"The Winery Dogs"

By Dark Starr

When I heard the lineup on this, I assumed it would be a progressive rock release. There is some prog built into this, but overall this is just great hard rocking grooves.

So, let’s talk about that lineup. First, we’ve got Richie Kotzen. He’s the non-prog guy of this trio. He’s played with Poison, Mr. Big and more. Next up is drummer Mike Portnoy. Portnoy has been part of prog acts like Dream Theater, Liquid Tension Experiment, Transatlantic and more. Billy Sheehan rounds out the lineup and he’s been known for a number of progressive rock acts like Niacin, but also for his work with David Lee Roth’s band and alongside Kotzen in Mr. Big. Of course, for that reason, it should be no surprise that the quickest comparison here would be to say that this sounds like Mr. Big. It’s not a perfect fit, but that resemblance is natural and definite.

With those three guys you’d expect something great. Well, they deliver. This doesn’t break any molds or create anything really new. Instead it carries on the tradition of a lot of hard rocking acts from Led Zeppelin going forward. They do it incredibly well and this just an album you’ll find yourself spinning over and over. It’s that good.  I hate to overuse the term "killer groove", but there's no way to avoid it when you set your ears on tracks like "The Other Side", "Elevate" and especially "Not Hopeless". Everything that works for hard rock, prog rock and even funk can be found in these songs. Toss in a couple of delightful surprises like AOR flavored "You Saved Me" and the straight prog of "Time Machine" and you have one of the best debuts you're ever going to hear.