Victor 1996 / Cleopatra 2018
Solo bites from a GREAT WHITE front man who traded showing off for knowing smile.
Even though his band’s 1996 album “Let It Rock” was welcomed by multitude of hard rock fans, Jack Russell grew increasingly restless within the group’s constraints, and that record’s opener “My World” – which introduced guitarist Matthew Johnson to their inner circle of writers – pointed out to a whole cache of music which felt too personal to fit the collective modus operandi. They needed other outlet and, coupled with the vocalist’s desire to strike on his own, work on a solo project seemed inevitable. “Shelter Me” didn’t turn out drastically different, yet it’s a solid offering and – unlike many platters from the ’90s – it hasn’t lost any appeal.
With sharp vibrancy and raw riffs of the title track reflecting its social angle, there’s hardly a dull moment or a weak spot on this mix of original pieces and cover versions whose choice is quite telling. Russell took the unhinged edge off “Hey Bulldog” yet at the same time upped, via orchestral lift, its psychedelic wail and smeared Motown sweetness all over “You’ll Lose A Good Thing” where Johnson’s strings sing very vulnerably, but new pieces pack just as powerful a punch. Jack goes for a playful and graceful romp on the finely orchestrated, piano-splashed the “The Fault’s All Mine” and has his bluesiness purified on “Long Way To Go” – only to let the acoustic lace and backing voices wrap “Leave Me Lonely” in an emotional cocoon of finest silk that’s delicately stroked with Tom Bogert’s supple bass.
Less expected, Blades locates jazzy poise in the unhurriedly swaying “Faith In You” that’s shot with a bit of a six-string shred to be established as a centerpiece in a hat-trick of successive ballads and be followed by an exquisite take on GW’s “Save Your Love” – and still, sadness would be a stranger to this album. That’s why there’s also a country-tinctured chug propelling, thanks to Myron Grombacher’s drums, “Shine On” to the apex of optimism which permeates the entire record; and that’s why it has a new, not as depressing artwork now. Jack may not need shelter today, but “Shelter Me” is welcome under any roof.