Yowza! That GN’R bus is picking up speed, huh? Has it got you reaching for your copies of the big ol’ bloated Use Your Illusion? Well, put it down! Take a step back! Open up your browsers and open up Discogs / Amazon / Spotify / YouTube (delete where applicable).
Not that I’m anti-Guns N’ Roses or anything, but forget about ‘The Most Dangerous Band In the World’ (© GN’R 1986) …
Izzy Stradlin – 117°
Geffen Records, 1998
Rumour has it that Izzy left a Ju Ju Hounds recording session at some point in 1993 to go get some smokes. Never returned. Next we hear is two years later he’s jamming with ex-Gunner Duff, Ju Ju-er Rick Richards, and Taz Bentley. Another three years later and he’s cut his hair and thrown out 117°, which also features a few tracks recorded by the Ju Ju Hounds prior to their split.
While much sharper and urgent, Izzy’s music remains a reaction to the bloated stadium rock monster he created. The influence of The Rolling Stones (particularly Keith on Gotta Say, Good Enough) and The Clash is still there; however, there are elements of rockabilly and surf (the incredible Surf Roach and Grunt are full of subtle – and not so subtle – Dick Dale-isms). Meshed with his punk influences, Izzy hit his stride and 117° is, I dare say, a more diverse record than the Ju Ju Hounds … in fact, it’s a pretty perfect Americana record. The album’s highlights are a blistering version of Chuck Berry’s Memphis (heavy guitar lines and thunderous playing from his ex-Hounds), Izzy original Here Before You, and the roaring Up Jumped The Devil.
Despite a lukewarm score of 3, Allmusic wrote: “117 Degrees rocks harder than most roots-rock albums of the late ’90s. And Stradlin is a roots-rocker by this point. None of his contemporaries are even trying for this kind of unassuming, straightforward, well-crafted hard rock, and by pursuing this direction so doggedly (he even covers Berry’s “Memphis”), he sounds like a throwback to another era, much like all the Americana bands of the late ’90s. His music sounds fresher than many of those roots-rockers because he just wants to play, not preserve heritage, but the ironic thing is when he’s on, he’s a better songwriter than almost any of them.” I wouldn’t disagree with that. Only I’d give it a solid 5.
Unfortunately, this would be the last of Izzy’s albums to be easily obtained. Following the Geffen / Interscope merger, Izzy found himself without a label.