Are you ready for the second coming of Motley Crüe? If they give you the blues, you might want to check out Tommy Castro instead.
Motley Crüe “Red, White & Crüe”This is what bands do when they get back together for a reunion tour: Rush out a greatest hits compilation with a handful of new tracks sprinkled in to make you pay for it all over again (although few have the chutzpah to make it a two-disc set).
But once you get past that, “Red, White & Crüe” — the double disc marking the second coming of the Bad Boys of Rock ’n’ Roll — contains some of the absolute best heavy metal produced in the 1980s and early ’90s. The original Crüe (vocalist Vince Neil, guitarist Mick Mars, bassist Nikki Sixx and drummer Tommy Lee) are back with more of the good-time bump-and-boogie metal they used to such great effect back when Reagan was president.
Three new songs on this 37-track collection augur well for Motley’s future: the radio-friendly “If I Die Tomorrow,” with more of the same catchy hooks and melodic choruses; “Sick Love Song,” which retains the “Dr. Feelgood” vibe; and a nicely metaled-up, wah-wah-intensive cover of the Stones’ “Street Fighting Man.” Some of the band’s best moments have come while covering other bands’ material, and most of it is here, including versions of the Sex Pistols’ “Anarchy In The U.K.,” The Beatles’ “Helter Skelter” and Brownsville Station’s “Smokin’ In The Boys Room.”
But the best part remains the tracks from the band’s first two albums, “Too Fast For Love” and “Shout At The Devil,” a 1-2 punch rarely equaled in the annals of hard rock, including the powerful “Live Wire,” “Piece Of Your Action,” and their breakthrough hit “Looks That Kill,” which almost single-handedly ushered in the 1983 metal renaissance. —Wayne Parry
Tommy Castro, “Soul Shaker”Being a modern-day blues artist is a tough gig. These musicians can come off mighty contrived for an artform built from the grittiest of working-class roots.
The San Francisco Bay area’s Tommy Castro attempts to keep his flavor of blues viable on “Soul Shaker.” It’s an admirable attempt, but there’s no mistaking Castro for anything more than a consummate journeyman here. What he doesn’t do brilliantly with the vocals and guitar, he at least does with some well-intentioned heart and purpose.
“Let’s Give Love A Try” is among the top tracks, with Castro’s sweet-edged vocals. Also good is “No One Left To Lie To,” a slow burn paced with Castro’s passable guitar riffs sprinkled throughout in B.B. King filler fashion.
Perhaps holding Castro back from a greater sound is the flat engineering and mixing, resulting in a bland interpretation. No one guitar riff or horn section sounds more urgent than another, leaving most of the tracks without the rich texture found on more polished recordings. All in all, this album is fair but formulaic blues from a well-traveled bluesman. —Ron Harris