I first became aware of Richie Scarlet with his 2010 release of Fever. Since that timeline, I’ve had the distinct pleasure of reviewing each of his releases and enjoying his live performances with his band. 2012’s I Plead The Fifth was especially good, and I’ve been anxiously awaiting Scarlet’s next salvo of punk-edged blues rock since that time. Over the New Year holiday, I once again had the chance to see Richie Scarlet play live up in Middlebrook, New York, and his combination of showmanship and writing expertise was right on the money. Scarlet had recently released a new compilation of tracks distributed on Prudential Records called Essentials Volume 1.

Scarlet uses this disc as an opportunity to showcase some of the world’s finest musicians. The new CD Essentials Volume 1 includes the talents of players such as Ace Frehley, Tye Tabor, Justin Bandora, Dennis Dunaway, John Regan, Anton Fig and many others. Produced by Scarlet, the disc also features the highly capable skills of engineers John Valenti, Tarik Solange, and Larry Spivak. Valenti was also assisted by the capable Paul Orfino.

With the exception of track nine which is co-written with Joe Von T, Scarlet wrote all the compositions on Essentials Volume 1. It should be noted that this disc is the first in an ongoing project where Scarlet releases a series of tracks mainly written by him that covers many highlights of his long career. Scarlet’s career has indeed been a good one to date and his credits also include playing on artist recordings such as Mountain, Sebastian Bach, Anton Fig, The Misfits and of course, Ace Frehley.

Turning my sights on the record, I’ll take some time to go through tracks and give you my opinion on the latest disc from the Emperor of Rock and Roll.

The disc opens with “I’m No Good.” Scarlet cuts the air with choked-out chords and poppy rock melodies. Tarik Solange steps up on background vocals and adds credibility to Scarlet’s gruff punk rock tone. Scarlet’s middle-eight lead is quick and to the point, tearing up space before receding under his powerful vocals once again.

Next up is “Wild Cat.” Featuring the guitar guesting of Mike Rusnock, “Wild Cat” scrapes and claws its way into your leather-clad heart. Scarlet has a real understanding of what makes a great rock tune, and the combination of his simple, bad-ass lyrics and powerhouse arrangement puts “Wild Cat” high up on the back alley fence.

“The Ghost Of Brian Jones” tells the story of that long gone Rolling Stones great. Once again Scarlet keeps it simple as he rocks the hell out of this toned tune. He tells the story of Jones in the day with authority and the genuine passion of a guitarist who remains a real fan. I love the stereo guitar pans that sweep back and forth throughout the choruses. I love the line, “He was a rainbow jumping jack, paranoia painted black.” Scarlet’s lead work is both intricate and flamboyant before heading back into the last choruses of the Jones curse. His ending guitar work sizzles in the vein of Robin Trower. Guest bassist Dennis Dunaway is solid and lends genuine rock credibility on an already raucous rock tune.

“Tin Soldiers” features the guitar work of Tye Tabor who jumps in alongside Scarlet. Richie’s vocal delivery cuts like a proverbial knife here as well, reminding me of Cheetah Chrome. Tabor’s guitar work flies through the mix like a well-oiled machine, joining Scarlet in more than one great harmony lead line. Kudos goes out to the vocal background crew of Peter Gallinari, Bonnie Parker, Pat Birney, Denny Colt and Lenny Lee. They put great emotion into this song and help make it a winner.

Jumping around the disc, I came to “Rebel Boy.” Featuring the guest guitar work of Justin Bandora, Scarlet puts out a party vibe like no one else. Guitars duel, shake and zip up and down fretboards like greased lightning as Scarlet put his vocal magic down over the top. Centering on the legend of James Dean, Scarlet tells the story of a rebel supreme. His life, career and rebellious attitude comes to life as Scarlet vamps out the end.

“She’ll Lie” reminds me of just about anything Gene Simmons pulled off in the late 1970s. Scarlet’s direction goes down that Kiss bassist road as Joe Von T gruffs it out vocal-wise to beat the band. Guitars, bass, and drums pump and breathe fire into this introspective and high-octane piece. Scarlet’s lead at the end is super-hot and out of control.

“Without Your Love” is another great Scarlet composition. Waxing poetic on the loss of love, Scarlet sings clean and bell-clear on this pop-tinged rocker. Guitars are controlled but raw, leaning towards Johnny Thunders territory as the able drum assist of Russage Wilson blend with the bass work of Tarik Solange. Backing vocals are perfect and complementary as well thanks to Joey Holland, Joann Scarlet, and Peter Gallinari.

Up next is fan favorite “Johnny’s In Love.” Scarlet rips into the meat of the matter here as well. The bombastic guitar style of Ace Frehley joins in to lay a broad path of six-string fury throughout the piece. Lyrically speaking, Scarlet tears into the subject of a friend in love and he does it well. “Johnny’s In Love” is a true rock and roll hit song filled with talented friends.

Last track on the disc is “I Don’t Want To Die.” Scarlet rolls out some interesting, British-tinged rock on this one. Rambunctious and filled with blues rock glory, “I Don’t Want To Die” mixes clean guitars with dirty, tube-fueled goodness. Featuring the bass work of Lenny Lee and the drums of Anton Fig, this is a bona fide hit song that needs to be heard. Scarlet’s pentatonic brilliance is vast and showcases the reason that he’s still on the top of the rock game. Backing vocals are once again a crucial part of the song and come courtesy of Sal Socca.

If you are a fan of rock and roll music, you owe it to yourself to pick up Richie Scarlet’s Essentials Volume 1. It’s a raw, toned and infectious look into the career of a songwriter who continues to wow audiences all over the world. Richie Scarlet will be heading back out on the road with Ace Frehley in the near future but if you get a chance to see him locally do it. It’s the best show in town.

For more information on Richie Scarlet and Essentials Volume 1, head over to richiescarletmusic.com and have a listen for yourself. It’s worth the trip.

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