Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Album Review: Voodoo Hill - Waterfall

I'm going to say something now that might be mildly controversial; Glenn Hughes is overrated. Yes, he's got a good voice, but how much music has he actually been a part of that has endured? Simply put, he's one of those people who is a great singer, but an average songwriter, so he's never found a situation where he was able to project himself as being something more than that. Even with Black Country Communion in recent years, he was always playing second fiddle to Joe Bonamassa, and hardly anyone has noticed that said band has folded.

Voodoo Hill finds Glenn teamed up with songwriter and producer Dario Mollo, who I know best for his multiple albums done with former Black Sabbath singer Tony Martin. Like Glenn, I found those albums to be good, but ultimately forgettable. What I'm hoping is that they balance each other, and this is the partnership that allows them both to flourish.

"All That Remains" kicks things off in an unusual way. The main riff is constructed of some open chords played with a beautifully ringing tone, but when the chorus comes along, the delivery is so much more rhythmic instead of melodic that it's unexpected. It's still a good song, but maybe not the way I would have started a record. "The Well" follows with a heavier riff, one of Dario's interpretations of an 80's Sabbath riff, as Glenn is given a chance to stretch his vocal range. Oddly, again the chorus pulls back into a rhythmic delivery, and Glenn's voice isn't put to its full use.

Melody is altogether eschewed on "Rattle Shake Bone", a swaggering bluesy number that doesn't have a hook of any kind. It's a riff in search of a song, one it never finds. Things finally come together on the beautiful ballad title track. The softer sounds let Glenn's voice shine through, with his clear tones sounding fantastic over Dario's guitar parts. The chorus here is the best moment on the whole record, a fantastic bit of melody that locks in with the strings behind it into a dramatic moment of beauty.

As the rest of the record unfolds, they're never able to recapture the spark of that song. Glenn's voice doesn't have the depth for the heavier tracks, and the writing doesn't play to what Glenn is best at. There's absolutely nothing about tracks like "Karma Go" and "Evil Thing" that would tell you Glenn Hughes was involved if not for his vocals. I understand how these kinds of projects work, but I'm still disappointed that the songs weren't crafted to fit the talents of the singer chosen.

Ultimately, "Waterfall" is one of those albums that I think proved a point. There's enough on display to hear that with Glenn Hughes and Dario Mollo have plenty of talent to make great rock music. It also proves that neither one of them is a particularly adept songwriter, which makes the album come off flat and uninspired. There just isn't much here that will make the case for either man. The title track is amazing, but that's the only thing here that I'd say is worth seeking out. Otherwise, Voodoo Hill is the sound of talent being under-utilized.

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