Tim "Ripper" Owens rocketed from anonymity to fame when he was picked to replace Rob Halford in Judas Priest; he's since continued to impress die-hard metal fans with his work fronting Iced Earth and performing on the latest Yngwie Malmsteen album. This, his debut as a solo artist, isn't any kind of break with his past; the opposite is true, in fact. Play My Game is a metal album that all but denies that anything's happened in the music since 1982. The riffs could all have come off a Judas Priest, Dio, or Accept album, and Owens' delivery continues to owe its very existence to Rob Halford's and Ronnie James Dio's examples (there's a little bit of Axl Rose in his voice on a couple of songs, too). But that very classicism has made Owens a lot of friends among musicians he likely grew up idolizing. Consequently, the album is stuffed with guest guitar solos by folks like Steve Stevens, former Kiss member Bruce Kulick, Whitesnake's Doug Aldrich, Savatage's Chris Caffery, and more. Similarly, the bass chair is filled on various tracks by ex-Megadeth member David Ellefson, Billy Sheehan of Mr. Big and David Lee Roth's solo band, Quiet Riot's Rudy Sarzo, and others, and the drummers include Simon Wright of AC/DC and Rhino Bucket, and Bobby Jarzombek of Halford. Which is great for fans who track guest appearances like baseball stats, but the guitarists are the only ones who get real showcases for their skills, and the songs they're guesting on are largely unmemorable. Based on this material, Owens could sell out a medium-sized club, or deliver a killer set opening a bigger act's tour, but he's got to find a way to be memorable on his own terms if he's gonna have a career as more than an extremely talented hired gun.
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AllMusic Review by Phil Freeman