SKID ROW – “The Gang's All Here”
By Colonel Angus
Let’s get one thing straight. This was going to a record that some “fans” are going to try to pick apart while whining for a reunion with Sebastian Bach. Well, it has been well over 20 years since that split so it is time to move on and judge this album on its own merits. I will admit that I was a bit disappointed when “Thickskin” came out but I have grown to appreciate that record for what it is. I was never sold on Johnny Solinger as the singer even though he was a great singer and performer. I was looking for those anthemic, fist-raising songs and they were absent. SKID ROW had progressed into a different sound (as they have all along) and many fans weren’t really happy with the change. It is definitely worth checking out and I think the years have been kind to that release.
Then the revolving door of singers set in with Tony Harnell of TNT fame having a short tenure and ZP Theart putting in 6 years. Both are capable vocalists but the chemistry didn’t seem to be there. Enter newest recruit (and hopefully lasting a long, long time) is Erik Gronwall who made his name in H.E.A.T. I will have to say that this collaboration got me excited due to Gronwall’s previous works and everything I saw on Youtube before “The Gang’s All Here” was released. Once I was given the opportunity to reviews this album, I jumped at the chance and set aside time to simply listen to the music without any interruptions.
Now, before we go any further, I have to say to all those naysayers who gave up on the band when their original line-up ceased to exist, you have to give this record chance because this is the SKID ROW you have been waiting for. I still hear elements from throughout their career but I feel that “The Gang’s All Here” really captures a lot of the feel of the first 2 records. If you wanted anthems like "Youth Gone Wild", well, the band heard you and delivered "Hell or High Water" and the title track. If you wanted the swagger of "Monkey Business", they provided you "Resurrected" and if you wanted a power ballad, you were given "October's Song". Those are just a few examples but the list can go on. "Not Dead Yet" has all the punky vibe of "Get the Fuck Out" without the sophomoric lyrics. I mentioned earlier that this disk hits on all eras of the band and I feel that "Nowhere Fast" would have fit nicely on “Thickskin” but Gronwall’s vocals do add that element from the first 2 albums. While I like certain songs over others, every track deserves to be on “The Gang’s All Here”. There isn’t what I would call a weak spot anywhere near this record and it is their most consistent effort since “Slave to the Grind”.
The band still revolves around the 3 core members of Dave Sabo, Scotti Hill, and Rachel Bolan. All 3 maintain that high level they always have with the material and performances making “The Gang’s All Here” no different than their previous output. The guitars especially are highlighted with great riffs and solos being put in the foreground. There has always been a quality to their output and while you may not like the song, you have to admit that the playing was always top notch. Rob Hammersmith has been with the band for a dozen years now and on this newest release, he brings a heaviness without changing the overall SKID ROW sound. The final element is Erik Gronwall and he puts in a great performance throughout the whole disk. To be quite honest, I never doubted he would be great but his vocals even surpassed my expectations. While the Sollinger era had its moments, this line-up is just as strong as the original and “The Gang’s All Here” proves that SKID ROW is still a vital band that doesn’t need to rest on their older catalogue.