|War & Peace - 'The Flesh and Blood Sessions' (Deadline Music)|
|Written by Gaz E|
|Friday, 19 April 2013 03:20|
The story behind the making of this album reads like an unaired episode of Behind The Music. By rights, the story should be way more interesting than the record itself: happily, the music comes out swinging and punches its way to prospective purchase on merit rather than purely for completist reasons.
With Dokken all over bar the crying (and wig buying) at the tail end of the '80s Jeff Pilson (switching to lead vocals and rhythm guitar) teamed up with bassist Michael Diamond, lead guitarist Randy Hansen, and drummer Vinny Appice, and headed to Sound City Studios to demo material for a new band called Flesh and Blood. Not long after the songs from the sessions (which make up the first five tracks of this album) were mixed by Neil Kernon, Hansen was gone, replaced by Darren Householder (who would later join Love/Hate as Jon E. Love's replacement), and the band name was lost too, nabbed by a band who had inked a deal with Atlantic Records. Now you know why this album is called 'The Flesh and Blood Sessions'. War & Peace was chosen as the new bandname.
The Sound City sessions were released, coupled with four songs that were never finished at the demo stage and were recorded solely by Pilson in the mid to late-90s, by Cleopatra Records in 1999. When Cleopatra hatched the idea to re-release the record in 2013 - via its Deadline Music imprint - Pilson dug out a song, 'Heaven Knows', the only tune on the disc to feature Housholder's playing as it happens, and included it as a bonus track.
So, with that potted history expanded by liner notes from Pilson himself, a bonus song, and a remastering job by Wyn Davis, the intrigue surrounding this War & Peace release should be such that investigation is the only option. "Sit back and enjoy a trip down memory lane to when you could still hear rock on the radio and metal ruled the day," Pilson says about the reissue. Have you had a better offer than that all day?
Serious decision making saves the day for War & Peace....and I mean serious. What saves this record from falling fully into the nostalgia well is the fact that, lyrically, the band eschewed the party rock baby talk of many of their contemporaries and went for themes politically charged and probing. Take opener 'Kill For The Love Of God' as a prime example: heavy of lyric and riff, the song introduces the band with some verve, huge swathes of melody wrestling with guitars that owed more to the metal community than the pop rock that was souring the globe at the time. Okay, 'If I Put My Love In You' might butt heads with what I just said but, with the bandname and cover art, the fact that this band were at least asking some questions concerning the state of the world while others were looking to burn holes in it with their hairspray use was a step in the right direction.
'I Don't Want To Be Lonely' should really have had hit single written all over it but, I guess, when it's followed on the tracklisting by a song called 'Nailed To The Cross' there was confusion instead of dollar signs floating in front of the eyes of the musical powers-that-be at that time. The brooding 'Snake Eyes' rounds out those original Sound City sessions, a slowburner that is the nearest that you'll get to Dokken on the entire record, before it goes dark and heavy at chorus time, of course.
The aforementioned 'Nailed To The Cross' rocks out with a cool heaviness to the riff and the song that follows it, the first of the songs that Pilson recorded himself some years later, stands alongside perfectly: 'Idle Worship' throws out more shards of discontent towards organised religion, and hits the spot while doing it. 'Bringing It On' rides in on a 'War Machine'-style riff and, considering Pilson recorded these in the mid '90s, edges towards that heavier vein of melodic rock: I could easily mention KISS again - think 'Revenge'.
'Raising Cain' hints at Living Colour at its opening, before unfurling into a worthwhile, hook-laden workout, the chorus memorable, the guitar sound meaty. 'What I Hide Behind' was actually written by Pilson when he was a member of the McAuley Schenker Group, playing on the band's third and final studio album, 'M.S.G.', in 1992, and vocalist Robin McAuley turns up for a guest appearance singing the song's bridge.
The bonus track, 'Heaven Knows', is almost Dio-esque in tone, certainly from the more metallic part of the Pilson persona, but is certainly more than just a collector's curio, standing toe to toe with the others songs on the album, giving them a run for their money.
Cleopatra/Deadline are releasing, and re-releasing, some valid work from celebrated artists, and 'The Flesh and Blood Sessions' is another example of positive thinking emitting positive results. Instead of thinking what might have been regarding Flesh and Blood/War & Peace, post-listening I'm left with one overriding thought: I always said that Jeff Pilson had the best voice in Dokken, I'm pretty sure that he had a better voice than many of the hair metal/cock rock pin-ups boyz of the time. Not bad for a bassist. And guitarist. And drummer. And producer. And Actor. Jeez, he could even pull off being ginger.....