Vince Neil: Tattoos & Tequila

RIYL: Mötley Crüe, Buckcherry, Steel Panther

Vince Neil has always been one of those frontmen that makes up for his lack of traditional singing talent with tons of style and swagger. Throughout the peak years of Mötley Crüe’s commercial success, his high-pitched vocal style served the band’s glammed-up take on hard rock well. Though the group still packs arenas, it’s obvious that all of the years of out-of-range screaming and squealing have taken its toll on Neil’s vocals. He was never the strongest live performer, but these days, listening to Vince live is like hearing a cat being tortured.

It’s no surprise that anticipation for a Vince Neil solo record isn’t all that high. But here we are – 15 years since his last full length record, 1995’s Carved in Stone – and the bleached blonde singer is back with Tattoos & Tequila, his third studio album. With that much of a gap between albums, you would expect the guy to come to the table with a lot of new material, but Tattoos & Tequila features nine covers and only two original songs. Things start off shaky with the title track, which is a weak attempt by Neil to attract Active Rock radio program directors. Written and produced by the usually reliable Marti Frederiksen, the track’s overly processed drum sound and stock stop-and-go riffs sound like something Hinder or Buckcherry would have relegated to B-side status. Luckily, things turn around on the next cut, a faithful version of Cheap Trick’s power pop standard “He’s a Whore.” Jeff Blando’s crunchy guitar tone is the perfect bed for the song’s sweetened melody lines and earworm of a chorus.


All of the cover songs were produced by Neil and Jack Blades (Night Ranger, Damn Yankees), and they do a stellar job of giving the vocals a pop sheen that recalls Mötley Crüe’s Elektra Records years. Anyone remotely familiar with Vince’s early influences won’t be shocked to see some of the artists he chose to cover here. The Sweet, Sex Pistols, and Scorpions are all represented on Tattoos & Tequila, and while nothing particularly new is done with them, they still make for a fun listening experience. The most shocking part is the strength of the less conventional hard rock material. Perhaps it was his co-producer’s experience from working on the wonderful covers album Influence from Shaw Blades — Jack Blades’ project with Styx guitarist-vocalist Tommy Shaw. Even when Vince takes on Elvis Presley’s “Viva Las Vegas,” the meat and potatoes arrangement and revved-up rhythm during the signature chorus, reinvents the song into a Sunset Strip-styled rocker.

Covers of Elton John’s “The Bitch Is Back” and Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Who’ll Stop the Rain” keep close to their original ‘70s incarnations, but there’s something intriguing about listening to Neil’s snotty vocal delivery driving them. The other original song, also produced by Marti Fredericksen, was penned by Mötley’s bassist Nikki Sixx and is called “Another Bad Day.” It’s the kind of mid-tempo ballad that would have been massive on Dial MTV circa 1988. It’s also easily better than anything Neil or Sixx have put on an album in years.

So much for expectations. Who would have thought that a Vince Neil covers album would be this enjoyable? Even one out of the two original tracks is a keeper – and we all know how bad the songs they usually throw on these collections are. Now, we’re not saying that you should go out and catch a Vince solo show anytime soon – but if you dig old Crüe and the golden era of Aqua Net rock, Tattoos & Tequila would be a worthy addition to your CD collection. (ElevenSeven Music 2010)

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