The Song Remains Not The Same (eOne Music)
Ever since Jeffrey Phillip Wielandt was plucked from obscurity (and high school in Bayonne, New Jersey) to be the guitarist for OZZY OSBOURNE, he has been reinventing himself periodically over the last twenty-five years. Jeffery is better known today as ZAKK WYLDE and he has been a part of many chapters in the history of modern rock and metal. In both his stints with Ozzy, as a solo artist and with BLACK LABEL SOCIETY Zakk has built a legion of devoted fans. Guitar nerds worship him and now he is even a reference in pop culture (American Idol, Showtime’s Californication). Despite all of his many accolades he runs the risk of becoming a caricature of himself, perhaps due to the misconceptions people have about Zakk, some made even by his own fans. Too bad since this takes away from that fact that the guy is genuinely gifted, has written some epic songs with a largely consistent career up to now.
On his new album (points off for a title so poor I will not type it more than once) Zakk does more of the “unplugged” stuff he has been mining since his solo Book of Shadows album dropped in 1996. Overtime he has been incorporating mellower elements in BLS to good effect. The album is a collection of some new versions of previous songs, some unreleased covers and a few surprises. “Overlord”, “Parade of the Dead” and “Riders of the Damned” are re-interpretations of songs from last years’ The Order of the Black (eOne Music) album and are all decently rendered and somewhat predictable. All of these songs do feature excellent piano work from Wylde where he really lets his inner BOB SEGER/GREG ALLMAN off the leash. Supporting him are some sweet string arrangements and more expressive bass work from JD DeServio than we have ever heard before. As always, Zakk never passes up a chance to show off his lead guitar prowess and this is no exception. If you are a disciple of his soloing style you will get more of the bluesy, pentatonic shredding he has made his name on. “Riders….” is one of the standouts here since it was one of the best tracks on the last album and has been totally recast. “Darkest Days” is similar to its existing rendition with campfire-side, finger picked guitar replacing some of the piano in the mix. The second version of the song with country star John Rich is even better than the previous one, with Rich taking a full verse of lead vocals by himself.
Zakk has always done a good job on cover songs. Most of the time he hits the mark well. The cover of the BLACK SABBATH deep cut “Junior’s Eyes” is an inspired choice as is the NEIL YOUNG/CSNY tribute “Helpless”. While Zakk doesn’t always have the widest range vocally to carry these tunes, he sings them with a lot of heart. Another cover, “Bridge Over Troubled Water” is another fairly good choice and was a bonus track for TOOTB. Next comes the BLIND FAITH classic “Can’t Find My Way Home”. I ‘m not sure why, but as soon as I heard it, I have to admit I cringed. Based on events in his life recently I can see why the track has a lot of deep meaning for him. It’s a decent version, but like movies sometimes you just shouldn’t remake certain songs. The Christmas classic “The First Noel” closes out things and works pretty well. I think I may even prefer solo -acoustic guitar Zakk to all of his other work sometimes. Over all this is a good way to fill in the gap between albums and tours. If you are not a huge fan or completest, you can pass it by.
by Keith (Keefy) Chachkes