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+ {Slash’s Snakepit}+ {Slash featuring Myles Kennedy & The Conspirators}

While everyone assumes iconic guitarist extraordinaire is American, as his long association with GUNS N’ ROSES suggested, SLASH (born Saul Hudson, July 23, 1965, Hampstead, London; raised Stoke-on-Trent) is indeed English – his father was rock album art designer for JONI MITCHELL, NEIL YOUNG, et al, his mother a fabric designer for the Hollywood film industry. Striking pay-dirt with hedonistic metallists GUNS N’ ROSES from the mid-80s to his departure a decade later, one could be assured he’d be recognised for his rather emblematic black top-hat, sunglasses and shaggy-dog mane. For years happy to let GN’R frontman Axl Rose take all the exposure (and the flak that comes with it), his tenure with rock’s bad boys arguably hit its pinnacle with his screeching/climactic guitar solo in `November Rain’.
Frustrated by worsening musical differences with Axl, the guitarist found an outlet for his bluesy hard-rock passions in side project SLASH’S SNAKEPIT, featuring GN’R drummer Matt Sorum (although he was to leave before the release of any material), ex-GN’R rhythm guitarist Gilby Clarke, ALICE IN CHAINS bassist Mike Inez and ex-JELLYFISH frontman Eric Dover.
Written jointly with Dover, IT’S FIVE O’CLOCK SOMEWHERE (1995) {*6} eventually emerged into the vacuum waiting to be filled by a GN’R album. While the blues-rock on offer didn’t quite match the explosive aura of his main band, it satisfied many fans craving for a fix of Slash’s distinctive, fluid soloing; check out the LED ZEPPELIN-esque `What Do You Want To Be’, the ALICE COOPER-ish `Monkey Chow’ and the BON JOVI-ish `Take It Away’.
Come the accompanying tour, the guitarist was enjoying himself so much, he finally parted company with Axl and Co amid much controversy. Following the record’s success, SLASH eventually assembled a whole new line-up (vocalist Rod Jackson, guitarist Kerry Kelly, bassist Johnny Blackout and drummer Matt Laug) for a belated, low-key sophomore album AIN’T LIFE GRAND (2000) {*5}. Yer run-of-the-mill, meat ’n’ two-veg hard rock act, the blues was sacrificed for old-school cliches and awkward lyrics, although the raspy Jackson excels on the relatively casual-to-crescendo `Shine’, `Serial Killer’ and the punk-y `The Alien’.
Always searching for a return to the halcyon days of GN’R, albeit without the OTT excesses that surrounded every move they made, Slash re-united with old muckers Duff McKagan and Matt Sorum, while a lead singer for the VELVET REVOLVER supergroup was found in rehab’s favourite attendee Scott Weiland (formerly of post-grunge combo STONE TEMPLE PILOTS). This outfit lasted for two sets (the Grammy-winning `Contraband’ in 2004 and `Libertad’ in 2007) until Weiland confirmed his return to solo work and his first love, STP.
Always on the cards was a solo album proper by SLASH, but with his vocal chords not exactly his forte, he opted for the celebrity guest singer showcase for the eponymous SLASH (2010) {*4}. Compared in some circles as metal’s answer to (Carlos) SANTANA’s `Supernatural’ from a decade ago, one could see the virtuoso’s commercial reasons behind such an austere concept. The CULT’s Ian Astbury, OZZY, LEMMY, CHRIS CORNELL, DAVE GROHL, KID ROCK, IGGY POP, Adam Levine and even BLACK EYED PEAS’ Fergie were among a stellar cast of greats on this set, but the songs remained the same as each vocalist attempted to stamp their own authority on cliched hard-metal; the exceptions were `Ghost’, `Back From Cali’ and the Fergie tune `Beautiful Dangerous’.
Not totally dissing the obligatory live CD/DVD combination that was his British homecoming set, MADE IN STOKE 24/7/11 (2011) {*5} – look out for GN’R songs a-plenty here – SLASH’s second solo outing, APOCALYPTIC LOVE (2012) {*6} saw him team up with recent stalwart/co-writer/rhythm guitarist, Myles Kennedy (and The Conspirators), who’d appeared on his previous two records. It was clear that his rapport with foil Myles was a worthy one, as songs such as `Halo’, `You’re A Lie’, `Bad Rain’ and `Standing In The Rain’ announced their intentions. A good show all round, credit was also due to his band Todd Kerns (bass) and Brent Fitz (drums), who’d stick around for another collaborative Top 10 blast: WORLD ON FIRE (2014) {*6}.
Not that far removed from GUNS N’ ROSES minus its Axl, the riff-tastic SLASH, MYLES and Co strike a lean and mean partnership on some 17 cool and cocky cuts. While one can’t quite separate from its retro association, Kerrang! page-turners will no doubt be overwhelmed by its slick and street-smart approach on several songs, including the opening title track, `Automatic Overdrive’, `Bent To Fly’, `Shadow Life’ and the memorable opus `The Unholy’.
Spotlighting several of the above and others from his not-too-distant past (or so it seemed), SLASH, MYLES and their Conspirators unleashed the UK-only double-CD, LIVE AT THE ROXY 25.9.14 (2015) {*7}. From the GUNS N’ ROSES vaults came `Nightrain’, `You Could Be Mine’, `You’re Crazy’, `Rocket Queen’, `Sweet Child O’ Mine’ and `Paradise City’, while there was room for VELVET REVOLVER track `Slither’.
Following a two-year stint with GUNS N’ ROSES (from headlining 2016’s Coachella), the return of SLASH featuring MYLES KENNEDY AND THE CONSPIRATORS reaped some commercial transatlantic Top 30 reward through their own third studio set, LIVING THE DREAM (2018) {*6}. A dozen menacing metal cuts on board, the three that would probably be remembered in the annuls of rock were `The Call Of The Wild’, `Mind Your Manners’ and `Slow Grind’; to many SLASH’s posse were basically holding the fort for GN’R.
© MC Strong June2012-Sep2018

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