As the ’80s progressed and hair metal took over, bands tried to stand out by having ‘credible’ influences. A famous interview saw Skid Row singer, Sebastian Bach, say ‘Your influences were not Big Bill Broonzy and Paganini, your band is influenced by Van Halen’ as a generic response to this trend. So, when we heard that Phil Collen, of Girl and Def Leppard, had put together a blues band, we expected it to be cringeworthy. How much could the guitarist of a band as slick as Def Leppard know about the blues?
It seems the answer to that question is a lot. Although a few tracks, like Feelit (which is poppy) and Shuffle Sweet (which sounds like a blues ’80s hair metal band) don’t stray too far from his day job, elsewhere Phil shows off impressive blues chops, including slide guitar on Bang The Lid, slick soul playing on Treat Her Like candy and Private Number, and straight out Albert King/SRV slow blues on Burnt Sally. It’s clear this is a labour of love and that he knows his stuff. It’s no wonder that magazines coming at it as lovers of blues, and not fans of hard rock, are gushing over this CD. This CD runs the gamut of blues influences without ever sounding superficial, or like the band is ever out of its depth.
Of course, Phil has connections and there are a few guests on this album. Paul Cook and Simon Laffy (both of Manraze, Paul of the Sex Pistols and Simon of Girl) guest on the slow-grinding blues rock of Black Coffee. David Coverdale guests on the Motown inspired Private Number and, somewhat incongruously, Joe Elliot (Def Leppard) appears on a cover of David Coverdale’s Deep Purple classic song, Mistreated.
A live album is getting a simultaneous release, called ‘East Coast Live’. It contains the songs from this CD, plus a couple of bonus tracks in a cover of Led Zeppelin’s Black Dog, the blues classic Rock Me Baby tacked on the end of Burnt Sally (where it fits very nicely), and Bless These Blues, a decent electric-blues rock song that channels John Lee Hooker, but is generic enough that it’s not surprising it was left off the main album. A seven-song (plus drum solo and band intros) DVD is also included.
Phil Collen is 61 years old. He grew up in the age of Led Zeppelin, at a time when the bands he listened to were directly influenced by the blues explosion in the UK in the ’60s. While the depth of his genuine influences is a pleasant surprise, in hindsight, it seems obvious. He’s also been asked to join Joe Satriani and John Petrucci on the ‘G3’ tour, an invite that only goes out to virtuoso guitarists. His playing in Def Leppard has always been exactly what that band needs, but obviously, he feels the time has come to let his hair down and show us what else he can do. If you’re a fan of blues music at all, then you really need this CD.