Frontiers Music [release date: 20.01.20]
Yep. George Lynch has pretty much nailed this. Dirty Shirley is a rich and classy hard rock album that holds the ‘80’s/early ‘90’s template tight to its chest, but offers enough twists and turns to keep things interesting.
I always admired Dokken from afar, but when I saw Lynch Mob in the flesh supporting Queensyche at a simply superb gig at Hammersmith Odeon in 1990, I became a firm George Lynch fan. His lead guitar fireworks were thrilling back then and its clear the man has lost none of his touch and style.
Dirty Shirley sees Lynch paired with Dino Jelusic (Animal Drive, Trans-Siberian Orchestra) in the limelight and both stamp their influence over this album in equal measure. The excellent opener ‘Here Comes The King’ sets the tone with grinding Lynch guitar on the intro setting up a power-packed, bombastic Jelusic vocal. The punchy, catchy ‘Dirty Blues’ follows up with the main men bouncing off each other in a fun, bluesy swagger.
‘I Disappear’ is the first track to venture a touch left field with a darker tone, rumbling bassline (step forward four-stringer Trevor Roxx) cut with ambitious pace and time changes that the rhythm duo hold together well (step forward sticksman Will Hunt). Jelusic creates the drama on a sweeping melody and Lynch provides some typically charismatic solos.
The best material here is of a very high standard. ‘The Voice of a Soul’ might be the best of them. At over seven minutes, this is the album’s epic, and finds space for Jelusic and Lynch to trade some call-and-response; and for the guitarist to build the sort of immersive solo that reminds us there are still new places to take those six simple strings.
‘Siren Song’ brings the party. An infectious, groove-heavy, melodic piece of good-time music with fluid solos and underpinned by lovely Hammond organ. Similarly, ‘Cold’ breaks out the funk and again the keys bring flavour and depth on the chorus, as they do right across the album. (Oddly, this excellent keyboard work appears to be uncredited.)
‘Escalator to Purgatory’ is another highlight: beefy riffs and filthy guitar tones; insistent rhythms that conjure a Southern atmosphere; and a fine descending vocal hook with a surprising ‘hoo-hoooo’ sing-a-long moment at the end. Refreshing and honest.
‘Higher’ promises a lot with its hard-edged riff and Jelusic going for broke on the vocal. But the track loses the plot with a disjointed, muddled middle section. Then Lynch rides to the rescue with a dramatic solo that sucks in the other instruments like a vortex.
There are weaker moments. Jelusic’s generally fine, power-packed singing can be a bit too much sometimes. For instance he manages to swamp the piano/acoustic guitar set up on the ballad-infused ‘The Dying’. Elsewhere ‘Last Man Standing’ feels a little like the band are going through the motions; and the ambitious closer ‘Grand Master’ doesn’t quite deliver on the Eastern mysticism.
These foibles aside, Dirty Shirley is a fine, enjoyable, sometimes surprising album. Lynch puts in a shift close to his best form on a platter that clocks in with an hour of quality, exquisitely created and delivered hard rock. ****
Review by Dave Atkinson
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