Dennis Dunaway Project
Bones from the Yard
First Appeared in The Music Box, January 2007, Volume 14, #1
Written by Matt Parish
Anyone who thinks Dennis Dunaway doesn’t know how to make a hit record should consider this: During the 1970s, he not only was a principal part of Alice Cooper’s overwhelmingly successful band, but he also contributed significantly to the writing of many of Cooper’s best-known tunes, including School’s Out, Under My Wheels, and I’m Eighteen. These legendary songs were everywhere, and they infiltrated youth culture all over the world. The keys to the group’s stratospheric levels of success likely were the way in which it tied its message of rebellion to its sing-along choruses as well as its dramatic stage show. It wasn’t all fun and games, though, and Dunaway’s dark side exhibited itself in material like Killer and Dead Babies.
On Bones from the Yard, his long overdue solo debut, Dunaway menacingly has updated his distinctive style for a modern-day audience. Arguably, the result of his efforts is one of the most finely honed albums to be issued in 2006. Throughout the Bones from the Yard, Dunaway is assisted by guitarist Rick Tedesco, keyboard player Ed Burns, and drummer Russ Wilson, and together, he and his crew achieve the kind of forceful majesty that only they could.
Kandahar, for example, fuses Cream’s Tales of Brave Ulysses and Led Zeppelin’s Kashmir, while Man is a Beast focuses on the current (and rather dismal) state of affairs by addressing a world that, in Dunaway's eyes, not only refuses to learn from its past but also seems hell-bent on destroying itself. Needle in the Red, with its first-to-fourth-gear propulsion, sounds like a lost track from Sammy Hagar’s days with Montrose, and the lyric "Waitin’ for the moment where this freeway meets the sky/Out the other side/White lines in my head/Destiny misled" ranks among the better lines ever written for driving down the open road.
Elsewhere, On the Mountain dives into cocaine addiction, and its power chord-driven message mirrors the intensity of the drug’s hold over its victims. Little Kid (with a Big, Big Gun) is one of the ingratiating songs to be penned in ages, and Ian Hunter lends a hand (or two) on piano to the Jerry Lee Lewis-inspired track. With Joe Bouchard on cowbell, Hunter on piano, and the great musicianship of Burns, Wilson, and Tedesco, what more could anyone want?
Playing closer to his base, Dunaway gives Stalker a very Alice Cooper-esque feel, and its spoken-word accompaniment makes the song a close cousin to Killer. Satan’s Sister and Red Room showcase how menacing he can be, and both tunes are a trip. Satan’s Sister intertwines its locomotive rhythm with a Stones-y groove, and Red Room sounds like Ray Davies, if he had overdosed on Viagra. It paints a picture of a lusty, "cat and mouse" relationship — complete with a "moaning Lisa" lurking in the background — and it was inspired by an actual incident that Dunaway experienced in Nogales, Mexico’s red light district when he was 17.
Nevertheless, not everything on Bones from the Yard exudes an air of doom and gloom. Tracks like Me and My Boys, New Generation, and Subway reflect Dunaway’s enthusiastic commitment to his art. In fact, New Generation is an anthem that could be the next great song of newfound, adolescent independence, and Subway pays a street-smart yet endearing tribute to a romantic way of commuting through a city. It begins and ends beautifully as the haunting melody of I’m in the Mood for Love, which passionately is played on a saxophone by Michael Tedesco, Rick’s father.
Bones from the Yard concludes with the epic Home Sweet Home, a song that originally was meant to be the finale to an Alice Cooper effort. Said Dunaway, "When we recorded this song, I thought about actually throwing in a kitchen sink."
Indeed, there is more to Home Sweet Home than initially meets the eye, and it provides the perfect conclusion to Bones from the Yard, a record that improves immensely with age. As usual, there are voices hidden within the tracks, and Dunaway also placed an array of darkened sounds beneath the surface of the mix. They don't make the album sound scary, though — just frighteningly good. ½
1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
Copyright © 2007 The Music Box