The sleeve of a recent "Best of the Faces ", Stradlins heroes, insists the Faces, were a real band, and " about as much Rod Stewarts backing group as Guns N Roses were Axl Roses ". But the truth is thats exactly what both these great bands ended up being. Way back when ,though ,the Gunners were very much a unit and the inpute of Izzy Stradlin shouldnt be underestimated. So while Axl spits bile at his former collegues from the Rock in Rio stage, it,s worth considering how far he would have got without them.
Izzy Stradlin and the Ju Ju Hounds, the mans solo debut , features former Georgia Satellite Rick Richards, who proved to be Izzy's perfect foil on guitar. Much of the album is an unashamed homage to the Stones and Faces , right down to Izzy's rasping vocals. However, this is perferable to being " inspired " by people and pretending you're not really into them (where are the Quireboys now ? ). Faces organist Ian McLangan plays throught and must've felt right at home .But there are other ingredients here punk, reggae, and even gospel.
The lyrics constantly refer to Izzy's days in the Gunners and his decision to quit. The opener, "Somebody is Knockin' , lists the queue outside Izzy's hotel door on a GnR tour ,(groupies, lost friends,even the CIA ). Though the world weariness is blown away with a cover of reggae gem "Pressure Drop" that kicks off with a breakneck Ramones stile buzzsaw guitar, before abruptly slowing into an authentic shank. It seembs Izzy couldnt quite decide which style to cover the track in.
His philosophy is summoned up amid the swaggering guitars of Shuffle it All. Izzy reconing life to a game of cards- better than Forrest Gump's analogy -and you may as well leave it to chance , like in Mick n Keef on "Tumbling Dice". But , rasps Iz , "if you see old friends out there , tell them i send my love". aaaah.Bet Axl was touched.
Train Tracks with its searing slide guitar , is the highlight of the album. It kicks off with the gurgling of a bong hit , and the title refers to the kind of place the young Iz would hang out and toke. But, for a man who had to quit heroin three times before it quit him , train tracks would seem to indicate track marks , check the lyrics "It's to insane in my blood /My hand is showing , like a road map".
Take A Look At The Guy "is the biggest tip of the hat to his idols -not least because it was written by and features Stones/Faces guitarist Ron Wood himself, wit Mac on keyboards for good measures .You can almost feel Izzy's ear to ear grin coming out of the speakers. Not content with rock legends on his album ,Izzy enlists a third for the big ballad closer, Come On Now Inside, with the late great Nicky Hopkins, plus gospel backing singers giving the song a feel of the Stones ,Exile on Maine ST, one of Hopkins finest hours. I'ts really perfect closure.
Except, like all great albums , theres a hidden track. 'Morning Tea" is a strange title for a song that sounds like Mardi Gras going at it at three in the morning. All kinds of latin style percussion bang away while a guitar groans away like a dying brontausauras in the background. If 'Chinese Democracy is half as good as this , it'll be well worth the wait