Matt Sorum's Fierce Joy

Stratosphere

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Guns N' Roses, Velvet Revolver, and Cult drummer (not to mention rock & roll hall of famer) Matt Sorum's second solo outing is a big, dusty, vintage blast of open-road classic rock, breezy singer/songwriter folk-pop, and occasionally lavish chamber/psych rock that gives a tip of the hat to everyone from David Bowie and Joni Mitchell to Masters of Reality and Queens of the Stone Age. Assuming the lead singer position for the first time (his voice falls somewhere in between the affable, Southern Cali-cadence of David Lowery and the thick, weathered croon of Mark Lanegan), as well as contributing guitar and piano, Sorum infuses the excellent Stratosphere with decades of listening experience, offering up a warm, wise, occasionally surprising, and always inviting 14-track set that's bookended, '70s prog-rock style, by a pair of appropriately cosmic-sounding instrumental/spoken word bits that frame the album in a rich patina of tube-driven retro-goodness. He navigates the usual themes (love, loss, life, and death) with a deep understanding of their myriad tropes, but he's a shrewd enough songwriter to know that lyrical cliches wake up when musically spiced. Stand-out cuts like the stately, pedal steel-driven "The Sea," the meaty, horn-laden Spider from Mars tribute "What Ziggy Says," the driving Iggy Pop-meets-the Killers highway anthem "For the Wild Ones," and the lovely and unfussy "Josephine," the latter a stately tribute to his 101-year old grandmother, all feel like the work of an artist with nothing to prove, and all the time in the world to do what he loves best, making music.

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