Tuesday, September 17, 2013

JOHN CORABI "Unplugged"

(c) 2012 Rat Pak Records
  1. Love (I Don't Need It Anymore)
  2. If I Never Got To Say Goodbye
  3. Are You Waiting
  4. Crash
  5. Everything's Alright
  6. Father, Mother, Son
  7. Hooligan's Holiday
  8. If I Had A Dime
  9. Loveshine
  10. Man In The Moon
  11. Open Your Eyes
  12. I Never Loved Her Anyway
John Corabi--Vocals, Guitars
D.A. Karkos--Guitars
Topher Nolan--Bass
Cheney Brannon--Drums
Matt Farley--Drums
Guest Appearance:
Bruce Kulick--Guitars on 7 and 10
John Corabi has had an interesting career, to say the least.  Always seemingly the "replacement guy" in various bands (Motley Crue, Ratt) or "the guy" in projects that just fell short in terms of popularity and radio play (The Scream, Union, Angora, Brides of Destruction), Corabi has made a career as a musician that everyone knows but maybe doesn't know quite how they know him.  As such, I thought it was somewhat odd that the first truly solo Corabi disc to be released was not only an acoustic album, but also an album make up largely of other people's songs.  To be honest, I was completely ready to write the album off from the second I received it.  I mean, after all, who really wants to hear an acoustic version of "Hooligan's Holiday"?
Let me just say this...I'm really glad I didn't write it off.
Corabi's Unplugged is the acoustic album I wish ALL acoustic albums would be.  Beautifully performed, the songs here take on fresh, new life in their electric-less-ness, with the afore mentioned "Hooligan's Holiday" being a perfect example.  Already one of the best, most underrated songs in the entire Motley Crue catalog (off the most underrated Crue album...but I digress), "Hooligan's Holiday" is morphed into a funky acoustic rocker that immediately gets your head bobbing and your toe tapping.  Corabi's pal from the ESP and Union days, Bruce Kulick, drops in as the guest guitarist on this track (as well as, oddly enough, a Scream song later), and adds some fancy fretwork to the number.  From that same Crue album, "Loveshine" also ditches the somewhat grungy tone that Crue had utilized and turns the track into something much brighter in sound, allowing his voice to really soar on this tune. 
Other tracks from his past get the chance to shine here as well, with the Union track, "Love (I Don't Need It Anymore)" fighting with "Hooligan's Holiday" for highlight of the album for me.  What a killer way to open the album and to introduce the listener to the concept of this record, which is an extremely talented vocalist and guitar player getting the chance to show people his own vision for the songs featured here.  Another Union song, the Beatles-inspired"Everything's Alright", is also featured, although a lot of people probably won't know where the track comes from as the original version was on the very poorly received album, The Blue Room.  
Three tracks from Corabi's first "big" band, The Scream, are also featured here, with two being hits and one missing a bit.  "Father, Mother, Son", is a touching song, to be sure, and it is made all the more poignant in this acoustic setting, really letting the lyrics take over the song with the music more just a way to keep things going forward and not being the driving force behind the song.  "Man In The Moon" is again very solid with Kulick popping up once again to help liven things up.  Why he's on a Scream track I'm not sure, but it doesn't really matter, as it bears only a passing musical resemblence to the original.  The other Scream track, "I Never Loved Her Anyway", finds things getting a bit a bit too bluegrassy for me, a bit too "old country song about trains" in its rhythm and delivery (give the track a listen and I GUARANTEE you will understand that description!).  It feels like I'm at a boyscout retreat singing around a campfire and doesn't really pack the emotional punch tat so much of the other material does here, at least for me. 
There are also five new songs here, with most of them belonging to the better half of the material here.  My favorite of the new songs is easily "If I Had A Dime" which has some great lyrical jabs at scorned lover, and "Open Your Eyes", which as a moody, yet not depressing feel to it...somber, but somehow hopeful.  Again, great songwriting really carries this track, allowing the lyrics and the music work together instead of fighting each other for attention within the song.  Both tracks are solid examples of how artists should approach this style of music to keep the head-banger in all of us paying attention and not hitting the skip button, much the way Guns N Roses was able to keep us from throwing Lies out the window!   Solid songwriting saved the day then, and it does it again here.
I find myself coming back to this record on a  very frequent basis, regardless of my mood or the setting.  There is just something compelling about the way Corabi puts himself out there on this effort, leaving himself in a position that would be considered vulnerabilty if done by a lesser-talented performer.  After giving this album multiple spins through, it really is too bad that Corabi was never given the due he deserved in his other bands, and one can only hope that he is able to at least garner some of the acclaim with Unplugged that he was not able to find previously. 
Corabi is playing numerous dates around the country this summer and fall, and it is my hope that when he brings his acoustic act to Skull Fest in October, he will bring the best of this album along with him, in addition to a few more surprises! 
The one thing I could do without (and I always say this) is the interview track (13...I didn't list it above), as I really hate having to skip these tracks once I have given them the one-time-spin that I sometimes (although not always) do.  It's unnecessary, especially when the songs do such a great job of speaking for themselves.  A small distraction, especially in the digital age of just downloading what you want, but when you are a CD person like me, it's just a skip track that interferes the flow of a great album.
Rating:  Crankable is an odd word for an acoustic record, but crankable is what this is.  A solid 8 on the crankability scale!  Rock on, John...

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