Ex-Black Sheep frontman Willie Basse has launched a new label, New Empire Media, and what better way to do it than with the release of his own newest offering, The Money Grind? Twenty years removed from his time playing with the likes of Slash and Randy Castillo, the question is what he has to offer a scene that he helped to create a lifetime ago?
“Danger Zone” gets the album off to an ignominious start. The lame intro, though, quickly gives way to a rocker ripped straight out of the 80s – a sound that runs throughout the album; just check out “Reasons”. That same lame intro, though, rears its head in a cheesy chorus that marks this arrangement as probably the biggest misstep on the disc – although the lilting sound of “You’re Not There” is in the running and a lot of the disc suffers from some weak choruses and repetition.
“Guitargasm” and the more progressive “Immrotal” show that Basse isn’t content to just try to get by on vocals alone and shine the spotlight squarely on the shredding that made the 80s such a great era for high-powered music. That signature 80s shriek, though, remains the calling card of the Willie Basse sound and tracks like “It’s Over” and “Don’t Waste My Time” show that he hasn’t lost any of that range or power.
The bulk of the disc plays with that same straight rocking mentality. The title track is a gritty call to the blue collar everyman while tracks like “(Love So) Far Away”, the more radio-friendly “Yesterdaze” and “U Can’t Have It All”, which is probably the standout track on the disc, offer up the classic power rock riffing of bands like Dokken with hard-edged vocals reminiscent of Paul Stanley. “Unloveable” is a seedy little sleaze rock number while “Avarie” is the requisite power ballad.
“Po’ Boy” seems a bit out of place as Basse explores an unconventional reggae beat, but the song is well-constructed and the fact that he’s able to pull it off so well sets it aside as one of the highlights of the disc from a songwriting standpoint.
Willie Basse still channels the seedy underbelly of rock the way it was done by bands like Ratt, but he does it with the precision of more visionary acts like Fates Warning – seeking to create something rather than just lay down his life and his view of the streets in music. The one knock on this disc is that there’s precious little here that’s fresh or new – this is largely the same music that he was making 20 years ago. While there’s enough nostalgia here for fans of the sound that are looking for something new for their music libraries but probably not enough for it to translate to the people who missed out on that era of music. With the acts that he continues to work with, though, Basse has seemed to made peace with the idea of staying set in that period, though, and pumping his sweat into that scene – so maybe it really isn’t all about the money grind after all.
The Money Grind