called Elation, was released in 2012 and got some very mixed reviews, something I personally found very surprising as I thought that the record was great. So for me, this follow-up came with some expectations and I was wondering if they would manage to make an album as good as the last one. They kick the album off with “I’m Alright”, a heavy, raw-riffing blues-rock stomper with a brilliant swing and a chorus that hits where it should right away. To me, this song is a smash that bodes very well for the rest of the album. “Movin’ On” is a groovy rocker in a mid-tempo that holds a distinct rhythm that sounds very alive. The melodies are all very memorable and the refrain nails itself to the brain and refuses to let go. “This Is The Life” is slower with a great blues swagger, heavy with a meaty riff. The chorus is catchy as Hell and sticks like glue without being the least cheesy – awesome! “Let Me In” is an acoustic guitar based, slow ballad with lots of 70’s blues influences, like The Rolling Stones doing a power ballad. It’s radio friendly, yet soulful and emotional. This should be a hit in a fair world – brilliant!

“Moonshine” is a huge swinging soul / blues rocker complete with a horn section and 1960’s-like back-up choir. It comes in a mid pace but still with an enormous groove and anyone with just a tiny bit of rhythm in the body will start stomping their feet after just a few seconds – fan-bloody-tastic! “Cry Of A Nation” is a slow, laid-back bluesy track with a riff that bears resemblance to Y&T’s “Black Tiger” – and that can never be a bad thing. The groove here is intense and the whole thing is very rhythmic which have lots to do with Desbrow’s groove and Scott Snyder’s pulsating bass lines. “Give It Up” is the weakest track on the album. It’s a simple rocker – nothing wrong that, though – with some catchy riffing but it’s something with the chorus that bugs me. It’s actually catchy but at the same time forgettable. I can’t put my finger on it but the song is soon forgotten, I’m afraid.

“Big Time” is a rhythmic, blues rock laden groover with a kicking verse and a chorus that screams single where the AOR influenced melody is right on the money. The tune is the album’s lead single which makes it a mystery that it’s track # 8 on the album. Shouldn’t it be among the three first tracks? It’s a brilliant track either way. The album ends with “Never Let You Down”, a straight on slow blues number. It’s very authentic and down to the bone with a big rhythm, big groove and the melodies are all awesome.

As  I wrote, the last album got some mixed reviews and I guess this one will probably get some of those as well. This album is much a sister album to the last one even though this one has a better production, Michael Wagener has put a bit more rawness to this one and it feels edgier. Still, if you dug the last one, chances are you’ll like this one as well. Terry Illouis has proven himself a worthy replacement to Jack Russell and he sports a raw and bluesy voice with a good range – the guy sure is a perfect fit to this band. Compared to Russell’s version, this band is more upbeat rock while Russell’s gang is more laid back and pop and I prefer this Great White 24/7.  A very good album full of melodic hard rock that brings out their bluesy rock roots from the 70’s – highly recommended.

8/10

More Great White Reviews:

Elation

Tracklist:

1. I’m Alright
2. Movin’ On
3. This Is The Life
4. Let Me In
5. Moonshine
6. Cry Of A Nation
7. Give It Up
8. Big Time
9. Never Let You Down

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