Hard Reviews
by Martin Popoff

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Fresh Metal

Westworld - Skin

An advance of passion and purpose over their project-feel debut, Westworld's Skin is an album that nimbly dances the top stepstones of Zeppelin, Rainbow, Def Leppard, Guns N' Roses and maybe Bon Jovi. Now that may sound like a mess, but it's not, Westworld taking the same thing from each camp, each band's bombastic star quality, its creaminess, its ambitious reach. OK, to chop and change at ground level, one hears riffs outta Coverdale Page, or perhaps the most Zepp-ish parts of Whitesnake, Riot's Mark Reale really shedding his downmarket power metal anchor for this regal flight of suprematude, Sykes crossed with Zakk crossed with Perry then sent to Buckingham Palace. Vocally, Tony Harnell is the king of phrasing, again, using his pop and softer rock sensibility to move beyond old TNT (something he did with equally impressive results on the criminally ignored Transistor album from last year). So oh yeah, continuing to prop my weak opening volley, the Rainbow is 'cos these are regal riffs that sound like world travel, and the Leps? Well, that's mainly because of the big breathy production, and those inevitable visions of stadiums these pure starry rock stars produce. The Gunners and the Jovis? Damn, it just feels big, bold and American, like the Gunners at the top of their power ballad game (Reale can Slash!), or Bon Jovi's best few minutes from their whole career, Westworld that anthemic with more regularity, that classy with more melodrama, just imperturbably in control of a ship that like I say, skims the cream from a bunch of classic rock styles, many of them tousled into the hair band area, but all the best working habits of that said genre (damn another flashcard: Tesla, and oh, another: Lillian Axe). Guys like Harnell (if soul, subtlety and grace be part of what us numb metal knucklenuts can detect), are going to be the solution to the power metal backlash, as all those Andi Deris clones get exposed for the cold, unimaginative technicians that they are. Singers like this are to be both studied and cherished.
Rating 8.5

Stephen Pearcy - Before And Laughter
(Top Fuel/Triple X)

Managing to put aside reports of drunky, slobbery, money-grubbing and otherwise cretinous behaviour on behalf of our man Stephen, I was thenceforth propelled into the man's cool vocals, cool bands, cool friends, great rock demos and rarities recorded in various configs throughout the years. Jewel of the pack is Railbreak, a fiery straightline groove version of Collage classic Steel River. Elsewhere, lots of solid early '90s material, a cool live in the studio Cry In Time, a tune called Out Of The Cellar live and raw from '78 (Pearcy's performance a little uh, questionable), and then into more highly groovy Arcade, Ratt and Ratt-like hair-with-edge. I dunno, maybe Stephen's a lowlife, sure sounds like it, and maybe live he can't cut it, but that's one great voice when coddled through the magic of modern recording, especially virile when paired with these gunslinging anthems of an era that is returning. All I know is I'm sure glad Stephen kept track of this stuff. It proves that as "restless" as he is, he's managed to keep himself busy and vital through the turmoil. Without reservation, a highly entertaining collection of tracks, most of it way better than demo quality, with a good half dozen near classic tracks, any one of which could have broken Pearcy big as a solo artist.
Rating 7.5

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