Myles Kennedy – The Ides of March (Album Review)

Myles Kennedy – The Ides of March
Released: May 14 2021. 

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A man of many talents and projects, Myles Kennedy’s solo work has to make an extra effort to stand out amongst his excellent body of work with both Alter Bridge and as Slash’s vocalist of choice with The Conspirators. Kennedy’s debut was the acoustic affair Year of the Tiger, a great collection of songs that showed off his songwriting skills in a stripped back showcase. For his second album, he’s taken the fundamentals of that songwriting and added full band arrangements, giving the album a different feel to his first collection and keeping its own space between Alter Bridge and Slash. Significantly, he gets to real show off his lead guitar chops across the album’s 11 tracks.

The opener ‘Get Along’ is a cracker, a social commentary on the 1991 LA Riots written prior to the Black Lives Matter protests of 2020. The chorus is a timeless singalong, “Why don’t we all just get along”, while the bridge makes his point clear as he wails “I thought we left this shit behind” because “The answer in the end was never black or white”. The riff hammers it home with some great lead work in the blues tradition. ‘A Thousand Words’ kicks off with a bit more funk in the guitars and the tight rhythm section. Lyrically Kennedy connects the political injustices to personal experience of seeing traumatic photographs, like we all did as 2020 unfolded across news services and social media. ‘In Stride’ is a juggernaut with some slick slide guitar giving Kennedy the chance to jam with his band on a 12 bar arrangement. It is an energetic song that lets him really wail on the mic and his guitar. Fans of southern blues will get a kick out of it.

The best thing here is the title track, ‘The Ides of March’. The Shakespearean title references Caesar’s assisination in the month of March, an idea Kennedy uses to explore the sense of impending doom that the pandemic wrought over 2020. Musically the song is flat out epic, a patchwork of 70s rock n roll’s biggest artists, from the Led Zeppelin opening that he whispers, to the California soft rock (think The Eagles) verses and an almighty improvised solo that would get a nod of approval from David Gilmour. As it develops it is hard to tell exactly where it will go next, but he’s a master of the instrument and his confidence is admirable. The final bridge invites us to “remember who we are”, a ray of hope amongst the gloom, before the next solo evokes the wandering spirit of Brian May before landing back on the opening riff and refrain. It is a breathtaking excursion of rock n roll, one that demands attention and is captivating for the almost 8 minute run time.

Whilst there are plenty of loud songs, such as ‘Wake Me When It’s Over’ and the outlaw blues of ‘Tell It Like It Is’, there are quieter moments too, with mostly Kennedy and his acoustic guitar. There is the same variety amongst these songs though that there is amongst the rockers. ‘Love Rain Down’ is a sweet unplugged ballad, then ‘Moonshot’ plugs back in for the leads, the kind of song he has perfected with Slash and Alter Bridge, fitting alongside ‘Starlight’ and ‘Blackbird’ as classic Myles Kennedy ballardeering. ‘Wanderlust Begins’ is different again, an indie/country contemplation about the “constant craving to be free”. He gets out the high notes for this one, a reminder that this dude can croon with the best of them. ‘Worried Mind’ is a slow blues song, with minimal guitar on the verses to highlight that voice again. The solo is a perfect slice of blues playing that ascends perfectly back to the vocals. When he modulates to the key change he hits the sweet spot between guitar and vocal wankery and just fuckin’ nailing it.

With just his name on the cover, Kennedy really takes the chance to bridge out and dabble in his interests. The voice is the through line, soaring at just the right time. But we already knew he could sing better than most in the rock and metal genres. What stands out on The Ides of March is the guitar playing. The dude just gets to solo his own way through different subgenres and whatever else he feels like playing. It will be interesting to see how the songs translate to his solo unplugged live shows, since the same guitar wizardry isn’t easy to pull off when the amps are put away. But the songwriting at the core is really strong, socially relevant and still personal enough to spend some time investing in this album before he hits the road. Fans of his other bands won’t be disappointed and there is enough difference here for new fans to jump on board.

 

Myles Kennedy – The Ides of March tracklisting 

1. Get Along
2. Thousand Words
3. In Stride
4. The Ides of March
5. Wake Me When It’s Over
6. Love Rain Down
7. Tell It Like It Is
8. Moonshot
9. Wanderlust Begins
10. Sifting Through the Fire
11. Worried Mind

Rating: 8/10
The Ides of March is out now via Napalm Records. Find it here.
Review By – KJ Draven (Twitter). Instagram: @kjdraven 

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