Now here's a lineup that would've had folks lined up a block long at Tower Records back in the late '80s on release day: Tracii Guns, Rikki Rockett, Rudy Sarzo and Brandon Gibbs. DEVIL CITY ANGELS was originally put together between Guns and Rockett last year at a Keith Moon and John Entwistle tribute show with CINDERELLA bassist Eric Brittingham. This year, Sarzo joins the band and CHEAP THRILL/GIBBS BROTHERS singer Brandon Gibbs fills out the lineup for a laidback though tight blues rock romp.
The opening number "Numb" rolls its funky course atop Rudy Sarzo's rumbling bass with a shake to Rikki Rockett's beat and a snake to Tracii Guns' riffs. "All My People" thereafter is a checked-down singalong blues number with humping verses and AEROSMITH-kissed grooves. Guns and Sarzo's notes are wicked tight and Brandon Gibbs coaxes every ounce of juice from the song he can before summoning listeners to crank up the next cut, "Boneyard". AEROSMITH and the ALLMAN BROTHERS figure into this track with subtle swampiness emitted from Tracii Guns' backend guitar slides. The riffs are king here, along with the tuneful choruses. Rikki Rockett and Rudy Sarzo maintain a pleasurable hum behind them.
Rockett hollers out, "Yo guys, just go with me on this!" while tapping out the lead to the peppy "I'm Living", providing Brandon Gibbs a platform to rejoice about the sanity check music provides. It's easy to agree with him, hearing the winding blues chucks and carefree pace of the song. Rockett lays down some superfluous rolls towards the end of the song, but otherwise keeps things dialed back. Dialed back couldn't be more apropos on the meandering yet lush ballad "Gone Forever", a song bred from a lazy stroll and given hits of amplification and sweetened chords. Gibbs pours it on sumptuously and if there's an actual person he's addressing on this song, said person will be hard to avoid being stricken by the message.
Dialed back becomes the inherent theme to DEVIL CITY ANGELS on subsequent tracks like "No Angels", "Ride With Me" and the snappy-funky "Bad Decisions", the latter being a song MÖTLEY CRÜE could've fiddled around with. This album transmits a routinely bass-driven, blithe and trouble-free vibe carrying the band's affinity for blues rock. Only the bulky and loud "Back to the Drive" kicks out the jams in full with its stamping groove and blaring riffs.
Without the pressure of big labels and mega-production, DEVIL CITY ANGELS keeps a loose verve on this album but every part is taut. It's always a pleasure hearing bass take the fore and Rudy Sarzo is outstanding here. Without the circuses of POISON and L.A. GUNS to bog them down, both Rikki Rockett and Tracii Guns sound like they're having a blast in their endeavor, particularly on the swinging "All I Need".
Sometimes you have to trust your gut and trust your partners. DEVIL CITY ANGELS plays to a limited market of hanger-ons and newcomer rockers whereas they would've assuredly struck gold back in the day with this album. It's professional, it's snug but best of all, it plays for the band's kicks and becomes a modest pleasure pill to anybody cuddling up to it.