BMG [Release date 11.05.18]
Frankly, I’ve never been totally convinced about Richie Sambora’s credibility as one of rock’s ‘great’ guitarists. His output since leaving Bon Jovi has been patchy, to say the best, and this latest offering, with current ‘squeeze’ Orianthi, does little to make me think it’s anything much more than a vanity project.
That said, cuddling up with Orianthi, on the surface, is probably a shrewd marketing move for both, as their names on the same sleeve should generate an interest/demand broader than either might have managed individually. If only they could have backed it up with an album with a bit more substance.
And while you can’t knock getting 15 tracks, there’s little here – in a set aimed squarely at America’s, white collar, 50+ age group – that is going to go down in the annals as some of the best works of either artist. Frankly, it’s all rather ‘safe’ and feels like a collection of numbers that might otherwise have been ‘fillers’ on either’s next solo album.
You might have expected/hoped for some sort of guitar ‘fest’. But that doesn’t materialise either -with even the closing 9 minute ‘wig out’ cover of Savoy Brown’s ‘Hellbound Train’ failing to gather a convincing head of steam.
Although it’s not all bad news – the bluesy, soulful ‘Take Me’, on which Sambora takes the vocal lead, is a furrow that merits further ploughing, ‘Blues Won’t Leave Me Alone’, on which Orianthi takes the lead, sits comfortably next to her best work, and the duet ‘Truth’ works well enough. But even Alice Cooper’s guest vocal on ‘Together On The Outside’ (another song that sounds like it belongs on an Orianthi album) fails to lift the number above ‘average’.
Overall, Radio Free America is a real mixed bag. But if one moment perhaps sums up the project, it’s the cringeworthy cover of ‘I Got You Babe’, which is simply ill-judged. Unless, of course, you’re a white collar, 50+, American in which case, Radio Free America is this year’s must have release, and RSO this year’s must see act. ***
Review by Pete Whalley
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