Great stuff from classic rock old boys
'Ultimate Guitar Zeus' sees drumming legend Carmine Appice (him of Vanilla Fudge and Rod Stewart's backing band amongst others) gathering up some of his famous mates for a classic rock knees up. The fact that two of those people aren't even musicians is a rather scary prospect - particularly when one of those is John McEnroe, a man not exactly famed for his musical abilities. The inclusion of Richie Sambora, Ted Nugent and Slash make for a more promising outlook but sometimes the stars just can't seem to pull it off. It's undeniable that there's some proper rockin' stuff on this record but even so there are some duff ones.
This record starts off promisingly with Ted Nugent getting his groove on with a sexy little number, 'Days are Nights', that would go perfectly in a rock star's boudoir. It's a shame, therefore, that Queen legend Brian May's effort is just bad with some lyrics that just should never have been written, "Here we are in the year 2000/Looking through glass with oxygen masks" being a good example. It all seems to be pretty toothless and is unfortunately reminiscent of dads dancing at weddings – the only thing that saves it is a decent solo.
One of the surprises of the album is 'Stash', featuring John McEnroe, which starts off with a kick ass riff that unfolds into a laid back tune that oozes cool. It's got enough attitude to go round the whole album twice and with Stevie Salas on guitar duties, it's all good. The out-of-tune singing on '4 Miles High' may be a bit distracting but it's a dirty rocker that proves its rock credentials. With tunes like these it's clear that 'Ultimate Guitar Zeus' was a chance for the collaborators to let their hair down and rock out, riffs n all.
There are so many good songs on this record, you're really spoilt for choice. Yngwie Malmsteen and Doug Pinnick on 'This Time Around' really pull out the stops but then again 'Code 19''s rough and ready approach shows off Zakk Wyldes' talents more than adequately. Still, it can't all be great and 'Doing Fine' follows Brian May down the dodgy song path. It may be intended to be uplifting but it's really too soft rock for comfort.
The most bizarre moment has to be Pat Travers and Carmine Appice covering 'Do Ya Think I'm Sexy'. Like drag queens, it's too much of a pastiche to be taken seriously; besides, the production and Appice's vocals aren't the best. Despite that, it does have amusement value which can only be a good thing. It's an irony that the two non-musicians on the album out-perform some of the musicians, and Steven Segal does as good a job as John McEnroe. 'Gz Blues' is classy blues that rounds of the album easily.
This record is a must for all classic rock fans, Carmine Appice has done himself proud. Leaving out the two dreadful songs, it would be brilliant for a drive down a long, straight desert road. Great stuff.