Released on November 8, 2019 (Frontiers Music Srl)
Quiet Riot are one of my favorite bands and I make a point to pick up all of their releases. I bought Road Rage the day it came out with a level of excitement to hear what the new guy behind the lead vocals would sound like. I also bought Quiet Riot‘s live CD/DVD One Night In Milan as I really do enjoy James Durbin‘s vocals even though they’re very different from Kevin DuBrow‘s. But, when Durbin left the band a few months back, picking up Quiet Riot‘s new album Hollywood Cowboys felt more like an obligation than something I was looking forward to getting. Durbin still is on vocals even though Jizzy Pearl, who I like as well, is now the frontman and somehow the album just felt like the air was let out of it. At that point, it almost comes off like a “super group” album instead of Quiet Riot because the guy singing isn’t even in the band anymore. So, I bought it the day it came out at Zia Records here in Arizona. And, for a weekend, it sat wrapped in plastic on my kitchen table. I just had trouble getting inspired to play it. But, finally, I did. And, I must say, I’m glad I did. There’s some good stuff… But, there are flaws.
So, I didn’t much like the first song put out by Frontiers to promote the album called “Don’t Call It Love.” It just falls flat and doesn’t seem to feel like Quiet Riot. But, once you get beyond that first track, there are some really inspired hooks that are worth hearing. For example, the second track “In the Blood” (which they did a cool music video for) has a very cool chorus. The hooks there are very strong. But, again, the music feels incomplete. I’ll talk about the production problems later. But, it feels like it could’ve gone a tad longer and really forced the chorus further as it was catchy. The video is more complete than the song.
“Heartbreak City” is another song that has catchy elements but just doesn’t land. Aside from sounding a tad like Mickie James‘ Impact Wrestling theme song “Hardcore Country” (a little), it is catchy but, once again, feels incomplete. “The Devil That You Know” has one of the most inspired guitar solos on the album. The lyrics are pretty strong. And, the chorus is catchy with nice backing vocals. But, again, it ends somewhat quickly and doesn’t expand on the hooky nature of the chorus. I’m not saying to repeat the same lines 100 times. Just, you know, expand them. Does that make sense?
“Change Or Die” has a more menacing feel… Maybe a tad closer to classic Quiet Riot but with a different message. Quiet Riot‘s 2001 album kicked off with a song called “Vicious Circle” that had an ending chorus of “Never change, stay the same.” Well, Kevin DuBrow has died… This song is “Change Or Die.” I’m not suggesting it is to do with that. But, if one stays awake at night thinking about Quiet Riot lyrics, one is in need of serious metal and mental health help but they could connect those dots. That said, once again, IT FEELS INCOMPLETE!
“Roll On” is the least Quiet Riot sounding song on the album and yet is probably the one that made the biggest impression on me the first time through. A blues song that relies on James Durbin‘s voice to tell the story. I find a lot of these songs don’t, or maybe didn’t since he’s left the band now, rely on what Durbin could do vocally. I do question if the production quality, which is not great, held him back vocally too. But, this is an inspired vocal performance. I can hear a little bit of Ronnie James Dio influence here… Dio could never sing that high. But, the inflections are certainly there at times. “Insanity” has a “Cumin’ Atcha Live” by Tesla style intro and the music has a raw Guns N Roses feel to it. With these elements, it should be a home run. And, again, Alex Grossi‘s guitar work is inspired here. But, unlike prior tracks, the chorus is flat. And, it does not land.
Can anyone explain to me why “Hellbender” wasn’t the first song they put out to hype the album? If they had, I’d have been much more excited to hear the album. A very “Kashmir” by Led Zeppelin like bass line by Chuck Wright and powerful Frankie Banali drums hammer home a great groove for a VERY catchy and very classic Quiet Riot sounding melody in the verse. The chorus is pure Durbin, though, and he delivers here. This is the most complete, ass kicking song on the album with all the band, including Grossi, delivering perfectly. Seriously! Why was THIS not the music video? Why was this not the lyric video? We get “Don’t Call It Love” instead? Really?
