Mashups are not new in the music world; rap artists have been using them for years. But this is different. Rock Sugar has taken Mashups to heights unknown with their awesome collection of 80’s remakes on their self-produced album, “Reimaginator”.
Now before the word “gimmick” flies out of your oral cavity, give me a chance to explain. Guitarist Chuck Duran can match licks with the best of them. His covers of widely known riffs from the likes of Kirk Hamet, Randy Rhoades, Angus Young, Slash and others are spot on. Lead vocalist and co-founder of the band, Jess Harnell, is equally impressive. He has a solid set of pipes that can easily match the vocal offerings of legendary front men like Steve Perry, Axel Rose, Paul Stanley, or Vince Neil.
Admittedly, my musical tastes are a bit schizophrenic. Much like my undiagnosed A.D.D., my iPOD playlists are all over the map. Rock Sugar satisfies my every musical desire. The beauty of this group is the masterful way the songs are merged. It’s not just two (or sometimes three or four) songs “mashed” together to form a new song, Rock Sugar has managed to make them sound as though they were written this way in the first place.
The first cut, “Don’t Stop the Sandman” begins with the opening chords of Metallica’s “Enter Sandman”. My incredibly picky ear instantly notices the top-notch production quality. Ted Templeton, eat your heart out buddy! This self-produced masterpiece rivals any vinyl album, 8 track, cassette, CD or mp3 in my collection. As my head instinctively begins to bang, Duran makes a seamless transition from Kirk Hamet to Neal Schon and Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believing”. Throughout the song the two are perfectly intertwined. As if toying with my senses, Harnell and Duran keep me hanging on every note- wondering and anticipating where they will go next.
Ever wondered what it would sound like if Vince Neil sang “Bohemian Rhapsody”? Check out track 2, “We Will Kickstart Your Rhapsody”. Harnell is a master of imitation and I have to listen very hard to determine whether it is really him and not Freddie Mercury. As I am settling into the opening refrain and ready for the first verse of the Queen megahit, my stereo explodes as Harnell transforms before my very ears from Mercury to Neil. Like lunging over the first hill of an insane rollercoaster ride, Duran grinds out the opening of “Kickstart My Heart” as skillfully as Mick Mars himself. Even the renowned chops of Tommy Lee are no match for the groves laid down by drummer Alex Track.
And so the album unfolds. Thirteen solid tracks mixing the best Metal/Rock and Pop songs of the 80’s so perfectly you begin to forget that they weren’t written this way originally.
Track three throws together the likes of Ozzy Osbourne and Rick Springfield for a new creation called “Crazy Girl.” And, as you probably guessed, the infectious riff of “Crazy Train” is laced with the lyical genius of Springfield’s “Jessie’s Girl”. No self-respecting rock connoisseur can deny the uncontrollable urge to belt out the chorus of this 80’s pop hit. “Where can I find a woman like that?”
Ever wondered what it would sound like if Axel Rose sat in with ‘Til Tuesday for one of their biggest hits? If so, check out track four, “Voices in the Jungle”. This is perhaps my favorite. If Guns ‘N Roses ever decides to do a reunion tour, Harnell could easily fill in for Axel Rose. Actually, I would rather hear Harnell than Rose sing any G ‘N R song. Til Tuesday’s “Voices Carry” never sounded this good. Instantly, I am transported back to 1985. I can still remember zipping around the skating rink singing, “Ohhh Hush… Keep it Down, Now… Voices Carry!” If only Rock Sugar had been around back then.
After rockin’ out on the first four, the boys slow it down a bit with “Here Comes the Fool You Wanted”. I’ve never been a big Eurythmics fan, but this one took me by surprise. Once again, Harnell shines as he makes the transition from Annie Lenox to Jon Bon Jovi as only he can. You have to hear it to believe it. Listen closely and you will also hear a little Cinderella thrown in as well!
Track Six is my guilty pleasure. “Shook Me like a Prayer” is as infectious as any groove I’ve ever heard. I am little embarrassed to admit that I was able to sing along without missing a single word.
And on it goes throughout the album. Each song is a new adventure into the fertile minds of two musical geniuses that leave you wanting more. I can only hope that Rock Sugar is already planning to get into the studio for their next album because I have a massive sugar buzz and I am going to need another fix soon!