Richie Scarlet - I Plead The Fifth
Rating 4 out of 5 Stars
I receive many press releases and new music release news and if it's on vinyl, I usually let you know about it (just wish people would stop sending me download codes, music is meant to be heard on vinyl, not via small computer speakers and 1's and 0's); but I digress.
Several weeks ago I heard about a new vinyl release from a rock and roller named Richie Scarlet. I have to be brutally honest, I had never heard the name before. However, I asked the record company for a copy of the vinyl so I could give it a listen and write up a review. Am I glad I did.
For those who don't know the name, Richie Scarlet, (a.k.a. the "Emperor of Rock and Roll") has quite a lengthy resume - having played with the likes of Ace Frehley's Comet, Peter Criss, Mountain, Sebastian Bach, the Alice Cooper Group and many others. A multi-instrumentalist, Scarlet's roots and musical style were influenced by some of the bands and musicians he has played with, as he explains:
"I grew up with T-Rex, David Bowie, and early KISS and then I went from that to into the Sex Pistols and I had always loved Black Sabbath, Uriah Heep, Deep Purple," said Scarlet "I usually co-produce my records but this time I turned it over to the guy that I co-produce with Tarik Solangi. I told him “You take over. I want to be featured more as a songwriter more than a guitar hero." A lot of my records I do a lot of guitar, this new record, I had just written most of these songs and I have Bumblefoot from Guns n Roses on there, and the sax player from the Rolling Stones, Arnold Hecht."
So, dropping the needle on the bright scarlet red record, the first cut "Lips Like Morphine" started out slow, almost sounding like an intro from the Steve Miller band, but quickly progressed into a full-bore meat and potatoes rocker ala Alice Cooper and Kiss. But this cut is his own, and you quickly discover that his song writing abilities rival those of the influential musicians he has had the honor to play with.
On the next two selections, "Burning Though Life" and I Don't Wanna Die," Scarlet sounds hauntingly familiar - with a mix of Cooper/Poison playful guitar energy, complete with silly rhymes and galloping riffs. The side is rescued by the subtle melodies of "Lost In My World," which is reminiscent of Styx, which is not a bad thing, as the song builds and you can feel the emotion and passion that Scarlet has for the lyrics; culminating in some progressive keyboards and blistering guitar work for the finale.
Side 2 starts out with a catchy, sophisticated rocker called "Without Your Love" that is a painful confession to love gone by and with a pop-like chorus and guitar rifffing could be on any Kiss record. Drumbeats lead us into the next cut, an acoustic gem called "Indian Souls (1876);" a socially conscious ode to the American Indian, with painfully truthful lyrics and impassioned vocals by Scarlet. But on the next cut "Love Will Find A Way," he tries too hard to channel his emotions and lyrically, it just reaches too much for me.
However that disappointment is offset by the next cut, the Eric Burdon-like "King Heroin," a song that starts slow and easy, yet gently turns into an all-out bluesy rocker. The sax work is impeccable and the words have the sound of a man who has been there before and it's anti-drug message cannot be ignored. The last cut reminds of early Yes, with thumping base lines, mixed with keyboard work and guitar prowess that would make Rick Wakeman and Mark Knopler proud.
There were a couple of duds on the record, but one thing is certain, Richie Scarlet is a talented, inventive musician who can write on his own and become, not just a sideman, but a full-fledged member of modern rock and roll. I'd love to hear what he does next, and as a musician you always want them coming back for more.
~ Robert Benson CVR Blog