The Brighton Bar continues its winning streak for picking groups that are infamous and in some way historically vital to rock and roll as we know it. The May 8 show featured the heavy headlining sounds of Fifth Avenue Vampires.
Featuring Dennis Dunaway (Alice Cooper) and Ritchie Scarlet (Mountain, Frehley’s Comet), the band’s name brings back dark and majestic memories. Visions of walls of Marshalls dance in your head, while groupies and backstage passes cover the hotel room bed. The lifestyles of the rock and roll famous may be a thing of the past but the guys that helped create that legendary time are still performing for the public. Dunaway and Scarlett played on many of the songs that inspired all of us to pick up electric guitars and chase that lifelong passion of music.
In case you didn’t already know, Dennis Dunaway co-penned several high-profile rock tunes including Alice Cooper’s “Eighteen” and “School’s Out,” two of my favorite rabble rousers. He was also part of Bouchard Dunaway & Smith (BDS) with fellow Alice Cooper vet Neal Smith and Blue Oyster Cult alum Joe Bouchard. They released two albums and did a European tour. Dennis remains deep in the action, recording new music and doing shows with bands involving his musical friends. Bouchard Dunaway & Smith, the Dennis Dunaway Project, Blue Coupe, and now Fifth Avenue Vampires.
Partner in crime Ritchie Scarlet has been slinging guitar and bass with Leslie West (Mountain) and Ace Frehley for years and between cutting his own discs (I believe there are five), he’s even got some featured spots on Peter Criss’ new record reported to be coming out some time this summer. Scarlet’s style is reminiscent of Gary Moore, and visually he’s over the top. Playing weathered, black ‘70s Les Paul Customs behind his head, bending Stratocaster necks a la Robin Trower and generally being as aggressive as Ritchie Blackmore could ever hope to be.
Along with drummer Russ Wilson (Dennis Dunaway Project) and Joe Von T (Also DDD) The Fifth Avenue Vampires took the Brighton Stage by storm. I really got into the way they treated the Brighton show, playing just as enthusiastically as if they were playing the Spectrum. And that’s what keeps real rock and roll with us. Media moguls do not govern these musicians like some pre-packaged Justin Bieber nonsense. This is a lifestyle earned through years of hard work, not some cute fantasy inherited by standing on the shoulders of Leif Garrett. That’s what makes their latest disc, Drawing Blood, so exciting and believable.
The band rocked out on tunes from the new disc such as “Cravin A Drink,” a tune that started off with Scarlett’s Les Paul Violin tricks, honey warm a la Jimmy Page as the rhythmic stalking of Dunaway and Wilson circled around, looking for a soft spot and finding it up underneath the creepy vocal growls of Joe Von T. The Vampires unleash twisted fantasy a la synth-heavy rumblings of the damned here. It’s campy, guitar snarling righteousness.
“Light In My Head” spews Pink Floyd glass smooth electrics, warbling Echoplexed stutters slide into Joe Von T’s rough and road weary vox, leading the way as the band lobs Alice In Chains/Zeppelin cacophony over napalm riddled runs, stop-gap drums smacking half time heavy underneath the guidance of Dunaway’s spooky rumble. Synthesizers dance around the skeletal edges, making this the perfect theme song for the next installment of the movie, Blade.
“Psycho Sexual” hits all the sweet spots guitar junkies crave. Scarlett creeps the flesh with his castle sized tone, pull offs, trills and heavy Marshall icing that launch this thing like a scud missile lobbed into the front door of CBGB’s. Punk, rage and compositional explosions raise the eyebrows of critical shredders, as Dunaway and the clan step in to raise the royal ghosts of Phil Lynott and Eric Carr. The only thing missing for me is a Lamborghini and two bottles of Maker’s Mark.
The Tom Waits-meets-AC/DC feel of “Vampires Of 5th Avenue” should chart with rock radio. Spewing edgy rock and punk darkness mixed with barrelhouse pianos and Chuck Berry guitar licks, this anthem showcases the boy’s road trip in a triumphant manner. And of course their version of Cheap Trick’s ”Dream Police,” brings you right back to 1979 and the smell of cheap nickel bags at the Garden.
Part punk, hard rock and all American, The 5th Avenue Vampires waste no time as they suck the very marrow from influences such as their obvious mentor Alice Cooper, The Stooges, Kiss, Cheap Trick and The New York Dolls.
“Drawing Blood” is a fan-fucking-tastic romp through hard rock’s best time from some of the savviest survivors in the game. Drawing Blood was released on April 20 and is available for purchase on their site. Interesting fact: It just so happens that the disc was released on the anniversary of Bram Stoker’s death. Coincidence? Go find out over at 5thavenuevampires.com.
Gerald Edward, You Write The Words
This Berklee College of music graduate makes some interesting choices on his latest disc You Write The Words. I say interesting because his style sits somewhere in the middle of Jeff Buckley, John Mayer, and Michael Franks while at the same time reaching back into the dawn of the ‘90s with influences like The Spin Doctors. Fitting all these styles into something representative of an artist is no easy task, and Edward bravely takes a stab at that here.
He opens with the up-tempo, country-tinged “Fast As I Can,” a song that shoots him out of the gate quite well. Mandolins trill brightly behind tasty electrics and cow punk rhythms. Gerald’s voice is in fine form as well, mid-ranged and relaxed in this interesting tune. Cool bridge complete with B3-ish organ sweeps this right into the last verse and outro. Great.
“No Show” shifts up into that Spin Doctors groove thing. It almost sounds as if Gerald and the band (all Berklee Alumni) said, “Hey, let’s show everyone how good we can play.” And play they can, but the song gets lost in the sauce, lacking that emotional trademark that Edward displays elsewhere on the disc.
“Simple Guy” switches gears yet again, moving into a James Taylor sophistication that took me a few listens before I was on board. It rolls out acoustic jazz guitar and vocals, sliding into an organ punched reggae verse before jumping into a different progressive-styled chorus. It’s cool and breezy and once you’re into the second verse it’s easier to make sense and it really shines.
“Dear Terena” is another in the pocket jazzy pop tune that is probably the focus that he’s shooting for on the disc. Its extremely colorful and attention to dynamics is impeccable; chorus is great and I dig the laid-back rhythm section groove here.
Edward is right on track with “Put The Brakes On.” Addictive melody and emotion to spare mix with harmonies and golden guitars here, setting up the verse in good movement, the band kicks in, supporting with solid rhythm work, and harmonic tapped guitars sprinkled over warm analog bass.
“Firefly” continues the fun, focusing the listener on the pleasant vocal tone and outstanding lyrical content. Beatle-esque styled backing vocals and minor keyed down step chorus shimmers brilliantly into the solo end. Gerald ends the disc almost as he started it with “Who We Are,” a pleasant Poco meets CSNY number complete with mandolins, big back ground choruses and a Tennessee-toned vocal performance.
Gerald Edward is talented musician with a wealth of ideas still ahead of him. While his band selections are good, it’s his work as a solo artist that will get him noticed and I look forward to hearing more from this compelling artist. myspace.com/geraldedward.