Mott the Dog
Remastered by Ella Crew
What a band! A true eighties super group. What on earth possessed them to get
together? I have no idea. Why they disbanded? Not a glimmer either, and they
only made one album, which was even stranger, as apart from one classic cover
they were all original songs - and it was a Live album. (Even being with all
the crowd noise cut out.)
So, who have we got here? Well, on lead vocal is one of
America’s finest ever singers and charismatic front men - plus all round
maniac - Sammy Hagar. He is an ex of the greatly lamented Montrose, and the not
so lamented Van Halen (or Van Hagar as they became known at the time), plus, of
course, of a glittering solo career.
On lead guitar we have one of America’s most respected axe
men (a real musician’s musician), Neal Schon, ex Journey, ex Santana, and ex
an amazing stint with Paul Rogers.
On bass guitar is one of the best showman this dog has ever
seen treading the boards. It is the great and incomparable Kenny Aaronson, who
also happens to be one of the nicest guys you could hope to meet. Kenny is of
ex Foghat, ex Derringer, ex Joan Jett, ex Blue Oyster Cult, and ex Bob Dylan.
Then behind the drum kit is Mr. Michael Shrieve, a solid man
in more ways than one. As ex Santana, his drum sound was almost as important to
that band as was the guitarist’s.
So, after that slightly over the top opening, what’s the
music like? Do you really think this Dog is that stupid to give it such a big
build up, and then dish it? No, of course not. They simply pour Rock & Roll
out the speakers. First song up is ‘Top Of The Rock’, a great name for an
opening number and a great number indeed. Schon is at his hard rock best,
peeling out the opening riff before falling back into the up-tempo groove with
Aaronson and Shrieve, to allow Sammy Hagar to come in over the top. That proves
this dog’s point that he is one of the best singers to come out of
America’s Rock and Roll circus, and when Hagar is singing about being on top
of the world, I’m a believer. A couple of times Schon is allowed space to
come roaring back into the songs, where he absolutely nails a couple of solos
whilst Aaronson and Shrieve fill out the sound not leaving space for even an
‘Missing You’ continues in similar fashion, leaving the
listener stunned like getting a perfect one-two from Lennox Lewis in the
opening seconds of your one shot at the championship.
Surprising for a band on its debut.
We then get three songs all joined together into one epic of
immense scale, a tale of ancient time. All is revealed in wondrous expectation
by the storytelling powers of Sammy Hagar. The other three lay down really hard
and heavy grooves with some faster than the eye can see soloing from Neal
Schon. But it is the tightness of the whole band that leaves your jaw dropping.
Most groups of musicians would not attempt an epic of this proportion unless
they had been together several years and had several safe studio albums under
their collective belts. This quartet, however, pulled it off with great aplomb,
trooping straight out onto the stage and laying it down in front of a live
Cover songs are always a bit dodgy, obviously risking the
chance of being held up in comparison to the version by the original artist.
The more well known the song, the more difficult the challenge. Taking on an
all time classic like Procol Harem’s ‘Whiter Shade of Pale’ takes either
great bravery or shows suicidal tendencies. Our bunch of intrepid heroes turn
in a version that can only be said is as good - if not better - as the
original. It starts off with Sammy Hagar’s voice only supported by some
acoustic guitar ... then the band build it to a crashing climax, including one
of the best solos Neal Schon has ever laid down on the live stage.
The album closes out with three more hard and fast songs
that leave the audience baying for more. I would be very surprised if any of
the musicians on this album have been involved with a finer body of work. As I
said, I have no idea why this lineup only lasted the one album, but it is a
real corker. It will leave behind a fine legacy to a fine band. Presumably the
lure of greater financial gains took their toll, but this lot could have
conquered the world of Rock & Roll if they had just given themselves a
little bit more time.
Top Of The Rock
Valley Of The Kings
Whiter Shade Of Pale
Hot And Dirty
He Will Understand
My Home Tow
Sammy Hagar - Vocals
Neal Schon - Guitars
Kenny Aaronson - Bass
Michael Shieve - Drums
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