The Winery Dogs
"After some high profile releases and particularly impressive ubiquity, the ex-DREAM THEATER / A7X drums God Mike Portnoy is back again with his new musical partner the magnificent Bass Maestro Billy Sheehan (NIACIN / TALAS / DAVID LEE ROTH / MR BIG / STEVE VAI / PSMS), under a power trio format, completed by none other than one of the most gifted Guitarist of his generation once Sharpnel Records alumni Richie Kotzen but this time no instrumental trickery, no instrumental knitting, because Kotzen beside his absolute skilled six strings wizardry is also indeed an hell of a fantastic soulful singer and a very underrated vocalist of the best brand. This is a supergroup, a Dream Team hell yeah…but mostly a great band.
With such a busy time schedule for both workaholics Portnoy & Sheehan, we could have feared a fast almost sloppy affair, luckily with this first album is exactly the opposite. Sheehan & Kotzen were working many years together with MR BIG and in fact the sound of THE WINERY DOGS isn’t that far from what Sheehan, Paul Gilbert , Pat Torpey and Eric Martin have magnificently achieved.
The album start with groovy 70s infused blast of “Elevate” and followed by the heavy Funk flavor of “Desire” each track feature an intense rhythmic groove with short but impressive unison synchronized lead bass / lead guitar whirlwind licks of exuberant virtuosity, some unexpected harmonies that coming out of the Jazz-Rock / Rhythm N' Blues recipe book owned by Kotzen, but every song carries most of all a strong focus both on the catchy melodies and on the sing-along hooks which are everywhere boosted by rich Backing vocals (“The Other Side” or “The Dying”) really magnetic & irresistible. Those who are familiar with the prolific superb Kotzen’s discography knows that he’s an hugely skilled songwriter with a lot of style in his arsenal, so THE WINERY DOGS debut album is out of the same tradition as THE MOTHER HEAD'S FAMILLY REUNION, “Not Hopeless” contains however some over the top sharing duo between Richie & Billy, in the real MR BIG's shredding frenzy fashion, like a modern day GRAND FUNK RAILROAD with full injection of high tech dexterity.
Cuts like “One More Time” or “Six Feet Deeper” seems to be outtakes from the breath taking 1990s “Fever Dream”, with furious playing and great musicality concentrated for an even more efficiency. The Japan only bonus track, “Criminal” is strangely one of the most commercial song with an almost AOR chorus, a syncopated bridge and another outstanding lead guitar solo spot in two parts with a tasty sound. The closing number “Regret” is the sole composition handled exclusively by Mr. Kotzen: it’s a soul music track with slight Hammond layers and a real harmonious balanced to finish this album in a positive way. The pristine production is powerful and crystal clear, still organic with a strong vintage feel but not muddy, in fact it sounds like how Classic Rock in its purest form should sound in 2013. Just unadulterated genuine Rock played by an exemplary bunch of extremely talented musicians and it’s an understatement.
After an imposing huge list of albums and projects under his belt, Mike Portnoy with the help of another all-star lineup show to the incredulous crowd of jealous fellows, how his playing field is broad and how he can multiply in an almost monthly omnipresence the recording with the same prestige and the same success as FLYING COLORS / NEAL MORSE / PSMS / ADRENALINE MOB and the forthcoming BIGELF." - Metal Temple