Libertad Label: RCA Records
The best thing about Libertad is that it actually exists. It means three of the more unlikely remnants of the ‘80s and ‘90s hard rock scene have doubled their expected shelf life as a reformed band. It also means, more surprisingly, that Scott Weiland has managed to remain clean and somewhat sober for a few years straight, and even if he hasn’t, he’s at least stayed out of jail. And let’s be fair, Duff McKagan and Slash aren’t exactly altar boys themselves. When VR’s debut Contraband dropped three years ago, you could have gotten at least 50:1 odds in Vegas that the band wouldn’t survive the resulting tour, let alone muster another 13 songs for a sophomore follow-up.
Now, you want the real kick in the nuts? Libertad is pretty damned good. Yes, if you liked the debut, you’ll find just as much Stratocaster-grinding crotch rock within this new record to keep the dream alive. Likewise, if you didn’t care for Contraband, then don’t expect the proverbial mold to be busted here. Just go back to your shoebox of Guns N’ Roses cassettes and leave the rest of us alone.
The cream of the Hollywood sleaze crop brings their musical arms together again and keeps it impressively simple. Only one new track clocks in much more than four minutes or so, the epic album-closing “Gravedancer,” which blends “Every Rose Has Its Thorn” and “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida” with very suspect results. What does work are the muscled-up guitar romps that sound like, well, Weiland fronting the old G N’ R. (Sorry for the pathetically lazy analogy, but nothing else would’ve come nearly as close to what these songs really sound like)
Instant ear-grabbers like “She Mine” and “Get out the Door” must have the DeLeo brothers from STP wondering why they weren’t invited to this party. “Pills, Demons & Etc” and the project’s highlight, “Just Sixteen,” thunder along in a vintage Gunners vein, owing more to Use Your Illusion than Core. It’s never a bad idea to dust off an old classic rock cover for good measure (not to mention, album sales), so a chunky riff-rugged trip through ELO’s “Can’t Get It out of My Head” works like a charm. If you’re really pining for covers, though, track down a couple VR imports which boast versions of Cheap Trick’s “Surrender” and Aerosmith’s “No More, No More”; both are worth their weight in Amazon delivery charge gold.
So the jig is up, the news is out, and Velvet Revolver has lived to rock another day. I, for one, never thought we’d see it, but am plenty happy to be proven wrong. How high will Vegas odds go on a third VR album? Who cares. Just enjoy Libertad before Weiland and Co. realize they’re living on borrowed time.