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L.A. Guns - "Shrinking Violet - Deluxe Reissue" (CD)

L.A. Guns - "Shrinking Violet - Deluxe Reissue" CD cover image

"Shrinking Violet - Deluxe Reissue" track listing:

1. Girl You Turn Me On
2. Shrinking Violet
3. Dreamtime
4. Barbed Wire
5. I'll Be There
6. California
7. Cherries
8. Big Lil' Thing
9. Bad Whiskey
10. Decide (Live)
11. Rip And Tear (Live)
12. Never Enough (Live)
13. The Ballad Of Jayne (Live)
14. One More Reason (Live)

Reviewed by on June 21, 2010

"It's rare that the 'bonus material' on a reissue like this becomes 'the main event.' It sure didn't happen on the recent reissue of the Rolling Stones 'Exile On Main St.,' but, brother, does it ever happen here."

Tracii Guns always stood out among the glam guitar gods strutting the Sunset Strip in the 1980s. With his Jimmy Page-inspired riffing and solos, he helped L.A. Guns reach, if not the heights of Motley Crue, Poison and that "other Guns band," then at least the upper middle of the hair metal pack back in the day.

In 1999, Tracii Guns got together with Jizzy Pearl (replacement for Stephen Pearcy in Ratt), bassist Johnny Crypt and drummer Stephen Riley to record "Shrinking Violet," which was produced and mixed by ex-Guns 'N Roses guitarist Gilby Clarke. Cut to 2010, and a new Deluxe Reissue of the disc, which combines nine of the original tracks from the album with five live tracks.

And, with the history lesson out of the way, lets get down to the rocking — which this disc most assuredly does. No offense to Jizzy Pearl or the rest of the guys in the band, but the smartest choice they often make on the album is simply to get the hell out of the way and let Guns do his thing.

Sure, the opener, "Girl You Turn Me On" is by-the-numbers Sunset Strip glam, but did you expect anything else? That said, the poppy chorus is going to stick in your head for a month, while Guns' Zeppelin-style heavy riffing gives it an appealing heft.

"Shrinking Violet" brings an appealing dose of boogie and funk to the proceedings, while "Dreamtime" provides us with the power ballad we didn't know we'd been waiting for. "Barbed Wire" is a shade too influenced by the rock of the '90s for my tastes, but Guns' lead guitar is worth listening to.

Then, it's off to "I'll Be There," which has a great rumbling riff that is sadly undone by the tinny production. "California" is another great glam stomper with some great, almost surf-rock guitar sounds. "Cherries" blends a punky fast part with a brooding slower one, while "Big Lil' Thing" races along nicely.

Then, we enter territory that wouldn't feel out of place on the first couple Led Zeppelin discs, with the slow Chicago blues of "Bad Whiskey." Guns' Jimmy Page influence is felt in every fast fill and solo. This track is a harbinger of the joys that follow on the next five tracks.

It's rare that the "bonus material" on a reissue like this becomes "the main event." It sure didn't happen on the recent reissue of the Rolling Stones "Exile On Main St.," but, brother, does it ever happen here.

The next five tracks are live, covering both the "new" L.A. Guns era and some of the band's greatest hits. The first thing you'll notice is that the tinny sound that marred even the best of the original album is gone. The second is that the band is in full-on Led Zeppelin mode, with Pearl and Guns ably channeling Page and Robert Plant, starting with the 10-years-old-but-fresh-as-yesterday "Decide."

The two of them get all "Dazed And Confused" on "Rip And Tear," doing a call-and-response duel to start things out, and Guns performing a long solo for the ages. Seriously, this is the best guitar work I've heard in a long, long time, ably backed by Jeremy Guns on bass and Chad Stewart taking over for Stephen Riley on the drums.

"Never Enough" is a great little rocker, as usual. Even though I know why "The Ballad Of Jayne" had to be included (it was one of the band's greatest hits, after all), I wish the band would've went with something a little more high-energy. That's not to say that Guns doesn't deliver some great slowed-down guitar work, but I was on such a high from the previous three tracks that I didn't want it to end. At least the closer, "One More Reason," picks up the pace and offers up one last brilliant solo.

L.A. Guns has hit the road in support of the deluxe reissue of "Shrinking Violet," and I have to say that the new live tracks definitely serve as an appealing look at what that show has to offer. The original album's pretty good as well, though the production is often tinny. Glam fans and those with a hankering for Zeppelin-style riffs and guitar theatrics should definitely check this one out.

Highs: "Rip And Tear," "Never Enough," "California" and "Girl You Turn Me On."

Lows: Tinny production mars many of the original album tracks.

Bottom line: A solid Sunset Strip-style glam rock album with classic influences.

Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls
3.5 out of 5 skulls


Key
Rating Description
Rated 5 out of 5 skulls Perfection. (No discernable flaws; one of the reviewer's all-time favorites)
Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls Near Perfection. (An instant classic with some minor imperfections)
Rated 4 out of 5 skulls Excellent. (An excellent effort worth picking up)
Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls Good. (A good effort, worth checking out or picking up)
Rated 3 out of 5 skulls Decent. (A decent effort worth checking out if the style fits your tastes)
Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls Average. (Nothing special; worth checking out if the style fits your taste)
Rated 2 out of 5 skulls Fair. (There is better metal out there)
< 2 skulls Pretty Bad. (Don't bother)