Think big. Then think even bigger.
True, it was always going to be the case that the first Dead Daisies outing featuring the titanic talents of Glenn ‘the voice’ Hughes was going to pack some firepower. Lavish, maximum-voltage old school rock was always on the cards. But, even then, Holy Ground feels quite extraordinary.
It’s a colossus of an album – the kind you used to get before speakers shrunk to the size of baked bean cans. In other words, bloody loud and brilliantly over-the-top.
There is, though, the question of the name. On this fifth release from the Daisies brand, Hughes not only replaces popular vocalist John Corabi but bassist Marco Mendoza, too. Indeed, his giant bass sound is as unmistakeable as his voice: ‘Can you feel my bass line?’ he enquires stridently on the aptly titled Like No Other (Bassline). Well, yeah. Loud and clear, as it happens. Since fans had their first taste of this line-up – the magnificent Righteous Days single – opinions have been mixed. While most heaped praise on the sound and the song writing, there were, inevitably, the ‘it’s not the Dead Daisies’ comments. And they had a point.
But, really, this is such an impressive piece of work that what it’s called just doesn’t seem important. In any case, it always seems a bit unfair that rock fans demand such eternal loyalty from their idols. Anyone who’s ever delved into books about rock family trees will know just how incestuous band history can get. At the end of the day, musicians are professionals who want to play and make a living. Some of them stay with their original bands forever, but some move on, just as us ordinary folk might remain in jobs or marriages for a lifetime – or not. Hughes, of course, is no stranger to following on from much-loved singers.
Happily, Holy Ground does bring one magical partnership back together. Lead guitarist Doug Aldrich, who has been in the band since 2016 (replacing Richard Fortus) toured with Hughes’s solo band from 2015 and his skills are an ideal counterpart for those mighty vocals. Nowhere is that chemistry more explosive than on Bustle and Flow – surely one of the very best rock songs of the past few years.
And so to that voice. Having witnessed Hughes in a good-fun sing-off with Myles Kennedy (on Deep Purple classic Burn) a few years back, and then on the solo tour that followed, I can attest to the fact that he really does still have it. There’s no studio trickery here: he’s one of the few power singers of his vintage who hasn’t lost his range. Only seconds in, on the hard-driving title track, he’s firing out those notes. And on My Fate you get the slow burn from the lower reaches to full-on rock-tastic territory. It’s all just an astounding tour-de-force.
The others do get a look-in, though. Aldridge produces stellar work throughout – oh, lord, the solos on Unspoken and Far Away – while Deen Castronovo’s gargantuan backbeat is much in evidence (he even gets to share the vocals on the rocked-up cover of Humble Pie’s 30 Days in the Hole).
Yes, it’s an entirely different sound. But surely there aren’t many classic rock fans who’d turn this down.
As for those of us who were always suckers for Glenn Hughes belting out lines about blood red skies – what’s not to like?
More about The Dead Daisies.
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