Album Review: Riverdogs, California

Riverdogs, California
Genre: Hard rock
Musicianship: 3.5
Songwriting: 2.5
Production & Engineering: 3.0
Vibe: 3.5
Overall Rating: 3 Stars
3.13 (out of 4)

‘80s rockers, Riverdogs, are back with their long awaited 5th release, California. Our readership is certainly familiar with guitarist Vivian Campbell. Although his guitar duties are sometimes hamstrung in Def Leppard due to both the material and sharing guitar duties with Phil Collen, it is a pleasure to hear Vivian cut loose here, the way he did back in his Dio days. The explosive energy and heart in his playing on this record is unapologetic and raw, yet delivered in such a way as to evoke mastery of the guitar that only years of experience can accomplish.

California delivers straight-ahead hard rock, and we enjoy the driving elements at play here, but we really wanted to hear a few more intoxicating hooks on this record. Sure, the songs all conveyed a message and came to logical points, but addictive, “I can listen to this song all day”-type hooks just didn’t happen for us. Rob Lamothe’s vocal delivery was convincing and professional, but we would have loved to hear a little more range out of him rather than remaining solely within his comfort zone. The blues rock-based approach works fine for this body of songs, but a more layered and polished performance could have lifted this record even higher.

The production is generally good; modern with plenty of well-controlled thump and cut, and attention was obviously paid to the drums production, with a good, meaty kick and cutting snare sound. The guitars are exactly how we like them: forward in the mix, which is great given that the most emotive performances on this record tend to come from the guitar solos. The guitar tone was raw and clear, with minimal effects, and was extremely pleasing to the ear.

Although the vocal performance may not have lived up to the caliber of the guitar delivery, this is a solid band delivering a strong performance with character and a certain uniqueness in the delivery that solidifies the band’s identity.

—BS

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