The Winery Dogs

THE WINERY DOGS – Hot Streak

THEWINERYDOGS_HSSo called “Super groups” has been kind of a big deal in later years. Black Country Communion, Red Zone Rider, Flying Colors, Revolution Saints, Adrenaline Mob, Place Vendome to just name a few are bands (read: projects) that all has released albums in the last few years. Every so often, said albums have turned out really good, some of them have been damn brilliant even. That’s why I really dig it when a “super group” project turns out so well and find a big audience so that the members decide to continue the trip. Flying Colors are one of those bands that recently released their second album, but due to some of the members’ hectic schedule (that will be Steve Morse (Deep Purple) and Mike Portnoy), that band will probably never be a touring act. Too bad because both albums are magnificent. Adrenaline Mob did tour, but has now lost two drummers in a row – first Portnoy (yep, he was in that band too) due to lack of time and then his replacement A.J. Pero (Twisted Sister) who so sadly passed away recently, so their future doesn’t look bright, to put things mildly. I would have loved to see Revolution Saints (Jack Blades – Night Ranger, Doug Aldrich – Ex Whitensake, Dio and Deen Castronovo – Journey) but Castronovo turned out to be a douche with a major meth problem and was arrested for threatening, stalking and beating a woman, so I guess that project is no more. But one of the best – if not THE best of all the supergroup collaborations were this one, The Winery Dogs. This band consists of Richie Kotzen (ex-Poison, Mr Big) on lead vocals and guitars, Billy Sheehan (Mr Big, ex-David Lee Roth) on bass and Mike Portnoy (ex-Dream Theater, Avenged Sevenfold, Transatlantic and two of the bands mentioned above) on drums. In 2013, the guys released their self-titled debut album (reviewed here), a brilliant record full of heavy and groovy classic hard rock that apparently went straight to the hearts of rockers all over the world. The coolest thing with that record is that all three musicians have rightfully grown a reputation for being virtuosos, but with The Winery Dogs debut, it was the songs that were important. It was easy to hear that it was Sheehan, Portnoy and Kotzen that were playing and singing, but the dynamics and the groove over shadowed the virtuosity. It was one of the best albums of 2013 which meant that the guys had to rise to the occasion when it was time to write and record the second one.

The album opens with first single / video from the album, “Oblivion”. It’s a brilliant song that has some of the progressive elements of Dream Theater, the groove that Mr Big had on their debut album and the melodies of Richie Kotzen’s solo work. Somewhat progressive yet very accessible. I knew halfway through that song that the question wasn’t if I would like this record, it was how much would I dig it. “Captain Love” is awesome, the song has a refrain that is really sticky, but it not cheesy or even radio friendly, but I wouldn’t be surprised if this becomes a single in the future. It’s groovy and has a 70’s vibe. It sounds like a heavier version of Kotzen’s solo stuff. The title track too could be from one of Kotzen’s solo records, but Portnoy’s distinct beat and Sheehan’s groovy bass lines both shines trough and the three of them takes this bluesy and funky rocker to greater heights – amazing stuff! “How Long” has a late 70’s Whitesnake groove in the verses, but a with a more funky and fusion-like twist. The chorus is very direct with a melody that sticks to the brain right away. “Empire” swings like crazy and is a down to earth rocker with a very recognizable Kotzen melody – brilliant! “Fire” is a soulful and emotional ballad on a foundation of acoustic guitars. It has an early 70’s Rolling Stones influence and it’s actually a bit surprising how well this kind of music fits both Sheehan and Portnoy. It’s not every day you hear those two play this kind of rock ballad. “Ghost Town” has a spacey vibe and feels a bit psychedelic at times. It also has a big pop arrangement, but not pop like in mainstream radio pop, more in the way uncommercial pop was done in the 60’s. Yes, this is also a damn good song. “The Bridge” rocks with a groove that comes from both blues and pop and it bears resemblance to the stuff Kotzen wrote for his The Return Of Mother Head’s Family Reunion (2007) (also released under the name Go Faster). One of my favourite songs on this record. “War Machine” is another killer that has a lot of everything. Pop, soul, rhythm & blues and hard rock has been put in blender and when the button is pushed, out came this groovy pearl of a rocker. “Spiral” has a spacey and dreamy arrangement on a dark beat and the song feels almost like it’s floating. The chorus is melodic hard rock with some extremely catchy melodies – what’s not love about that? “Devil You Know” is a straight forward melodic hard rocker, not a far cry from the stuff Mr Big plays. Great tune! We get another 70’s Stones influenced ballad, well, half-ballad, in “Think It Over”. The electric piano gives the song an extra dimension and the groove is quite contagious. Finishing track “The Lamb” is a really good melodic rocker with a big 70’s / 60’s influence and this one too got me thinking of Kotzen’s solo stuff. A great way to close this album.

To repeat the task of creating a fantastic album such as their debut can’t be easy, but The Winery Dogs have done just that. The biggest difference between the two albums is that the debut was a bit heavier and harder. This record has more in common with the hard rock stuff that Richie Kotzen releases as a solo artist, although I hold both Winery Dogs albums stronger than most of those. That said, Kotzen only puts out high quality records on his own and I find it impressing that someone can have so much music inside of him and keep releasing albums with the highest quality in such a fast pace that he does. But, we shall not take away the efforts of Sheehan and Portnoy, The Winery Dogs are just as much their creation as it is Kotzen’s. Remove one member and it wouldn’t sound the same. This album is heavily influenced by the 70’s and even some of the 60’s rock music, but there is also elements of soul, funk, pop and metal and everything is weaved into the music brilliantly. Does this sound just like Richie’s solo stuff, then? No, this sounds like The Winery Dogs and the mix of the three musicians day jobs is what have created their style and identity. Their debut album has been lying safe and sound in my iPhone (the CD is, of course, in my Cd shelve as well) since the day it came out so I have been playing these songs frequently, but now they have to move over to make room for this one. I really can’t say which one I like the best, I guess that’s a tie for now, but what I can say is that if you liked the debut, you’ll dig this one as well and if you have never heard them at all, it’s about bloody time now. This is a band that very well could make it to the biggest arenas and I keep my fingers crossed for that because this is a band that under no circumstances are allowed to call it quits anytime soon. Just buy this, will ya!

9/10

Tracklist:

1. Oblivion
2. Captain Love
3. Hot Streak
4. How Long
5. Empire
6. Fire
7. Ghost Town
8. The Bridge
9. War Machine
10. Spiral
11. Devil You Know
12. Think It Over
13. The Lamb