The last time I took the opportunity to wallow in the Godlike talent of singer/bassist Glenn Hughes was four years ago, when Cannock’s favourite son unleashed his maelstromic Resonate solo outing on an unsuspecting World. In four words in my review of the album, I described it as ‘a hard rock masterclass’, and I was sure, in 2016, that the then sixty-five year old marvel would be never to be able to equal Resonate in terms of sheer, dynamic, strutting heavy rock brilliance. But four years later he returns, this time in the guise of vocalist (and bassist) for David Lowy‘s always-intriguing (‘is it a high end vanity project or a ‘proper’ band?’ is always a question at the back of my mind whenever I view the revolving door nature of top musicians added and subtracted to and from the project’s ranks) The Dead Daisies outfit. Surely he can’t do it again? Can he?
We’ll return to that question later, once we’ve blown our speakers with the rock n’roll on offer from Lowy and co. on new album Holy Ground. Removing much loved former vocalist John Corabi (a huge voiced, but eternal side musician) and replacing him with Hughes (a huge-voiced, bona fide star of the first magnitude), was always going to be a risk; Glenn tends to dominate any situation he walks into, musically, so it’s a testament to Lowy (rhythm guitar), Deen Castronovo (drums, and no mean vocal talent himself, let’s not forget) and Doug Aldrich (guitars) that he only really steals the show on a couple of occasions. Long term fans of the Daisies will be pleased to hear that this doesn’t merely end up sounding like another GH solo album; rather it sounds like a rather good, if more bombastic and heavy, Dead Daisies record, a natural progression from where the band have been, and hopefully a pointer to where they might be headed if this lineup hangs around for a while.
Curiously, the album builds and builds steadily, meaning that the lesser material finds itself shoehorned into the front end of the record; this of course, could well end up being seen as a triumph of album tracking by the band, as the comparatively mundane title track which opens the album in no way readies the listener for the absolute sumptuousness that lies ahead. You really need to listen to the album as a whole, all the way through, to ‘feel the build’… That said, all of the first five tracks have a fair amount going for them, especially the broodingly heavy stomp of My Fate (which, you get the sense, is the kind of ‘grunge’ Kiss were actually trying to create when they recorded their misguided Carnival of Souls album rather than the half-baked nonsense they actually came up with). Hughes rules supreme over an adamantine Aldrich riff, leaving the doubters flailing in his wake once again with another bravura vocal performance. But then he tops it with perhaps his best personal performance on next track, the strutting Chosen and Justified (as opposed to Justified and Ancient? – Ed).
This really is the sort of music the man was born to sing, and you’ll marvel at his hitting of the heights on 2021’s first goosebump-bothering chorus of the year. Castronovo lays the beat down fat and strong, fat and strong enough for Hughes to rove all over it with some fine four string work whilst Aldrich fires licks off right left and centre around Lowy’s rock solid riffs. It’s nigh-on perfect funky rock n’roll, and you’re gonna lap it up.
Chosen and Justified triggers a run of regal rock n’roll that few will be able to rival as the year rolls by; Saving Grace recalls that 2016 solo album in terms of song writing class, but actually surpasses it in terms of performance (and there’s the answer to the question I posed at the top of the piece. Yes, yes he can!). This lineup may only have been together for a very short while, but this truly is the sound of a well-oiled, supremely confident machine at work; A quartet of musicians working together, pooling years of talent and experience in the service of outstanding heavy rock songcraft – and it’s a joy to behold.
The exuberant Unspoken kicks off and closes with fusillades of drumming from Castronovo that would make Keith Moon proud, before Hughes tries his hand at a song by perhaps one of the only vocalists in history who could give him a run for his money in a level-field, weight-for-age foot race – Steve Marriott.
You’ll probably have heard the Daisies’ take on Humble Pie‘s 30 Days In The Hole by now, so I won’t go into the track in too much detail; Hughes acquits himself with honour on what is a stone-cold heavy rock classic, and the band as a whole knock the Ace Frehley/Robin Zander version from last year into a conveniently-placed cocked hat.
Penultimate track Righteous Days is another stormer, but the band really do save the best til last with stupendous closing track Far Away. Weighing in at over seven minutes long, it’s the sort of song all the great bands of rock’s classic era used to keep tucked up their sleeves for the wowing of audiences both live and in their living rooms; Aldrich, of course, has form in this sort of thing (you might get the odd whiff of Whitesnake‘s Forevermore about Far Away, for instance) and his intensity of performance drives the band as they collectively keep upping the ante as the song progresses.
As you can probably tell, I’ve never been more than a curious observer of The Dead Daisies until now; it’s undeniable that that state of affairs would have continued had Hughes not been lured into the fold. In another life, David Lowy is a successful investor, and so could be seen to be something of an expert in risk taking; he took the greatest risk of his musical career by hiring Hughes – and it’s paid of in spades, and then some. Hats off to him.
Holy Ground releases on January 22nd