|John Corabi - 'Unplugged' (Rat Pak Records)|
|Written by Ben Hughes|
|Thursday, 14 February 2013 03:00|
John Corabi's first solo album has been a long time coming for sure. The former frontman of The Scream, Motley Crue and Union could well have chosen to distance himself from his past bands and come up with an album of entirely new material, but instead he has chosen to embrace his past with a full acoustic album featuring seven songs from his old bands and five new songs. So John has chosen to re-work three songs from the highly underrated debut from The Scream, 'Let It Scream', two from the equally awesome 'MC94' album and two from his time with Bruce Kulick in Union.
What we have here is a snapshot of John's career, a retrospective if you like. At first I thought why re-record songs that are great in their original version? Well these songs were written on acoustic guitar and taking them back to their original format is probably the way they were meant to be heard, laid bare, passionate and straight from the soul.
John has been playing shows acoustically for a couple of years now and I guess these are the songs that work the best in a live environment. Also, with the exception of the Motley Crue songs, they are not widely available, so what better way to introduce new fans to some great lost classics. However John is not alone in this project, though an acoustic solo album it is a full band effort featuring D.A. Karkos on guitar, Topher Nolan on bass, Matt Farley and Collective Soul's Cheney Brannon on percussion, all provide frankly stunning backing harmonies that really are the icing on the cake of this album. John's Union band mate Bruce Kulick also provides guitar on 'Man In The Moon' and 'Hooligan's Holiday'.
It's a Union song that opens the album: 'Love (I Don't Need It Anymore)' is the first of the re-worked songs, a stand out track from the debut Union album. The original is good, but this is better, that chorus will stick in your head and will not leave without a fight, trust me. With some nice Beatlesque harmonies it sets the bar at a very high level from the start.
Up next the first new song, 'If I Never Get To Say Goodbye', is Corabi heartfelt balladry at its best, we all know John's voice is suited to this sort of song just as well as the rockers, and this is a perfect example of why I love his voice. 'Are You Waiting' is a song that pre-dates even The Scream, going back to John's time in Angora, it's a song remarkably similar in feel and structure to 'Loveshine' and may well have been an inspiration for that song, love it.
'Crash' is again classic Corabi balladry, with lush harmonies to soothe the soul. 'Everything's Alright' from Union's 2nd album 'The Blue Room' is a homage to The Beatles, the lyrics half inched from various Beatles classics, stripped back here it's slightly trippy, lazy summer day vibe sits well, with some lush multi-layered backing vocals that top it off nicely.
'Father, Mother, Son' is up there in my list of favourite songs ever and this version sure does the original justice. With as much feel as the original, John's voice here is filled with emotion and the gorgeous vocal harmonies give it an almost gospel, even angelic feel, and while the acoustic solo may not be as rip roaring as the original, it is still a powerful version of a classic song. Beautiful lyrically and musically sublime, it still makes the hairs on the back of my neck stand up and brings a tear to my eye every time I hear it.
Up next is the song that's the biggest departure from the originals on offer, 'Hooligan's Holiday' from the self-titled Motley Crue album is of course a balls-out rock track with a massive sound, how could it possibly transfer acoustically without those drums to power that riff? Well it has been cleverly re-worked here, John stripping it right down, taking the first part of Mick Mars' original riff as the refrain for a swampy, bluesy workout. Laid bare with just acoustics, minimal percussion and those now trademark lush harmonies, it's the stand out track on this album, proving that sometimes the unexpected will work the best, and that is how you do a cover version.
John is now based in Nashville and this maybe is an influence on the countrified ballad that is 'If I Had A Dime', which flows nicely into 'Loveshine' from 'MC94', pretty much a carbon copy of the original but it fits the feel of the album perfectly so why not re-record it. 'Man In The Moon' retains the power and emotion of the original Scream version, I thought it may lose something without those guitars to drive it, but stripped back to acoustics with a strong vocal performance it sounds just fine here.
The last of the original material, 'Open Your Eyes' has a definite '60s feel to it, from the opening picked chords to those lazy backing vocals, it's sweet indeed, and that brings us to the closing song, an upbeat, bluesy, almost skiffle-like run through of The Scream track 'I Never Loved Her Anyway', a song that relies on spot-on harmonised backing vocals to make it work, and work it surely does.
Oddly tagged on the end is a 15 minute interview, in it John talks candidly about the his upcoming book idea, the planned re-release of The Scream album and trying to get his old material on iTunes. But why put an interview on an album? Personally, I don't get it, sure it's an interesting listen but it's only going to get played the once. Why not just put it on YouTube? Anyway that is a minor niggle on my part.
Even though these songs are all taken from different time periods in John's life, 'Unplugged' works as an album, the new songs stand up against the old and it's a great introduction for fans new to his work and a great reminder to old fans as to what makes his music so special.