RIVERDOGS – California

The year was 1989. On one side, bad-assed angry young men were kicking and screaming with fierce hearts and shitloads of testosterone, piss n’ vinegar – Metallica, Slayer, Testament and Megadeth thrashed things around like there was no tomorrow. On the other side we had the Sunset Strip where melodic rock, AOR, glam and sleaze bands such as Mötley Crüe, Skid Row, Bon Jovi, Poison and Winger were selling gazillion of records. And then there were the guys in the middle, bands that were too out there for the main stream audience having a hard time. And of course, we had a now glorified yet underground debut record by the Riverdogs.

To be correct, Riverdogs’ self titled debut album was released in 1990, but the guys made quite a fuss within the rock community by just forming – see, the band had recruited guitarist Vivian Campbell, formerly in Dio and fresh out of Whitesnake with whom he toured their most successful album 1987 for a few years. Today, the band’s debut album have grown into a cult record of pretty big proportions and is hailed by many as a classic rock album. But Riverdogs never broke big, probably because they never fitted in with the times musically – they weren’t angry and they didn’t write radio hits. They were more a laid back, groovy rock band that didn’t sound like anybody else.

As we all know, Campbell quit the band when Def Leppard came calling and the band released a second album, Bone, in 1993 before splitting up due to lack of public interest. They reformed in 2011 with an album called World Gone Mad that passed most people by. But now the band have decided to give it another shot and this time it seems like the interest is on top. Frontiers records called and the band decided to make a record more similar to the debut. Me, I liked their debut album but I was never highly impressed. But I am sure as hell interested enough to give this one a fair chance.

Leading single “American Dream” opens the album, a good time, American rocker with a good bounce and a melodic rocking sound with the guitars at front, a good, distinct beat and refrain that hits immediately. “The Revolution Starts Tonight” follows with a more mellow, Californian and down-to-earth rock sound. It comes in a mid pace but the catchiness is all over the track which makes it very memorable – a very good song. “Something Inside” is slow, stripped, raunchy and blues laden yet smooth and silky. Still, it doesn’t really stay with me so I give it the “good but not great” rating.

“Golden Glow”, also stripped and laid back on the ballad side comes with a very memorable and catchy chorus and the melodies are giving me a calm feel. I’m getting a somewhat 60’s vibe from it but also a more modern pop-rock vibe – a great song! “You’re Too Rock And Roll” rocks things up a couple of notches with a big groove, distinctive rhythms and a bad-ass stomp. The uptempo fun-loving rock’n’roll is just what the album needed. “The Heart Is A Mindless Bird” starts out acoustic, stripped and mellow but soon turns electric, fast and even quite heavy – a nice contrast within the song. The song really rocks and it rocks good.

“Searching For A Signal” is in a faster pace and it do rocks but at the same time, a chunk of mellowness has sneaked its way into the song. I wouldn’t call the tune memorable but it’s still somewhat catchy, if that makes any sense. It’s an ok song that doesn’t really kick up any dust. It’s the same thing with the slow and groovy blues/rock number “Welcome To The New Disaster”. It’s pretty mellow and never really stick without being a bad tune.

“Ten Thousand Reasons” however, is a damn fine tune. It’s a pretty laid back yet rhythmic groove-laden ballad, dark with a bluesy feel and a very catchy melody both in verse and chorus – a clear favorite on this record for me. “Catalina” comes bouncing as a straight forward rocker, raunchy and quite punchy, but unfortunately, it kind of disappears because it’s just not catchy enough. It’s ok, but it doesn’t stick. Closing track “I Don’t Know Anything” is a dark and mellow, quite melancholic ballad that comes in an uptempo beat. It’s a good song that I guess will grow on me but as for now it doesn’t really hit me hard enough.

Just like their debut, this is a good album that feels good all while listening and just like the debut, it probably won’t make me a fan. Vivian Campbell proves once again that he is an excellent guitar player and Rob Lamothe is one damn fine singer while the rhythm section of bassist Nick Brophy and drummer Marc Danzelsen completes with a steady rhythm and lots of groove, so all is fine there. It’s just something with the songs that while listening I think are really good but just doesn’t bring THAT, the stuff that rocks my world. Would I buy it? Sure, why not – and as I said, it just might grow on me.

7/10

Tracklist:

1. American Dream
2. The Revolution Starts Tonight
3. Something Inside
4. Golden Glow
5. You’re Too Rock And Roll
6. The Heart Is A Mindless Bird
7. Searching For A Signal
8. Welcome To The New Disaster
9. Ten Thousand Reasons
10. Catalina
11. I Don’t Know Anything

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