Saturday, June 14, 2014

Revisiting a classic: Blue Murder!

Blue Murder was a heavy metal band that was active from 1988-1994. It was formed by Whitesnake guitarist John Sykes (also played with Thin Lizzy and Tygers of Pan Tang) after he parted ways with the band. He teamed up with Carmine Appice on drums (Vanilla Fudge, King Kobra) and Tony Franklin (The Firm) on bass. Sykes tried out a few vocalists for the band including Ray Gillen (Badlands, Black Sabbath), but eventually took over lead vocals himself.

This group did not need to work hard for a record deal, Whitesnake’s label Geffen was eager to profit off of John Sykes’ ties with the hugely popular band. They also got the band a great producer, Bob Rock, who previously worked with The Cult and Kingdom Come and would go on to producer legendary albums by Metallica, Motley Crue, Skid Row, and many more. Together they released this debut self-titled album in 1989.

From their three resumes alone, it’s easy to assume the musicianship would be incredible, and it is. Carmine’s drumming is tight and non-flashy as always, and Tony is exactly what you want in a bass player for a trio like this. He keeps the bass lines busy, leaving lots of backing for John to let out his crazy guitar solos. Of course John Sykes’ guitar capabilities need no introduction after hearing his past Whitesnake material, but he really takes it to a whole new level on this album. Shredding solos with plenty of harmonic squeals (which I love). I particularly like his solos on the second track Sex Child and later on the song Billy. This album is a must-have for any aspiring heavy metal guitarist.

What got me nervous was Sykes handling the lead vocals. Oftentimes you see lead guitarists leave to release solo albums and the singing is usually subpar. That’s not the case with Sykes. He can nail these metal vocals, hitting all the screechy high notes and holding them for a hell of a long time. His singing absolutely blew me away on this album.

This debut album gathered a bit of attention when it was initially released. With plenty of heavy catchy tunes such as Riot, Sex Child and Black-Hearted Woman, it fit in nicely with the late 80’s metal. Of course no late 80’s album would be complete without a cheesy rock ballad, and Blue Murder lets us off easy with just one, Out of Love.

Unfortunately, the band was soon lost in the grunge takeover of the early 90’s only managing to release one more album, Nothin’ but Trouble (1993), before calling it quits. Blue Murder did gain somewhat of a cult status, being named by many as a major influence. I was reading in an article in Classic Rock magazine a few months back where Myles Kennedy of Alter Bridge was praising the hell out of this album, and rightfully so! 

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