Review Summary: Makin' music can be fun and Izzy Stradlin shows you how.
Izzy Stradlin has his name printed in rock 'n' roll history. Co-founder and rhythm guitarist of Guns N' Roses, he had a career and fame that many artists constantly dream of having. But in 1991, when Nirvana moved grunge and the entire art of music itself to a whole new dimension with Nevermind
and when the Guns n' Roses released the remarkable Use Your Illusion
albums, Izzy made the decision to leave the band he founded. The demanding rock 'n' roll lifestyle was seriously taking its toll on him and his health. After suffering a massive drug overdose that almost took his life, he decided to leave the Guns and to take some time off from music just to clear his head and get clean. Gilby Clarke was recruited by the Guns to replace him, and music fans doubted they'd ever hear anything from Izzy Stradlin again. They were wrong, though. In 1992, he came back to surface, founding his new band: Izzy Stradlin and the Ju Ju Hounds. Izzy didn't want to go back to the crazy lifestyle that he had grown so used to, when touring with the Guns N' Roses. Now, he just wanted to make music for fun. And, using that approach, it turned out pretty damn good.
"Putting out a record and still not having signed a record contract. That's pretty amazing, right? Having a record out but no record deal! Only in America! It doesn't matter, just get that $hit out!"
- Izzy Stradlin
Izzy Stradlin and the Ju Ju Hounds
Izzy Stradlin: Vocals, Guitar
Rick Richards: Lead Guitar
Jimmy Ashhurst: Bass Guitar
Charlie Quintana: Drums
Izzy's first solo venture doesn't stay too far from the dynamic hard rock based sound that was so prominently found and used in Appetite for Destruction
, for example, but it explores a lot of his punk, blues and reggae influences. That leads to quite a pleasant result, as the album gains a lot of diversity, which is greatly appreciated. His reggae influences go a long way here, and that's shown in his Pressure Drop
cover, in which Izzy turns a ska/reggae tune from The Maytals into a punk-driven number that has a lot of energy to go around. Then, we have a twist of his more bluesy side, seen perfectly in Shuffle It All
, a track that's perhaps the most beautiful one in the album, in which Izzy throws in some of the album's best lyrics. One more great aspect about this album is how Izzy decides not to make it about himself. He's the frontman, but that doesn't mean that it's a one-man show; he doesn't outshine the rest of the band. Izzy Stradlin and the Ju Ju Hounds
is not one of those self-centered solo albums where the artist makes every tiny little detail about himself. It's actually the exact opposite.
Izzy Stradlin and the Ju Ju Hounds
contains some viciously catchy and original tunes that drain a lot of inspiration from a lot of artists, and it has a little bit of everything. From Izzy's low-tuned but effective vocal attributes, to some not outstanding, but acessible lyrics, to a great sense of musicianship felt throughout the whole album and some intelligently used blues-rock influences. One definite highlight is Somebody Knockin'
. A simply structured, yet beautifully displayed blues-influenced tune that contains a very groovy and catchy melody, Somebody Knockin'
is a great opener to the album and shows how greatly Izzy's vocals adjust to the groove of the songs and how beautiful a song can be, even when keeping a creation process simple. After a twist of reggae and blues, some influences of punk can be found, especially in Bucket O' Trouble
. Definitely the album's most punk-driven track, it clocks in at only 2 minutes, but it's 2 minutes of an excellent twist of Ramones-inspired punk, containing one outstanding solo.
What sticks out the most from Izzy Stradlin and the Ju Ju Hounds
is Izzy's more country side, that would later come out more and more in his next solo albums. Some tracks are undeniably influenced by a lot of country artists, that offer a softer and more relaxed side to the album. Time Gone By
is an example of that. Featuring a prominent use of acoustic guitars that blend in together perfectly, it's a tune that, once again, shows how well Izzy's vocals can adjust to this type of music. Time Gone By
, that contains a very catchy chorus offers an even more diverse sound to the album. Train Tracks
and How Will It Go
are also tracks that come from Izzy's more southern side. Of all the influences that Izzy gracefully put into this album, his country ones are the ones that sound more refined and adjusted to his style. But he doesn't forget about his blues and that's shown mostly in Take a Look At That Guy
. It starts off as an innocent little country-rock number, before developing into a blues-influenced 2-minute jam, that's a joy to hear. That jam that takes some inspiration from Jimi and Chuck Berry is one of the album's biggest highlights.
It's always sad to know when a great rock band breaks up. When the Guns N' Roses, one of the most influential and talented hard rock bands of all time, broke up, it was definitely some bad news for the music community. It was, though, interesting to see what musical direction each artist took after the break up. Slash eventually founded Slash's Snakepit and recorded It's Five O' Clock Somewhere
, an album that most definitely proved how badly he wanted to continue to pursue his blues-based rock influences. Duff McKagan got involved in a lot of projects that never became too relevant. Izzy decided to collect all of his influences and make some music for fun. Boy, who knew making music could be that fun... Izzy Stradlin and the Ju Ju Hounds
is certainly an album that any Guns N' Roses fan should hear. It's nothing out of this world, but it's quite an interesting effort to listen to. It doesn't have any bad songs, the entire album is worth listening to. Not only does it contain some of Izzy's best solo work, it also shows how original your own music can be, coming from such a wide variety of influences.
Time Gone By
Shuffle It All