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Frontiers Music

Out Now

Words by Greg Walker

Jack Russell and Tracii Guns should need no introductions, being cornerstones and stalwarts of the Los Angeles hard rock scene. Seasoning legendary statuses under their respective groups Great White and L.A. Guns, a host of other musical partnerships throughout the decades sealed their reputations among peers and fans alike, especially Tracii Guns uniting with luminaries the likes of Michael Schenker (UFO, Scorpions, Michael Schenker Group), Michael Sweet (Stryper), Nikki Sixx (Mötley Crüe, Brides Of Destruction, Sixx: A.M.), and Todd Kerns (Slash & The Conspirators).

Russell-Guns is a fresh collaboration with seemingly limitless opportunities given the namesakes’ track records in the hard rock world, the first fruit of their labour Medusa coming out all guns blazing (pun most definitely intended!).

The Russell-Guns approach is obvious from the get-go, letting fly with opener and lead single Next In Line, introducing us to an album chock-full of bluesy rock swagger that oozes classic 1980s heavy rock stylings throughout. Blessed with a crystal-clear production expected of modern rock releases, Medusa is littered with Tracii Guns’ crunchy riffs and flourishing guitar solos. Jack Russell’s age is apparent, and his voice has more than a hint of a Sebastian Bach with an oh-so-slight gravelly edge, unlike the classic Great White frontman of old, but despite being the weakest link of all the project’s elements Jack suits the blustery dirty rock swank.

Second track and second single Tell Me Why showcases the dangerous, reckless feel of the classic 80s LA heavy rock scene. This track is the sort of thing that attracted me to the Mötley Crüe‘s and Guns ‘n’ Roses of yesteryear: punchy verses, excellent chorus melody, soaring soloing, Tell Me Why is my kinda grit.

Coming Down demonstrates the boastful grimy glam of the glory days, staunchly executed by dudes who lived it. Tracii’s guitar tone has the perfect balance of crunch and clarity, polished soloing all over the place throughout Medusa manifesting Tracii’s big guitar brashness of the classic era, never more apparent than on closer I Want You.

I’d hoped to avoid any unnecessary mention of the deadly Station Nightclub fire in 2003, however, For You’s chorus lyric “For you, I would walk through fire” I felt was a little thoughtless considering Jack Russell and Great White’s history with a tragic inferno that resulted in 100 deaths and more than 200 injuries. A great little ditty otherwise, and another stirring lead break showcasing Tracii’s ability to shred with a tasteful restraint unfortunately not exhibited in Jack’s lyrics on a number of these tracks: in a vast ocean of metaphors, using sparks, smoke, fire, burning, as analogies for an old man’s horniness, Jack should’ve shown a bit more awareness I feel, considering the history.

Moving on to the latter half of the album, Living A Lie is a classic 80s style big rock ballad, Jack’s vocals lending a sultriness before the big chorus, the climax gifted with possibly the best guitar solo of this collection, certainly the most emotive. In And Out of Love sounds like the opening of a Ghost anthem with the big guitars and keyboard backline, very tasty indeed. Back Into Your Arms Again is another faithful, purpose-built classic 80s rocker.

If this collaboration had been released at the height of Jack Russell’s & Tracii Guns’ careers it would’ve been well received, and I hope people give it the time it deserves as it’s an easy and enjoyable listen overall. The two draw cards’ commentary in the press kit suggests this was not an organic partnership that grew from a desire to work together. Instead, it comes across as a label idea borne from capitalising on the Russell-Guns namesakes’ reputations. Either way it works, and a rocking album is the fortunate result, another bookmark in the careers of two heavy rock legends.

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