You know when you get that feeling that you just know that an album is gonna be great even if you haven’t heard a note of either band or album but you can’t really put a finger on why? That happens to me less and less as the years go by but the younger me got that feeling all the time. I have discovered many bands that way. I love that feeling when you play said record and you are right. But to be honest, many mishaps has come my way too. To be more honest, I’d say it’s almost 50/50. It’s easier today than back when because of all the possibilities when it comes to pre-listening before buying. Well, Dirty Shirley’s debut album is one of those albums. When the word came out that guitarist George Lynch (Dokken, Lynch Mob, Sweet & Lynch, KXM, Souls Of We, The End Machine) and singer Dino Jelusic (Animal Drive, Trans Siberian Orchestra) was about to release an album together, it spontaneously felt like a winner.
Don’t ask me why I felt that way because the truth is, even though I think Lynch is a brilliant guitarist and I love Dokken, the debut Lynch Mob album, his first solo effort and both Sweet & Lynch albums, he has also been involved in stuff that goes from horrible to merely ok. I’m not overly impressed by KXM, there are some horrible Lynch Mob and Lynch solo records out there and Dokken’s Shadowlife – which was Lynch’s baby mostly – was a let-down to say the least. The same with Jelusic. He’s a magnificent singer but the debut Animal Drive album was only ok and the same goes for their covers E.P. Still, I had the feeling that this project, which features Trevor Roxx (bass) and Will Hunt (Drums), would be something else – and I couldn’t wait for the album to be released.
That feeling only increased after I threw myself over the leading single/video “Here Comes The King”, a song that also would be the album’s opener. Over some massive guitar riffing from Lynch – heavy, fat and tough, the song breaks out with an intense and crispy groove. Sound-wise, the tune brings on an early Whitesnake meets Dio vibe with a slight twist of Lynch Mob’s earliest work. Much of this is due to Jelusic coming off as the love-child between Ronnie James Dio and David Coverdale, always with his own identity intact. It’s a seven minute piece of work, not very single-friendly that also holds a slower breakdown, stripped and dark, in the middle. It’s an amazing track that’s highly memorable with a powerhouse chorus that kicks down doors yet still very catchy. The song told me that there’s a big possibility that my hunch was bulls-eye.
I thought that second single “Dirty Blues” would treat us with a humongous and heavy blues-track and sure, it sure has blues elements but to me, this is more of a Lynch Mob sounding hard-rocker on a stompy groove and a chunky beat, big on crunchy and rowdy riffing. With a Classic Rock swagger, a juicy swing and a striking refrain that takes no prisoners, this too is a winner. And that chorus is still echoing in my brain. Love it. The darker edged “I Disappear” comes in a slower pace and hold a swirling rhythm, a thick and beefy groove and a stellar main-melody that brings us to the majestic refrain that sticks from go. It’s not an overly commercial refrain but to me, this too is single material. It was released as an “official audio” but it should have been released with a accompanying video, in my world. Great tune.
“The Dying” throws us a curve-ball in the form of a Spanish style opening and further down the road, some Flamenco-styled acoustic guitars shows up as a breather. But the track is mostly a Classic Rock laden rocker with smoother and slightly laid-back verses like a build-up for the more crunchy and big-grooved chorus. Jelusic thinks back to when ole Cov was the singer in Deep Purple and takes it from there, pulling a vocal-strength with both passion and conviction. As the icing on the cake we get an enormously catchy refrain that holds tight and never lets go. Awesome! “Last Man Standing” takes us back to the late 80’s/early 90’s and could easily have been a leftover from Lynch Mob’s debut album – or even an old Dokken song. Even though the tune is an Arena Rock/Melodic Rock track, it also comes with a slightly darker twist. On a solid beat and a steady groove, the tune brings on an effective chorus that reminds me of Sweet & Lynch with lots of catchiness. A good track albeit not as strong as its predecessors.
“Siren Song” is an upbeat, straight-forward rocker that lands somewhere between Lynch Mob’s Hard Rock and modern day Melodic Rock. It’s somewhat poppy but it also contains Lynch’s distinctive and personal guitar sound and combined with Jelusic’s powerful vocals, the song is anything but sugary. Traces of both Led Zeppelin and late 80’s Whitesnake also shows up – and the uplifting and positive refrain is full of hooks which brings on the catchiness. Very good. In a mid tempo and a pulsating, groovy rhythm, “The Voice Of A Soul” brings on a rowdy grit, a crunchy guitar sound and a robust organ. The song starts off with held-back, blues-laden verses and even though the refrain is a Dokken meets early Whitesnake of sorts, this is a seven-minute Classic Rock groover where Jelusic shines with a 70’s Coverdale inspired vocal-style. The chorus is distinct and effective and sticks right from go without being the least radio-hit friendly. Fan-bloody-tastic.
Heavy, rough and with a rocky groove, “Cold” kicks up some dust with a rolling, slightly funky rhythm and a darker ambience. The tune is straight-forward, robust and concise, streetsy and organic with some tuned down guitars. When the solo break hits, the song gets earthy and stripped which creates a great dynamic and the chorus is totally bulls-eye – right in your face. “Escalator” is a punchy and rough hard-rocker that holds a smaller vibe of Southern Rock in the groove. It’s quite in-your-face and leaves no time to catch a breath. However, as a song it comes across as a bit perfunctory and standard without really sticking out. It’s not bad but it falls on the way-side.
With “Higher” Dirty Shirley are back on track again. On a kicking and bouncy foundation, Lynch gets all riff-happy over us. It’s a heavy and rowdy number, quite aggressive yet melodic with prominent hooks and effective and direct melodies that hits like a ton of bricks. Lynch’s solo is also menacing and glistening, one of the best solos on the album – damn, this guy can play. Another brilliant track. Dirty Shirley bid us farewell with “Grand Master”, an acoustic guitar based, slightly trippy number which brings Led Zeppelin’s acoustic treks to mind. It’s laid-back yet not a ballad as such and holds a psychedelic, Indian touch and some atmospheric soundscapes all over. The affable swing and groove brings the late 60’s to mind and even though it’s based on acoustic guitars, it’s a quite crunchy and raw track, but with a great melody-structure. The song ends with the rest of the band joining in and Lynch provides us with some fat electric guitar riffing. Awesome!
I want Dirty Shirley to be a band. A Real band. And yes, my hunches about this record were right – this is a killer record and I would love to catch this lot in action live. Style-wise, I’m not gonna say that this is a revolutionary album by any means but Julesic and Lynch has found their own identity and even though it’s easy to hear where their influences lie, it never even comes close to any plagiarism anywhere. References can be drawn towards Whitesnake, Dio, Black Sabbath – and of course Dokken and Lynch Mob, but they’re all put in a blender to create the style of Dirty Shirley. Lynch proves that he still have all his chops intact, he’s still an amazing player and Julesic is just phenomenal with a very strong voice, powerful and passionate but damn melodic as well. Sometimes I hear similarities to singers like Ronnie James Dio, David Coverdale, Jorn Lande and Mats Levén, but mostly, Julesic is his own man. I’m actually surprised that more artists hasn’t hired his talents. To round this up, this is a bonafide Hard Rock album, no ballads, no sugary Pop, just classic, guitar-driven Hard Rock. Bang on target!
1. Here Comes The King
2. Dirty Blues
3. I Disappear
4. The Dying
5. Last Man Standing
6. Siren Song
7. The Voice Of A Soul
9. Escalator To Purgatory
11. Grand Master