Dizzy Reed occupies a unique space in rock music. Not quite a household name like your Angus Youngs or Dave Grohls but he has been part of one of rock’s biggest names for close to 30 years and his work prominent on two notorious albums. Or one double album, however you want to cut it. Of course, when he’s not with Guns N’ Roses, he was performing with the The Dead Daisies until recently and is one of the best keyboardists in rock music today.
So, a solo album from Dizzy Reed is an interesting concept but one I wanted to venture into. Featuring a distinct voice by today’s standards, it’d be a common occurrence on many 80s hair metal and sleaze bands of the time. Interestingly, when you examine the personnel involved on the lead single, “This Don’t Look Like Vegas”, a melting pot with that amount of talent would likely fall into the old adage of “too many cooks”. Yet, it works but if you look at everyone who worked on the song, maybe it was always meant to:
- Lyrics – Reed, Ricky Warwick and Del James
- Guitar – Warwick and Mayuko Okai
- Guitar solo – Richard Fortus
- Bass – Mike Duda
- Drums – Mike Dupke
- Backing vocals – Nadja Reed, Chela Johnson and Del James
Then of course, Reed is providing keys and vocals alongside some shaker and tambourine work. It may not be the strongest song on the album but at the same time, it’s not a dreadful slop where Reed has asked his friends to appear just for the sake of it. For example, “Cheers 2 R Oblivion” is a crunchy, swaggering hard rock song whilst “Fragile Water” strays into AOR/power ballad territory complete with a massive guitar solo reminiscent of his top-hatted bandmate which rears its head again in “Crestfallen”.
Naturally, the music is very heavy on keyboards but an album like this showcases that rock music doesn’t need to always be about the guitar. While there are still some brilliant six string melodies, they’re subdued in favour of Reed’s keyboard work. And it’s still firmly classed as a hard rock album with a massive classic influence that you’d be forgiven for thinking this album hadn’t been recorded in the 70s and cleaned up for modern production standards. If anything, this album shows how very different Use Your Illusions I and II alongside Slash’s Snakepit’s first album would have sounded had it not been for his presence.
“Mystery in Exile” is a snarling romp which builds to a fantastic crescendo but the highlights of the album come towards the end with the final three (or four, if you have the bonus version) tracks. “Forgotten Cases” is loaded with venom and with its plonking intro could have came from It’s Five O’clock Somewhere. Meanwhile “Reparations” is a dirty, sleazy look at the boredom of people repeating the same mistakes in their lives and still expecting forgiveness.
Closing out the main body of the album is the title track which takes a look at the hedonism which used to be rife in rock music before all the money dried up. Presented by a man who lived through its dying embers, it’s a fitting eulogy and with everything fledgling bands have to deal with, it acts as a warning: “Rock ‘n roll – it ain’t easy”. As for the digital bonus song, it’s a tongue-in-cheek and cheery look at the idea of living as a hermit by choice or becoming too big a celebrity that you have to live in your own realm in order to find some solitude.
If anyone was able to prove that keyboards should be used more in rock music, it was Dizzy Reed. It shows that you don’t always need a guitar and there should be more bands out there producing this style of rock but still able to keep it heavy and classic. If this was simply an exercise by Reed to see what he could do as a solo artist, he’s nailed it. I never realised I wanted a solo album from the man until I heard it. Now I want more.
Rock ‘N Roll Ain’t Easy is out now on [amazon text=CD&asin=B079NBWJLH] and [amazon text=download&asin=B077CN72DH].