Home > The Freedom of Music, This Week on my I-Pod > The Freedom of Music: Slashing Fergie.

The Freedom of Music: Slashing Fergie.

May 9th, 2010


One likes to believe in the freedom of music.
Rush – Spirit of Radio.

I was never a big Guns N’ Roses guy, never quite caught on to the hype about the late 80’s hard rock icons. In truth, I was probably too old to get too excited. By the time GN’R’s first album Appetite for Destruction came on to the scene I was 24 and had become fairly set in my musical ways. Sweet Child of Mine was, of course, brilliant and I bought Appetite for Destruction based on it. I never loved the album, and while I would take to other GN’R songs such as Welcome to the Jungle or Patience, I never bought into the GN’R thing whole-hog.sidebar-4

Guitarist Slash was a different kind of cat in 1987. Strutting, not preening as was the order of the day, with a classic Les Paul plugged into a Marshall amp he was the classic kind of guitar player. This was a time when guitarists were using Strat rip-off guitars with Schaller locking systems on whack-job tremolo systems, active pick-ups and transistor amps. Think Eddie Van Halen minus the warm tone, dynamics or creativity and you have the state of guitar playing in 1987. But Slash had it, that big Les Paul tone, a style of playing that breathed, making his songs more musical, albeit at the expense of soul-less technique. In short, I didn’t have to like them, but I sure respected where Guns N’ Roses were coming from.

Since his exit from GN’R Slash has had a few side projects but like guitar players before him, Slash eventually found himself band-less and went for the solo album. Whenever a guitar player does a solo album, he inevitably runs into a problem regarding singers. He can’t just bring in a singer to sing the songs. It is one of those inescapable truths that a song will belong as much as, if not more, to the singer as any guitar player. Thus if Jimmy Buffet sings your song, it will sound like a Jimmy Buffet song. So the single singer turns a solo project into a band project, albeit one named after the guitar player.

Of course some guitar players decide they can sing, and sing the songs themselves re: Eric Clapton or Peter Frampton. But then, some guitar players start focusing on singing and stop doing what made them great guitar players, rendering themselves adult contemporary acts, re: Eric Clapton or Peter Frampton. You can always solve these problem by not having any singing, doing an instrumental album. Peter Frampton also did this recently, as has Jeff Beck a number of times. The problem here is you produce an album that only other guitar players are really interested in, and not all of them.

The solution to these dilemma is, bring in a different singer for each song, or a group of singers. If this works well, you get Rob Thomson and Dave Matthews and your disk goes a Supernatural 15X Platinum. If you get unlucky, you get Chris Farlowe and John Miles and they write lyrics for your music like:

I’m gonna leave my little honey
Like a rabbit needs a hole
A-ow-ah, leave my little honey, baby
Just like a bunny rabbit leaves a hole

I got a weasel in my pocket
I’m gonna stick that weasel down my momma
I’m gonna stick it right down that little hole

You could be Mozart vonBeethoven (nee Bach), and you couldn’t turn crud like that into a listenable song, but that’s the task Jimmy Page has all through his Outrider album, and it absolutely ruins it.

This last route, Jimmy Page’s experience notwithstanding, is the one Slash chose. Like Sanatana, he chose some big names, and let them influence the songs. The result is what you expect, 14 songs that sound somewhat like each singer, somewhat like Slash. Crucify the Dead sounds like Ozzy Osbourne, I Hold On sounds like a Kid Rock song. The opening song, Ghost, featuring Ian Astbury, is a metaphor for the whole album. The opening lick is all Slash, not far off from that great Sweet Child of Mine lick. But as soon as Ian Astbury starts singing, it turns into a Cult song.

The revelation for many on this album is the Fergie song, Beautiful Dangerous. She can sing! She can rock!! I’ve seen it mentioned in reviews of the album. Black Eyed Pea rapper, Fergie can sing rock ‘n’ roll. Well, yea. She can, and that’s not new. Check out Fergie doing Heart’s Barracuda for the Shrek the Third soundtrack. Barracuda is not a song for the feint of lung. If you can handle, just handle Barracuda, you can sing rock. Hell, if you can do Barracuda and not embarrass yourself, you can do rock better than a lot of “rock” singers. So yes, Fergie can sing rock.

Not convinced. Listen to her easy rock hit Big Girls Don’t Cry. A bit of a slow old style soul, she brings to the song some of the most soulful singing you’ve heard in a long time. The girl can sing and exhibit C is Beautiful Dangerous. It starts out with a repeating guitar line with some classic Fergie moans over top, it moves into a standard Fergie song. Literally purring the verse while Slash bounces a standard power chord rhythm behind her:

You like it smooth like brandy
Savor the flavor with delight
You can be Sid, I’ll be Nancy
Cuz sometimes it’s more fun to fight

The surprise for Slash fans is the bridge or pre-chorus, which Fergie raps a stanza over a classic Slash guitar line. Next up, that proof I was talking about. She steps up and gives a full on rock chorus, worthy of a Slash album.

I’ve never minded Fergie. As I’ve mentioned, some of her previous work is pretty good, and she has shown in the past that she has some vocal chops. However, if you had told me Slash was going to do an album, a good album, and my favourite song was the Fergie vehicle, with a repeating rap in it, I might have dismissed that possibility. Yet that’s the case.

Slash’s album is, on the whole, quite good. And the standout track is Beautiful Dangerous sung by that girl with The Black Eyed Peas. Who’d a thunk I’d ever say that?

The Freedom of Music, This Week on my I-Pod

  1. luciano
    May 10th, 2010 at 04:11 | #1

    nice words, thanks for writing. you know your stuff, someone should pay you to write about music.

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