Global Rock 2022
Here comes your hero: stand in line to observe the choice cuts from American master of fretboard filigree.
By lending his ensemble the family name which suggested it would be belligerent and compelling, Chris Implellitteri made quite a statement to live up to, and the guitarist not only fulfilled that vision but he continues to boldly soldier along the same lane 35 years and later. A stalwart of hard ‘n’ heavy cause, the Connecticut-born musician has never wavered from that initial mission, even when his chosen genre was in decline, and built a worldwide fanbase a result, and the continuity of Chris’ method is striking – or not, given a couple of singers who rotated, replacing each other, in the group’s ranks – as reflected on this triple-CD summary of his oeuvre: the 33 cuts spanning the period from 1987 to 2010 and offering a brilliant overview of the veteran’s work.
Chris’ decision to eschew chronological order when cherry-picking these numbers in favor of creating a fresh context for mostly familiar material pays off: his sonic assault may be relentless, yet it’s varied enough to rivet the listener and pull them into a whirlpool of memorable melodies and infectious grooves. More often than not preferring frenetic rhythm and flaming solo to a fiery riff, Implellitteri serves up his tuneful pieces right out of the frying pan without getting captured into the traps of pseudo-classical tropes or unleashing shredding to simply showcase the nimbleness of his fingers. By starting the retrospective with 1993’s “Victim Of The System” the guitarist could define the mood of what will follow if only the band didn’t sound a tad too serious and too solid here – as opposed to the light-and-shadow call-to-arms of 1988’s smash “Stand In Line” which dented the “Billboard” charts or the finely detailed instrumental flight of “17th Century Chicken Pickin'” from 1996 where baroque and country conspire to have fun. However, while the legendary Graham Bonnet’s roaring vocals on the arresting likes of 2002’s “Perfect Crime” seem to sharpen the serrated edge of Chris’ strings, the supple pipes of original singer Rob Rock – currently on his third stint in the collective – and Impellitteri’s rock ‘n’ roll licks are more organically complemented by Chuck Wright’s bass and Ken Mary’s drums on “When The Well Runs Dry” from 1992 and shine brightly on “Rat Race” from 1996 where AOR harmonies reign as fabulously as on “The Young And The Ruthless” that’s prefaced with a breathtaking a cappella intro and supplied with electric lace for a central passage.
So though there’s natural calm to the theatrically dynamic attack of “Eye Of The Hurricane” from 1997, the tender “On And On” from the same album – the sole ballad on this compilation – reveals the ensemble’s soft underbelly embroidered by Chris’ acoustic weave, and “Texas Nuclear Boogie” of 2000 vintage demonstrates the axeman’s grip on the blues idiom that Glen Sobel’s beats propel to rapture, just like Pat Torpey’s cymbals do on “Secret Lover” behind Graham’s catchy chorus – a rival to Rob’s refrain on “Fly Away” from 1994 with its truculent polyphony. No surprise, then, in the mellifluous flow of the hefty “Falling In Love With A Stranger” but the tectonic rhythm-and-blues of “Wake Up Sally” can’t fail to deliver a sweet blow. Of course, the presence of Bonnet and his baggage allowed Impellitteri to act mischievous on the lead-in motif of “Falling In Love With Stranger” before kicking the song into high gear, yet Rock’s aggressive handling of 2009’s “Garden Of Eden” or previously Japan-only number “Anti-Social Disease” lets the guitarist flaunt his own flurries of arpeggiated notes, and elevates “Stand Or Fall” with an array of robust-cum-nuanced fretboard-located figures.
That’s why “I’ll Be With You” might be the finale of this mighty collections, but the band’s battle rages on, because once the beast is awoken, there’s no putting it back to sleep.