Like Al Kooper, Gilby Clarke is one of those musicians that other musicians and hoity critics know about but that the general public is pretty much in the dark about.
You know Guns 'n' Roses. You might know the reality TV show "Rock Star: Supernova." Clarke was a member of both; he actually is on tour this month with Supernova, which is made up of fellow refugees Jason Newsted (formerly of Metallica) and Tommy Lee.
But between his time as a member of G'n'R during their waning years and his stint in Supernova, Clarke went solo, with four albums, a side project (Col. Parker) and some various production and touring work with Nancy Sinatra, Heart and the MC5. This period of solo work is what Gilby Clarke covers, a sort of "best-of" for this rock nomad's career.
Given that Guns 'n' Roses were Aerosmith disciples, who were Stones disciples, it comes as no surprise that Clarke's work sounds a lot like Use Your Illusion and Pump with a bit of middle-period Stones and Load-era Metallica thrown in. So in short, it's basic, unoriginal and hard-hitting rock music that would probably be excellent live.
On record, it's not too bad, though this is probably the only Gilby Clarke you'll ever need; these riffs just aren't the same without Steven Tyler or Axl Rose in front of them. But hey, sometimes basic cock rock is good for the soul, and Clarke pulls it off without posturing, especially on "Tijuana Jail" and "
Unfortunately, those two songs quickly give way to a series of generic rock songs that sound like G'n'R lite, or else dip into country (the unfortunate "Skin And Bones”). "Wasn't Yesterday Great" is a decent song, for example, but sounds like every college rock band you've ever heard, only with beefier guitars. "It's Good Enough For Rock And Roll" goes for the Stones' Let It Bleed album, only with more obscure lyrics ("Waiting for this liquor store thief / just like a lawyer in a fake pony skin / stolen from yesterday's bleed / bring your own bottle of sin"). Come again, Gilb?
"Punk Rock Pollution" tries to be an old-school New York Dolls song (even name-dropping them) as read by Slash, with mixed results, while "Kilroy Was Here" is a bizarre mix of post-punk and Stone Temple Pilots, with lyrics that sound like they were read by randomly pointing at a list of nouns: "I got your car / in all this doom / is guilt in satire / did I do you wrong / I did you no wrong."
It's not that Clarke is a thief, though. He wears his influences on his sleeve, he knows how to rock, he's not a bad singer and he plays some wicked solos. Just like you'd expect from a Guns 'n' Roses alumnus, actually. But he is just not charismatic and original enough to carry an entire album on his own, let alone a best-of disc.
The compilation is chronological and gets progressively more generic and forgettable right until the end with the selections from 2002's Swag. "Alien" comes straight from the Velvet Revolver playbook -- which seems like stealing until you realize this was a year before VR's debut disc and that three G'n'R members are part of that supergroup (and have jammed with Clarke at various times). The resemblance is uncanny, though. "I'm Nobody" again goes for the poor-me college rock vibe (lyrics: "Oh yeah, I'm nobody / who never had a chance"). A highlight is the re-recording of "Black" with Supernova almost-finalist Dilana, a moody acoustic/electric piece that works with the male/female dynamic, something rock needs more of (and Dilana's Joplin-like voice works perfectly with Clarke's slashing guitars).
Oh, and two songs from the Col. Parker side project album Rock 'n' Roll Music are here, but neither are memorable, with only "Can't Get That Stuff" stirring mild interest due to a Stones-like "Honky Tonk Women" aura.
In any world, four or five good songs does not a compelling album make, let alone a best-of collection. Worth a listen if you're a Guns 'n' Roses fan, or any derivative side projects thereof, but save for a couple of songs Gilby Clarke is not really worth the time.