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Slash feat. Myles Kennedy and The Conspirators - 4 (Album Review)

Tuesday, 22 February 2022 Written by Simon Ramsay

Photo: Austin Nelson 

When it comes to making his Les Paul sing like a celestial being, Slash is a guitar god. But, as this frustrating effort with Myles Kennedy & The Conspirators shows, that doesn’t necessarily mean his musical powers are omnipotent.

The band’s fourth album is by no means a stinker, but given he’s also been writing for that other band of his, there’s a feeling Slash may have spread his creative spirit too thinly as a result.

Having previously established an adventurous, hook-laden brand of classic rock ‘n’ roll, it’s disappointing this album doesn’t hit the same heights as the group’s first three records.

Due to an unfortunate collision of close-but-no-cigar material, and inappropriate collaborators, the whole shebang has an undercooked, wheel-spinning air to it.  

Firstly, hiring Dave Cobb to produce ‘4’ appears to have been a mistake. He’s rightly considered as one of the most important people in modern Americana music, but his work with rock bands is often patchy and predictable due to his desire to record their songs as quickly as possible in order to capture a spontaneous, live performance feel.  

Like recent offerings by Blackberry Smoke and Airbourne, ‘4’ is another Cobb-helmed rock effort that practically cries out ‘nearly, but not quite’ from every rushed note.  ‘Appetite For Destruction’-era bruiser Call Off The Dogs and talk-box groover C’est La Vie are enjoyable, albeit by numbers, cuts. Some of Slash’s guitar solos, which were clearly done in one take, scream unremarkable and Kennedy’s hooks land on good rather than great too often.  

Fall Back To Earth, although wrapped around a vintage, emotive lead lick, shoots for epic but is too obvious and nowhere near the magnificence of ‘Use Your Illusion II’ highlight Estranged. Whatever Gets You By, which boasts a booming, sludgy riff and dreadful plodding chorus, epitomises a collection of songs that, often featuring stellar and rote parts in equal measure, needed working into better overall shape.  

The production is so thin you’d find more meat on a vegetarian’s toothpick. And the less said about the mix, the better. Asking for more refinement might not be very rock ‘n’ roll, but balance is crucial. Do you want off the cuff immediacy or superbly crafted songs that sound great and can be injected with improvisational fire and raw energy on stage?

That said, there’s too much talent here to make ‘4’ a complete dud. The River Is Rising, in spite of its clumsy Paradise City-lite double time shift (that will, admittedly, kill live), is a cool track built on buzzing tremolo picking, Actions Speak Louder Than Words bashes out a nice cowbell-flavoured T-Rex stomp and Fill My World is melodically classy and sweet. Spirit Love, meanwhile, features an outstanding solo as Slash indulges exotic modalities before going full neo-classical a la Ritchie Blackmore.

Has the cat in the hat prioritised Guns N’ Roses’ forthcoming EP? He’d probably deny that but, even if it’s only subconscious, such a decision would be understandable given the scrutiny and expectation anything they put out will attract. With that release now imminent, we’ll know soon enough if his old gang have profited at the expense of this usually reliable and exciting outfit.

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