"Live in Houston" (Eagle Vision; 2010)

Reviewed by R. Scott Bolton

"Live in Houston" (or "Rock-A-Live-Motorize-Hell on Wheels-Texas-Style" as it states on the title card) is, for the most part, a straight-forward concert video of the supergroup performing in Houston, TX, circa 2005. That's mostly a good thing. This is one band whose performance you want to relish. And the performance is worth relishing. The band is so tight and smooth, you'd almost think they were lip-synching (just for the record, they're not, as the jam sessions prove) and the camera work and lighting are utterly engaging. Even when the Doors-era special effects start up (mirrors, kaleidscopes, blinds, etc.), the DVD is mesmerizing. That's actually a great word for it: "Mesmerizing." This performance is practically hypnotic.

Unfortunately, the live performance is interrupted too often with interview clips of the band discussing how they came to be. And, to add another yet another level of annoyance, some of the clips are censored, with that nerve-wracking "beep" appearing seemingly at random. Strangely enough (and thankfully), the live performance is not censored.

Don't get me wrong: The interviews are interesting. But I would have preferred to play them separately and to enjoy the live performance separately. Sadly, that's not an option here.Still, especially for Velvet Revolver fans, this DVD is worth picking up. The band's performance is pretty spectacular, the DVD sounds and looks great and -- considering that the band is going through some transformation these days (reportedly searching for a new vocalist -- these early performances are rare. That and the bonus of hearing Scott Weiland sing the Guns N'Roses classics "It's So Easy" and "I Used to Love Her" makes "Live in Houston" worth a look.

But I would have kept the other title. I mean, how cool is "Rock-A-Live-Motorize-Hell on Wheels-Texas-Style."

Velvet Revolver: Scott Weiland - vocals; Slash - guitar; Duff - bass; Matt Sorum - drums; Dave Kushner - guitars.

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"Contraband" (RCA; 2004)

Reviewed by R. Scott Bolton

The problem with supergroups is that - when they finally get around to releasing something - you expect it to be a supersomething. You expect more from a group of superstars than you do from a group of unknowns. And the line-up of Velvet Revolver is far from unknown.

That's the situation with Velvet Revolver and their debut, "Contraband." The CD rocks well enough. Fans of the members' former bands - especially Guns N'Roses and Stone Temple Pilots - will find lots to like here. Most of the tracks are a little less hard than GNR fans might expect and probably a little edgier than STP. Virtually every song features sharp, nearly irresistible riffs, rolling rhythms and verses and choruses that are melodic and catchy. It's particularly great to hear Slash back in top form.

Like many other CDs, "Contraband" is at its best when it's working hard. The ballads here, although tolerable, just don't have any oomph, especially "Loving the Alien," which - as the last track on the CD - seems to go on forever. The harder tracks, especially "Sucker Train Blues," "Superhuman," "Illegal i Song," "Slither" and "Dirty Little Thing," are the easily the best tracks on the CD. "Big Machine" has the rock'n'roll pop vibe that Cheap Trick has claimed as their own for decades while the aforementioned "Illegal i Song" almost crossfades into nu-metal territory.

Production-wise, "Contraband" is a little bland. While I wouldn't go as far as to say the songs sound flat, the production is sometimes muddied enough to dampen an otherwise dynamic song. 

Bottom line: "Contraband" is a good album but not a great one. Still, fans of any of the group members' previous work will no doubt find plenty to like here. 

Velvet Revolver: Scott Weiland - vocals; Slash - guitar; Duff - bass; Matt Sorum - drums; Dave Kushner - guitars.

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Rating Guide:

A classic. This record will kick your ass.

Killer. Not a classic but it will rock your world.

So-so. You've heard better.

Pretty bad. Might make a nice coaster.

Self explanatory. Just the sight of the cover makes you wanna hurl.

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Copyright 2010 by R. Scott Bolton. All rights reserved.