L.A. Guns - Tales From The Strip
Shrapnel Records
Sleazy Hard Rock
14 songs (57:44)
Release year: 2005
Shrapnel Records
Reviewed by Mike

After what is easily their best album in 10 years, 2002’s Waking the Dead brought L.A. Guns’ career back from the dead. After a revolving door of lead vocalists and poor to mediocre albums during the 1990’s, Waking the Dead was a complete surprise out of nowhere for me. Three years later, the band is back with their next installment. The band has seen some significant lineup changes since the last album. Founding member Tracii Guns left the band to focus on Brides of Destruction. Stacey Blades from Pretty Boy Floyd was brought in to replace him. Bassist Kelly Nickles has been replaced by Adam Hamilton. Original member, lead vocalist Phil Lewis wanted to continue forward with the band despite the departure of Tracii Guns. He wanted to return to the style of the band’s first two albums from the late 1980’s (L.A. Guns and Cocked and Loaded).

After I read that this album was going to be similar to the band’s first two, I was pretty psyched. After all, Waking the Dead had already left me wanted more, so that news was very exciting to me. Well, the band’s spirit is in the right place, but the end result is not nearly as good as the first two albums, nor does it match or surpass Waking the Dead. The album starts off on a raunchy and hard rocking tone with It Don’t Mean Nothing. After that track, I had high hopes for the album. Unfortunately, the band never matches this level of quality for the rest of the album.

Without Tracii Guns in the fold, I figured L.A. Guns would suffer. The guitar work is certainly not a hindering factor for the band at this point. Stacy Blades delivers the goods with a steady diet of grooves and riffs that each of the songs is built around. Also, he provides plenty of flamboyant solos that are definitely a throwback to the 80’s scene. He also manages to play in a sleazy, bluesy style that defined L.A. Guns from their inception. Really, when it comes right down to it, L.A. Guns doesn’t miss Phil Lewis at all. That’s not meant to be a low blow to Tracii Guns at all, rather it is a testament to the band’s perseverance. Perhaps the single biggest asset for the band at this point is vocalist Phil Lewis. His unique voice has been the personality and identifying force behind this band. Thus, the albums without Lewis were basically Tracii Guns solo album to my ears. Phil’s voice hasn’t lost a step since he first recorded Sex Action or One More Reason back in 1988. His voice sounds inspired, and it is still a perfect match for the brand of bluesy sleaze rock that L.A. Guns play.

I found many of the songs drilling themselves into my memory with catchy chorus lines and Blades flamboyant guitar playing. The album is well balanced between riff driven rockers and groovy, bluesy tracks. However, I did find a couple tracks very skippable. Crazy Motorcyle has a punk vibe to it, with some horrible distortions used on Lewis’ voice. The vocal effects alone ruin this song for me. Skin also features some more subdues vocal effects. It’s not as much of an issue on Skin, but I think the song would have been better off leaving Lewis’ voice alone. Also, the instrumental 6.9 Earthshaker is very dull, and totally unnecessary. As I will expand on, the drums are a big weakness on this album. A large portion of this track is a drum solo. It is lacks energy and excitement, and perhaps should have been called 2.1 Trembler instead!

As I touched on, the drumming really holds this album back from being an excellent album. After listening to this album, I hear Phil Lewis singing with all his heart and energy. Stacy Blades fills a large void in the departure of Tracii Guns, yet steps up to the plate in an unpredictably big way. However, I come away from this album feeling that the energy level and attitude has been restrained. I have concluded that the drumming on this album suffer from “the plods.” The drumming never kicks it up past barely mid tempo. The rest of the music demands a more energetic, inspired drumming performance, but it just doesn’t come to fruition. Instead, the drumming remains in a sort of catatonic state for most of the album, serving as the major detraction for Tales From the Strip. By the end of the album the drum fills (and fills is the right word here) are predictable to the point that they make AC/DC drum beats sound like Rush.

Tales From the Strip is a decent to good album from L.A. Guns. I had my concerns regarding the departure of Tracii Guns, but they were quickly dashed. The songs themselves are solid, but don’t come close to their potential due to lackluster drumming. This may not be as much of a deterring factor for some fans as it is for me. After all, the other musical performances are excellent, and the songwriting is also very good, for the most part. This is an album that I would recommend previewing before shelling out the money for.

Killing Songs :
It Don't Mean Nothing
Mike quoted 61 / 100
Other albums by L.A. Guns that we have reviewed:
L.A. Guns - Waking The Dead reviewed by Mike and quoted 82 / 100
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