When a big-name star of a legendary band decides to do a solo project, the result often is a collection of tunes thrown together that sound like…well…rock-star boredom turned into a side project. This is not to say that Tony Iommi is one of those folks or that his output on the first two albums was sub-par (haven't heard the first one, though), just that "Fused" sounds like a band in the truest sense of the word. When your vocalist/bassist is the phenomenal Glenn Hughes, it's awfully hard to hog the spotlight. The power trio is completed by former JOHN MELLENCAMP drummer (and session player for the stars) Kenny Aronoff. Producer and compositional collaborator Bob Marlette plays keyboards and bass (with Hughes) on the album.
Mr. Iommi's riffs may be hard as nails and his solos blistering, but Hughes steals the show here. The 10 tracks on "Fused" are solid, memorable tunes with a bluesy swagger and heavy (though not in a SABBATH sense) delivery. Hughes sets them afire with one hell of a soulful performance. Given the pair's past collaborations (including 1986 SABBATH album "Seventh Star" and 2004's "The 1996 DEP Sessions"), the chemistry heard on "Fused" is not surprising. Aronoff plays mainly in the pocket and anchors these tunes admirably with a tight performance. Marlette's keyboards are hardly the focal point, but his work is not insignificant, adding accent and spice to the riff-based songs.
The formula at work is largely one of elephant-walk rhythms with catchy choruses, "Grace" and "Face your Fear" boasting the most melodious choruses. "Dopamine" and its chorus of "It's the dopamine that gets me high, the dopamine connects me; it's the dopamine I can rely, the dopamine reflects me" struck me as corny at first, but ultimately worked. Hell, Hughes can turn dog logs into Snickers bars with that voice. The up-tempo rocker "What You're Living For" is another highlight, while the nine-minute "I Go Insane" features a soaring melody and lots of hard rockin' twists and turns.
"Fused" won't take the world by storm, but I did enjoy it. I found the music to be both competently performed and refreshing. It'll get pulled from the stacks for future listens; that much is for certain.