The Duke

My Kung Fu Is Good

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My Kung Fu Is Good is a completely awesome album title. Unfortunately, the album doesn't entirely live up to it. Although presented as a solo project by Richard Park Ward, guitarist and songwriter for tongue-in-cheek hair metallers Fozzy, the lineup is basically Fozzy minus singer Chris Jericho (presumably busy tending to his other career as a WWE wrestler, as well as his sideline gig as a ubiquitous talking head on those instant-nostalgia shows on VH1). However, the songs are a notably calmer lot on My Kung Fu Is Good: if Fozzy's direct inspiration is Ozzy Osbourne's '80s solo albums, then the Duke is Ward's homage to Night Ranger and those other heartland AOR artists of the '80s (retroactively dubbed "butt rock" by a small band of ironists). Unapologetically catchy tunes with big anthemic choruses (the best of the bunch being the stomping opener "I Give to You" and the requisite power ballad "Breathe") are given the full-on '80s production treatment, with Eric Frampton's piano (think of Jonathan Cain's role in Journey, or Kevin Cronin's in REO Speedwagon) the primary counterpoint to Ward's clean, effects-heavy guitar parts. It's an impressive re-creation of an out-of-date style (Ward has the perfect voice for this kind of earnest pop-rock), but between this and Fozzy, My Kung Fu Is Good leaves the impression that Ward is a songwriter who only works "in character," with little of his own to say musically.

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