Gilby Clarke

Spitfire Records, 2002


REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


These days, it almost seems like having the words "former member of Guns N' Roses" on your resume is a death sentence. Although many former members of the band have gone on to start solo careers, not one of them has even come close to achieving the level of success that even the worst Guns N' Roses album had.

In the case of guitarist Gilby Clarke, that's really a shame. His latest solo effort, Swag, has barely registered a blip on the music industry radar. Even I sat on this disc for a while after I received it - though I have a damn good excuse, what with having two jobs and four-month-old twins. But once you bite the bullet and give this disc a fair shake, Clarke and his fellow musicians prove that he's well worth your time.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Clarke often seems to turn down the guitar work on this disc, instead choosing to allow the entire song to be heard on its own terms, not just remembered for six-string frenzy. It's an interesting concept, and one that works well; tracks like "Crocodile Tears," "Judgement Day" and "Heart Of Chrome" all show Clarke's talents better than even his work with G N' R did. The de-emphasis of guitar is most evident on "Warm Country Sun" (don't let the name fool you, it's still a rock-based number), which places the highlight more on Teddy Andreadis's harmonica than Clarke's guitar.

The selection of backing musicians - including such rock veterans as Tracii Guns, Eric Singer and Derek Sherinian - help to deliver the messages on Swag well. For Clarke's part, he mixes enough seriousness with even a little sexual bragadoccio ("Margarita," "Beware Of The Dog") to remind you that he's not ashamed of his past. If Clarke has any weakness, it would be in the vocal department; he's a competent enough singer, but doesn't quite have the power needed to fully deliver the goods.

Especially noteworthy is Clarke's cover of David Bowie's "Diamond Dogs," one which shows a powerful mixture of Clarke's present with his musical roots. One has to think that the "Thin White Duke" would approve of this take on his work.

While it would be nice to say that Swag is the album which wins Clarke back a certain level of fame, I sadly don't see that happening for any number of reasons. But one could say that if Swag wins Clarke over a new group of fans, then the whole thing has been successful. Clarke deserves a better fate than that which has been handed to him over the years; Swag is a powerful statement which suggests that better times are quickly approaching for Clarke.

Rating: B+

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© 2002 Christopher Thelen and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Spitfire Records, and is used for informational purposes only.