Coming in the #10 slot (in alphabetical order) on my Best of 2013 list is this supergroup’s eponymous bolt of lightning:
The Winery Dogs
Wow. This album blew me away.
One of my all-time favorite prog drummers, Mike Portnoy, teamed up with Richie Kotzen and Billy Sheehan this year, and they demonstrate to us all the unbeatable power of the power trio when it is done right.
The thrill of listening to these catchy songs, and to the virtuoso musical chops on display in them, evoked a lot of happy musical memories of musical “first encounters” for me.
First, there is the rush of listening to Rush. Like I say, there is nothing quite as exciting as the hard rock power of the power trio when it is done right. The Winery Dogs evoke for me the musical joy I experienced when first listening to Rush in high school. Of course, the greatness of Rush is still there to be savored with every listen. But there is nothing quite like the first ten times that you listen to a truly great album. With this release from The Winery Dogs, we get to experience that kind of magic again, as for the first time.
Second, there is the sonic adrenaline that I love to tap into by listening to Chris Cornell and Audioslave. Therefore I am dedicating my Winery Dogs nomination here for the Best of 2013 to Carl, my fellow Soundgarden aficionado in the republic of Progarchy, in case he has not heard it yet. It’s remarkably satisfying, for those of us who can’t get enough of such upper-echelon vocal stylings, how well Richie Kotzen can recreate the thrill of listening to Chris Cornell.
Third, there is the undefinable excitement that skilled musicianship can bring to enhance and elevate any genre’s tropes. Suddenly, as you round what seems to be a familiar musical corner, you are blindsided and pleasantly surprised by an unexpected display of virtuosity that showers you with musical grace. When Billy Sheehan works his otherworldly magic here on bass guitar, or when Richie Kotzen transports us into ordinarily inaccessible dimensions of guitarcraft, or when Mike Portnoy muscles his way out of the speakers and right into the room next to you, I am reminded of those magical younger days when my friends and I first began listening to all those great, lesser-known albums by “musicians’ musicians.” Those discs opened up musical pathways that most of our schoolmates were missing out on. For some reason, when listening to The Winery Dogs, memories of listening to The Steve Morse Band come to mind for me. But each of you will find that your own personal memories of your first listens to “the greats” will be evoked by this album’s dazzling display of virtuosity.
Best of all, this album is a perfect cure for the dragon sickness of any nascent prog tendency to become a tribal, self-enclosed musical world. It makes the joy of music available to anyone with the ears to listen.
This disc is a perfect illustration of how musical men with prog chops can quite simply put their musical skills in the noble service of simply rocking out. Anyone with a heart can relate to this cause. I invite you to happily endorse it with the simplest of gestures, like a fist pump or an air guitar solo.
Rock on, gentlemen.