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An Old Camaro at a Red Light Long Ago

1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 Rating 93% (24 Votes)

Picture BIC lighters held high, swaying back and forth in waves, pink and blue gel lights flashing, the guitarist pushing the gleaming guitar forward toward the crowd, riding the sustain.  That’s how the Winery Dogs should have been heard and seen, sometime in the late seventies or early eighties. 

They have that sound that was ubiquitous back then, that Van Halen—sort of—whining guitar with speedy fretwork, arena rock voices.  For those who loved that music back then, this would be a fresh, unheard familiarity; the problem is, that audience may not be looking for new music at all—never mind something that sounds like it came from the AM channels of the same era as Animal House and Friday the 13th the first.

I wasn’t fond of that sound back then, so I am the last person who should be reviewing this group.  I did hear enough of it at parties and on the car radio to know that these guys are good, though.  The Winery Dogs are new but they sound like they could be pouring out of a 1973 Camaro stopped at a light in 1979. The pedestrians—if this time travel were possible—would pass in front of that Camaro without staring or noticing (unless they liked the music a lot of course, and many of them would).  Much of today’s music would make those 1979 pedestrians halt and stare or turn up their noses.

So it’s solid guitar work, bass, drums, vocals, and all the other things that make a great band.   The trio is made up of Mike PortnoyBilly Sheehan, and Richie Kotzen. They say they are influenced by Led Zeppelin, Cream, Jimi Hendrix, Grand Funk Railroad, and some newer bands such as Alice in Chains and Black Crowes.  Their sound reminds me a little, though, of April Wine, Foreigner, and Van Halen—as well as aspects of the other groups mentioned.

“You Saved Me” reminds me of ”Rock and Roll is a Vicious Game” and “One More Time” reminds me of “Roller”—all in a good way, if you like that kind of thing.

That’s the problem.  It’s somewhat like Harry Nilsson putting out A Little Touch of Schmilsson in the Night back in 1973; it’s out of its time.  And, perhaps, this is not The Winery Dogs’ time. Nilsson sounded like he was back in the forties and the reception of his version of those old tunes is documented. These are new tunes that accurately sound like they are from forty years ago.  There is the difference, and many artists have done well enough paying homage to the past. We have to wait and see if those who once drove those old Camaro’s all those years ago (and those who wanted to), blaring 8-tracks of April Wine’s Live at the El Mocambo, are still looking for new bands that sound like the era they love best.  It may be a tough audience to find.

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