Record Company: Geffen Records
Release Date: 1989
Producer: Bob Rock
Web Site: N/A
John Sykes ~ Guitars, Vocals, Background Vocals
Tony Franklin ~ Bass Guitar, Background Vocals
Carmine Appice ~ Drums, Background Vocals
Nik Green ~ Keyboards
1.) Riot [6:22] (Sykes): The album begins with a slow swell of melodic synth/keyboard effects, which suddenly gives way to a flurry of gigantic drum fills and screaming guitars! Appice and Franklin keep up a blistering pace, full of rolls and fills, and the guitar work is scorching and polished to a high-gloss. Sykes lets loose with some killer fills and a top-notch solo... and puts up an awesome showing at the mic stand to boot. Great start! Rating: 9/10
2.) Sex Child [5:58] (Sykes): A Page-like riff starts us off, setting off another fast-paced extravanza. Sykes lays down some of his most passionate vocals... and blistering guitar licks to match. The atmospheric break in the middle of the song is a page right out of the Whitesnake playbook, but Sykes and Co. pull it off quite well, giving Still Of The Night a run for its money in the process. Eat your heart out, Mr. C. Rating: 11/10
3.) Valley Of The Kings [7:52] (Sykes/Martin): Another moody synth intro sets the stage for what is often regarded as the band's most Zeppelin-esque offering. From the minute the guitar slides its way into your speakers, it's easy to see why these guys are so highly-regarded. The riffs are polished and rhythm section lays down a tasty groove. Sykes must have set the fretboard on fire with his solo, and he screams out his most inspired vocals here as well. Building to a crescendo of passion and anguish, the song takes listeners back to the days of the pharaohs...
"Cry if you must but die you will... The Valley of the Kings will still be built..." Rating: 14/10
4.) Jelly Roll [4:43] (Sykes): The polar-opposite of its predecessor, this tune starts out as a folky, up-beat jam... complete with a rollicking acoustic riff and rolling basslines. The song tells a story of love and love lost, and the song swells to an epic peak and sing-along verses of "Only love can break your heart..." A hard-rockin' classic. Rating: 10/10
5.) Blue Murder [4:55] (Sykes/Franklin/Appice): A blistering drum intro and crunchy guitar riff lead us into a fast-paced, behind-the-beat verse. Blues licks and drum fills abound... and Tony lays down some of best bass work on this one. This one is so good, it's enough to make you scream Blue Murder... Rating: 9/10
6.) Out Of Love [6:45] (Sykes): The song starts off with a dramatic acoustic intro... as the rhythm section sets the temperature to a slow burn. Mr. Sykes turns in some of his most soulful work, proving to everyone that that he was really paying attention through all those years at the "Coverdale & Lynott School of Rock." A power ballad of the first order. This one is a do-not-miss. Rating: 10/10
7.) Billy [4:11] (Sykes): An almost techno-sounding rhythm kicks off this track... and the whole song has unusual, off-kilter quality to the timing between the verses and the music. A bit of an experimental sound that works very well in my opinion. This track definitely showcases the musical versatility of the band. Rating: 8/10
8.) Ptolemy [6:30] (Sykes): Here we have another grandiose song in the same vein as Valley Of The Kings. It tells the tale of a treasure hunter looking under stones best left unturned, and the music is the perfect dramatic complement to the storyline. Harmonic squeals and huge guitar fills are the order of the day and Appice really lets loose on the kit here. Nice. Rating: 8/10
9.) Black-Hearted Woman [4:48] (Sykes/Franklin/Appice): Hey! It's Whitesnake! Well, it sounds like Whitesnake anyway... This song is a serious clone of Children Of The Night... but a very well-done one. Sykes takes us right back to 1987 with a straight-up shred-fest, full of whammy bar dives and machine-gun riffing. I love this stuff, so it's no surprise that I enjoyed the hell out of this one. Rating: 9/10
The Last Word:
John Sykes put Blue Murder together after his unceremonious departure from Whitesnake, and he was obviously intent on outdoing his former boss. While the sales of this album didn't even come close to "Whitesnake" (with over 8 million sold in the U.S. alone), this album definitely ranks right up there in quality. The album peaked at #69 on the Billboard charts on June 24, 1989... but the band did acheive a bit of notoriety for this album, and it remains a favorite of many die-hard rockers to this day.
Originally, the band auditioned and recorded demos with Ray Gillen (of Black Sabbath and Badlands fame), but it didn't pan out, so Sykes decided to take on the vocal duties himself. As it turns out, he has an excellent set of pipes on him, and his powerful vocal style gives the songs a larger-than-life quality that many groups would love to have. After all those years of axeslinging for bands like Thin Lizzy and Whitesnake (which already featured powerhouse singers), who'd have thought that he'd be able to just step up to the mic and pull off challenging vocals with such ease?
Even with all of Sykes' talent, in order to make an album of this high a caliber, he had to find musicians capable of keeping up with him. Fortunately, he was able to enlist the legendary Carmine Appice on drums and fretless bassmaster Tony Franklin. As a rhythm section, Appice and Franklin are almost unparalleled... and it shows in every note of this disc. Carmine's Bonham-like powerful style is the perfect compliment to Sykes' scorching fretboard theatrics... and Franklin masterfully holds down the riff so that Sykes can spiral off into his fills and solos without missing a beat. As far as musicianship goes, you'd be hard-pressed to put together a dream team like this.
Sadly, this incarnation of the band was short-lived. The band's follow-up, 1993's "Nothin' But Trouble," featured a completely different roster, with Sykes being the only remaining member (although Appice did appear on a few of the tracks).
Fortunately, this album is enough to cement the band's name in the annals of rock history. The music is hard-rockin' and bluesy... and the influence of bands like Zeppelin and Whitesnake is readily apparent throughout. It has a layer of that patented late-80's polish... but still retains enough of a blues edge to keep anyone from mistaking this band for a simple clone off the Bon Jovi assembly line. Obviously, there is a lot to like here.
Live it... Learn it... Love it. 'Nuff said.
Most definitely... RockHard approved!
The Bottom Line (AKA - The Six-Pack Scale):