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Velvet Revolver - Contraband

"Velvet Revolver's" debut album, "Contraband," released on June 8, 2004, is a potent blend of hard rock and alternative sounds, showcasing the remarkable synergy of its rock veterans.

Formed in 2002, the band features "Guns N' Roses" Slash (guitar), Duff McKagan (bass), and Matt Sorum (drums), joined by guitarist Dave Kushner of "Suicidal Tendencies" and "Wasted Youth", and fronted by Scott Weiland of "Stone Temple Pilots".

The idea for Velvet Revolver emerged when Slash, McKagan, and Sorum performed together at a benefit concert for fellow musician Randy Castillo. Inspired to form a band, they enlisted Kushner and embarked on a high-profile search for a lead singer, documented by VH1. After auditioning several vocalists, including Josh Todd of "Buckcherry" and Kelly Shaefer of "Neurotica", they found their match in Scott Weiland. Weiland, already friends with McKagan and familiar with Kushner from previous gigs, offered his services after hearing the group's material, and the band clicked immediately. The name "Velvet Revolver" combines suggestions from both Slash and Weiland.

The band's initial recordings included "Set Me Free" for "The Hulk" soundtrack and a cover of "Pink Floyd's" "Money" for "The Italian Job". These tracks were incorporated into the album, recorded in late 2003 amidst Weiland's legal battles and rehab stints. Despite these challenges, the band delivered a polished yet raw collection of songs. Notably, Slash recorded "Sucker Train Blues" using a 1956 Fender Telecaster and a 1965 Fender Stratocaster, adding a classic touch to the album's sound.

"Contraband" benefits from stellar musicianship and production by Josh Abraham and the band. Slash's fiery guitar work, McKagan's solid bass lines, Sorum's precise drumming, and Kushner's rhythm guitar create a rich, cohesive sound. Weiland's versatile and emotive vocals shine throughout, tackling themes of addiction, redemption, and personal demons with authenticity and introspection.

It's a powerful debut that captures the rebellious spirit of its members' past bands while forging a distinct identity. Its energy, musicianship, and memorable hooks make it a standout album that has stood the test of time.

"Sucker Train Blues" opens the album with a blast of energy, featuring powerful riffs from Slash and Kushner, and Duff McKagan's driving bass. McKagan, often the unsung hero, provides a powerful and distorted groove that anchors the track. Matt Sorum's drumming is solid and reliable, holding the backbone together with concrete precision. Scott Weiland's singing style during the verses will remind you of Axl Rose. His gritty, raw vocals fit perfectly, especially in the anthemic chorus, while Slash delivers blistering solos.

However, the album hits a slight dip with the next few tracks. While songs like "Do It for the Kids" and "Big Machine" try to maintain the momentum, they lack the spark that defines the opening track. Weiland’s vocals start to sound strained, and the band's attempts to sound modern sometimes feel forced.

"Illeagal i Song" gets the band right where they belong with a great guitar riff and fierce energy. "Spectacle" who comes right after is a heavy solid rock and roll tune.

"Fall to Pieces" is a standout, a heavy ballad with emotional depth and memorable melodies. The intro is reminiscent of "Guns N' Roses'" "Yesterdays," and Slash's soulful solos are unforgettable, bringing Weiland’s voice back to life with emotional power.

"Headspace" has a killer rhythm. It brings back the energy with crushing grooves, showcasing the band's ability to blend modern touches with classic rock. "Superhuman" and "Set Me Free" feature promising riffs and intros, but the songs as a whole don't always grab you as much. The half-acoustic "You Got No Right" is another highlight, with a catchy chorus and Slash’s signature melodic soloing.

The drop D tune "Slither" is the album's first single. It stands out with its infectious main riff, it's mid-paced hooks and a catchy chorus, earning the band a Grammy for Best Hard Rock Performance.

Right after comes "Dirty Little Thing" a hard rocker that is very reminiscent of the opening track, with a killer solo by Slash. The song was written back in the time when Josh Todd and Keith Nelson from "Buckcherry" were part of the lineup. This song was the basis for a copy claim by Tony Newton from the band "Dirty Deeds" who managed to prove that the leading riff in the song is a copy of the riff in his band's song "Cyber ​​Babe". The album ends up with the ballad "Loving the Alien" which does not quite reach the level of writing and performance of the two previous ballads on the album.

With a lineup like this, expectations were high. "Contraband" may not be the all-healing hard rock masterpiece some hoped for, but it is a very good hard rock record. The album doesn’t aim for anything fancy; it just rocks damn well. Slash and Duff McKagan are the true stars, delivering memorable performances that elevate the album. While the album has its highs and lows, the standout tracks make it a compelling listen. "Velvet Revolver’s" "Contraband" is a solid debut, offering a mix of classic and contemporary rock elements. Fans of rock music, especially those who appreciate the band's legacy, will find much to enjoy here.

For Listening: Spotify, Apple Music

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