Grand Life in the Snakepit

Slash's Snakepit - Ain't Life Grand
(Koch Records)
3 stars (out of 5 stars)
Reviewed: August 31, 2000

By Tony Bonyata
Photo By Phil Bonyata

In 1987 a band known as Guns n' Roses burst onto the music scene with a no-nonsense approach to '70s hard rock that swept away any traces of post-new wave music under the carpet. Thirteen years later the guitarist from that band, Slash, is hoping that same formula will help catapult his latest project , Slash's Snakepit, above the abrasive rap-metal and sticky bubblegum fodder that's dominating the charts today.
On his debut album for Koch Records entitled Ain't Life Grand, Slash, along with vocalist Rod Jackson, rhythm guitarist Kerry Kelly, bassist Johnny Blackout and drummer Matt Laug, deliver a similar formula to that of his former band - blues-hued hard rock with attacking guitars, howling vocals and pounding rhythms.
Although the resulting sound is close in spirit to that of early Guns n' Roses, it's miles from where they ended up in 1993, when their music became swallowed up by the over-the-top pretentiousness that vocalist / egotist Axl Rose brought to the table when he got a taste of fame.
Slash With straight ahead rockers like "Been There Lately," "Landslide" and "Shine" the 35 year old Slash (formerly known as Saul Hudson) is content to play music that comes naturally to him. Influenced in his youth by '70s heavy-hitters like Led Zeppelin, Aerosmith and AC/DC, Slash is once again hoping that the time is right for this music. "I'm the antithesis of anything that was popular in 1985," he exclaimed, "and now it's come full circle."
With thick riffs and scorching, crash-and-burn leads Slash proves why he's such an in-demand session guitarist - playing for an eclectic range of artists such as Michael Jackson, Bob Dylan, Carole King, Lenny Kravitz, Boz Scaggs, Alice Cooper and Tom Jones. The other member who shines on Ain't Life Grand is Jackson, whose versatile pipes blend the best elements of The Black Crowes' Chris Robinson, Living Colour's Corey Glover and Sammy Hagar in his prime.
The heavy organic feel to the album, may not be what's 'in' right now, but Slash wouldn't have it any other way. "I refuse to comply with any of the new methods of recording, " admitted the guitarist. "We used Pro Tools (computer recording software) on one song, and I refused to even look at the computer - I stood behind it. It took them 10 hours to make a sound that I could have made in 15 minutes. I had an open mind, but that was it."
While there a couple of numbers that plod on the album, such as the throw-away rocker "Mean Bone" and the obligatory power-ballad "Back To The Moment", songs such as the hard n' brassy title track, as well as the gritty, bump-and-grind of blues / rocker "Just Like Anything" make up for any of the lesser moments
Slash has admitted that the future of Guns n' Roses may not be over - if Axl Rose is ever ready to rock hard again. But this seems a moot point, since his band Snakepit is already doing the job so well.

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