L.A. Guns

Waking the Dead

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Founding members of L.A. Guns, Tracii Guns and vocalist Phil Lewis have concocted a solid outing with producer Andy Johns on Waking the Dead, the follow-up to the band's 2001 debut for Spitfire Records, Man in the Moon. More than just a commendable effort by L.A. Guns, the work of Andy Johns is not to be overlooked. In the '70s it was producer/engineer brother Glyn Johns who had the higher profile, and when Andy did produce, as with '80s metal band Cinderella, it came off -- much like the work of another engineer/producer, Ron Nevison -- as homogenized black-and-white musical photographs for the ear. Waking the Dead is a triumph for Andy Johns as much as it is for L.A. Guns, and the fabulous and hooky "City of Angels" has all the elements a driving pop song needs -- throbbing bass, precision drums, singing guitars, and great vocals with catchy phrasings. It's one of those songs you absolutely have to turn up when it comes on. The CD opens in no-nonsense fashion with "Don't Look at Me That Way," the same theme as the tune by Nervus Rex from the '70s, but much more firm in approach. "O.K., Let's Roll" is the subject matter Neil Young explored on "Let's Roll" from his Are You Passionate? CD, and the problem with these songs about 9/11 -- Mark Farner's "Red, White and Blue" included -- is that, while they are certainly heartfelt and respectful, the feel is awkward and a bit unnerving. When compared to the title track here or the driving "Revolution" (with elements of Cheap Trick and Mott the Hoople in the lyrics), "OK, Let's Roll" feels forced. "Revolution" plays like a great Alice Cooper single from the '70s, tight as a drum and appropriate for radio in the new millennium. It's a brilliant slice of rock & roll, up there with Ian Hunter's mini masterpiece, the song "Ripoff." "The Ballad" is just that, a ballad to give the listener a break. Throughout this effort, the sounds of Andy Johns continue to impress, light years away from his work with Hungary's 1970s export Locomotiv GT, the producer/engineer surrounding "The Ballad" with an eerie atmosphere allowing the guitars to come up in the mix splendidly. "Frequency" is a great change of pace as well, jungle rhythms and Black Sabbath riffs cut to half time. "Psychopathic Eyes" takes things even further, delving into punk. It's the Ramones gone metal, and different from the identifiable groove on much of the disc, but it fits in perfectly. "Hellraisers Ball" gets back to the basics, but it is "City of Angels" and "Don't You Cry" that give Guns N' Roses at their best a good run for the money.

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