BILLY MORRIS AND THE SUNSET STRIP
HOLDIN’ ALL THE ACES
Released on August 24, 2018 (HighVolMusic)
When Sleaze Roxx reviewed Lipstick II, Olivier mentioned his difficulty in reviewing an album where he had a close relation to the artist but still gave an honest review of the material. This album is interesting in particular because I am reviewing the album of my former guitarist, former producer, and one of my musical mentors in my formative years. Thankfully, the album is really, really, really stinkin’ good so I don’t need to trash one of my buddies in the press. Billy Morris and the Sunset Strip‘s new album, Holdin’ All The Aces, is a musical triumph and one of the best releases in Billy‘s entire career.
Billy Morris has an impressive musical pedigree. He’s played with Paul Gilbert, Warrant, Quiet Riot, Tuff and Lipstick, among others. He was once described by the Cleveland Scene as “hair metal royalty”, but Billy, as a musician, is much more complicated than that. As equally as he loves bands like Journey, Van Halen and Ratt, he’s also able to appreciate acts like Weezer and even Nickelback. For Billy, great hooks are the most important thing, and on his previous solo album, he leaned much more into his contemporary influences for an album that largely had a pop-punk sensibility.
This is what made Holdin’ All The Aces a pleasant surprise because Billy has returned his musical roots and is embracing the more retro rock sounds of the ’80s. There are still hints of pop-punk on tracks like “When I Fall”, and “All the Right Words” sounds like a power ballad that would have been a massive hit in 2005, but for the most part, he’s gone back to his ’80s roots for an album full of kickass, balls-to the-wall, rock n’ roll.
The album is chock full of crack-you-in-the-ribs riffs, fast-paced shred and big, singalong party hooks. The track “Party Like the Weekend Never Ends” is the perfect tune to add to your party playlist and is like a grittier, bluesier version of “Nothin’ But a Good Time” with an atmosphere that makes you feel like you’re in the middle of a party with all of your friends. There are party anthems, but also more melodic, Def Leppard sounding songs like the title track that immediately takes you back to 1987 in terms of vibe. There are even a couple of songs that have a Beatles and Badfinger vibe to them on this album, but through it all, the album rocks consistently and retains a perfect balance between keeping the music interesting without straying too far into over-the-top experimentation. Each additional musical influence is simply adding a flavor to this great retro rock, but it still retains that party ’80s spirit throughout.
This record was an unexpected treat. I’ve worked with Billy for years and thought I knew what to expect out of his music, and I do expect good things from him. But I wasn’t expecting this CD. This CD blew me away. The passion and sincerity of the performances, the strength of the songwriting, the return to roots style… All of those things combined made for easily my greatest musical surprise of last year and for my favorite hard rock album of last year. It’s been long overdue for a review, but that review is finally here. Listen to the title track and “Party Like the Weekend Never Ends” and I believe you will want to buy this CD immediately. Simply put, a musical triumph.
01. Lose Control
02. Party Like The Weekend Never Ends
03. Holdin’ all the Aces
04. Dressed Up Like a Millionaire
05. When I Fall
06. Stop Me
07. You Set Me Up (The Hand Gun Song)
08. Hook It Up
09. Mr Ed
10. All The Right Words
11. Don’t Know How To Quit
13. Cold & Bittersweet
14. You Won’t See Me Comin’
Billy Morris – lead vocals, lead guitar
Aaron Adkins – lead guitar, back up vocals
Rob Samay – lead guitar, back up vocals
Paul Lewis – bass, back up vocals
Ray Brown – drums, back up vocals
Keven Figueiredo – drums (2)
Dustin Hengst – drums (4)
Tim Burris – drums (5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14)
Mike Szuter – guitars, back up vocals
Mike Woods – guitars, back up vocals
Produced by Mike Woods
Reviewed by Greg Troyan of Lipstick Generation for Sleaze Roxx, May 2019
Billy Morris and The Sunset Strip‘s “Party Like The Weekend Never Ends” song:
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