“Wild Horses” is next. If you told me Jon Bon Jovi wrote this song, I’d believe you. It is a nice pop rock song. But, the production takes away from it and makes some of the vocals on the chorus sound flat. “Holding On” would have been a really strong single as well. Durbin pays homage to Kevin DuBrow‘s ability to sell songs with his style in this song. “Woah-a-woah” reminds me of vocals by DuBrow in songs such as 1995’s “Whatever It Takes” or 2006’s “In Harm’s Way.” Complete with some effort made to give the song an intro before hitting its stride, this one has a great chorus and a classic Quiet Riot feel. If “Hellbender” wasn’t the choice I’d have made for the single, this one would’ve been in the on deck circle. “Last Outcast” is another catchy pop rock track. It is fine. Nothing spectacular but solid. It is strange because my favorite James Durbin song is off his American Idol overproduced debut album is the one called “Outcast” and has Mick Mars of Mötley Crüe on guitar. So, in this case, the first “Outcast” surpasses the “Last Outcast.” See what I did there? “Arrows And Angels” is last. Again, solid. Really not more I can say than that.
So, my take on the album after having bought it with no smile on my face or feeling of anticipation and with low expectations given a single I really don’t much like is that it exceeded expectations. I admit, those expectations were low. But, it isn’t bad. It isn’t going to be held in high regard like Metal Health, Condition Critical, or (and it isn’t but should be) Down To The Bone. It is solid. And, there are flashes of genius from all the members who are very skilled. Frankie is still the man on the drums and I want to wish him well. I know there is no stage 5 when it comes to cancer so I am pulling for his recovery and am delighted that he will be back behind the kit for dates in 2020. Chuck Wright, the least appreciated Quiet Riot member ever, always delivers on bass. And, Alex Grossi is super talented. But, that leaves us with the member of the band that really sells the songs and that’s James Durbin…
James Durbin is a better singer than Kevin DuBrow ever was. His range is insane. And, to some extent, he could sing any kind of real music and make it sound good. He struggles the faster the song is as he sounds like he’s rushing (visit “Wild Horses” which I said sounds like Jon Bon Jovi‘s solo material but it also could be “Can’t Get Enough” version 2.0.) But, what Durbin cannot do that DuBrow can do, and this is something Alice Cooper has often talked about, is sell a song. While no one is going to say Alice Cooper is the best vocalist ever nor would they likely put DuBrow on that list, those two had a distinct voice and added distinct inflections that made their sound their own and their songs their own as well. Durbin can sing the shit out of anything he’s given. And, I’m still a huge fan. But, he was not able, in the Quiet Riot outings, to sell the songs the way the late Kevin DuBrow did. DuBrow had a tone, a style, and a way of doing things that was distinct. You can get 1,000 sound alikes like Scott whomever from the documentary. But, if they can’t wrap a bow on it and package it up and sell it like DuBrow did, it just won’t feel quite the same. That pretty much has summed up Quiet Riot since DuBrow‘s death. And, probably will until Quiet Riot are no longer.
With that negative thought, I leave you with this positive one. Quiet Riot have every right to tour as long as Frankie Banali wants it to. He put the work in for all those years when times were good and when times were real, real bad. Now, battling cancer, I hope everyone can appreciate that a guy who is doing what he loves has every right to do it and to sell tickets, he has to use the name that people know him by. “They shouldn’t call it Quiet Riot.” OK, but would you show up to see “Frankie and Friends?” No one went for Freakshow. In this environment and at this stage of the game, starting something new is not easy and might even be impossible. So, if Frankie wants to call it Quiet Riot, it is Quiet Riot. And, if you can’t deal with that, you need to get down off your cross, use the wood to build a bridge, and get over it.
01. Don’t Call It Love
02. In The Blood
03. Heartbreak City
04. The Devil That You Know
05. Change Or Die
06. Roll On
09. Wild Horses
10. Holding On
11. Last Outcast
12. Arrows And Angels
Frankie Banali – drums
Chuck Wright – bass
Alex Grossi – guitar
James Durbin – lead vocals
Produced by Frankie Banali
Quiet Riot‘s “In The Blood” video: