Defined by their condition

By Tom MacIntosh

The much anticipated new release of Slash featuring Myles Kennedy and the Conspirators, Living the Dream was dropped on September 21, 2018, and is everything fans wanted: adrenaline. While the Guns N Roses top-hatted axeman rejoined his former bandmates, and toured the world anew, (breaking tour records as he went) he was also busy playing with his new lineup, Myles Kennedy and the Conspirators, cutting 2 studio albums, Apocalyptic Love (2012), and World on Fire (2014), to very positive reviews. This 3rd studio effort delivers the bang it promised, and let’s see why.

The Conspirators are built on Kennedy/lead vocals, Brent Fitz/drums, percussion, piano, backing vocals, Canadian Todd “Dammit” Kerns/bass, vocals, and Frank Sidoris/rhythm guitar and vocals, along with lead guitar wizard Saul Hudson a.k.a. Slash. This lineup definitely has the rock pedigree to breathe fire, starting with the album's opening tracks, The Call Of the Wild and Serve You Right which come straight at you with both barrels blasting. There’s certainly a lingering feel of GNR in the arrangements, not surprisingly, and Kennedy’s voice soars nicely over a pounding rhythm section on both.  My Antidote starts off at a galloping pace, with angelic vocals floating overhead, when, wham! it cuts loose into pure hard-driving rock, with Slash ripping into his favourite studio axe, the ‘59 Gibson Les Paul Standard. Other shit-kickers include Mind Your Manners, Boulevard of Broken Hearts,  Driving Rain, and Slow Grind, numbers that own up to not only what hard rock is, but how it’s crafted by some of the best players on the field.

The setlist also features a span of moods, like The One You Loved Is Gone, a heartfelt ballad, highlighting Kennedy’s silk voice, accompanied by sweet harmonies and weeping solos by Slashman. The Great Pretender also falls into this slot, but with more muscle tone.

The record’s title Living the Dream can be construed two ways, admittedly by Slash, that maybe it was ‘tongue-in-cheek’ in view of all the political turmoil in the world today, (think: Make America Great Again). But flipping the coin, he says it could easily mean living the life of a rocker/artist, playing with his mates, who are some of the best in the world, having fun creating music, and being handsomely paid for their trouble; all angles covered there to be sure. This album has all the confidence and swagger as the previous two, yet has an aged chemistry that is now applying itself to being more than just playing standard rock bangups. Check out the 70s funk driven Read Between the Lines, whose stutter-step beats, behind Myle’s smooth vocal peaks and Slash’s howling solos which ring true to its intention; rock and roll will never die.  

The record is full-furnace ‘arena rock’, also known as AOR (album oriented rock), which typically include fast-moving, cooking rockers, mixed with some slower ‘power ballads’. Historian Gary A. Donaldson defined arena rock as, “big hair, big voices, and really big guitars”. Let’s see: check^, check^, and check^. As for guitars, Slash ‘dabbles’ in them, with a collection of over 100 pieces including  Fenders, Gretschs, Jacksons and Martins. As for amps, he’s a Marshall man, he likes the Marshall “Silver Jubilee” JCM 2555.  The big hair speaks for itself.

Although the album doesn’t pull any rabbits out of the top hat, it certainly still throws hard rock magic your way in drizzling proportions. And most certainly lives up to the opening line in My Antidote, “I guess I’ve been defined by my condition…”, and that is being the Rock and Roll Hall of Famer that you are.