A few years back, vocalist Jack Russell parted ways with Great White, the band he had been the frontman of for decades. As a result, Great White has become one of the many bands to exist in more than one incarnation. Jack Russell fronts his own version of the band, which performs and records under the “Jack Russell’s Great White” moniker, while the “main” version of the band featuring guitarist Mark Kendall, now fronted by XYZ frontman Terry Ilous, continues to perform as “Great White.” I will not get into any of the controversies and conflicts that have arisen from the split between the two parties; stuff like this is commonplace enough on other websites. After all, you came here for a review on the album, not my commentary on the state of affairs here.
The Ilous/Kendall Great White released their first Jack Russell-less album a few years back, so fans have been waiting to see when Russell would finally get around to releasing something of his own. With a band lineup that includes Tony Montana, Robby Lochner, Dan McNay, and Dicki Fliszar, Russell has finally delivered He Saw it Comin’, the first album from his version of Great White. Was it worth the wait, and should you add this one to your rock and roll collection?
In interviews, Jack Russell claims he and his bandmates here have developed solid chemistry working together. It definitely shows on this release; this is a talented ensemble of performers that brings plenty to the table. They have also claimed to want to stay true to the band’s roots, but also bring the sound into modern times. Is what they have created together actually good, though?
This is one of those many releases where I came in not knowing what to expect; the one time I had seen Jack Russell’s Great White in concert back in 2012, they naturally just performed the expected classics. It is interesting to see the band was able to create a whole album’s worth of new material. The end result is scattershot and unpredictable, which is simultaneously a good and a bad thing. At its best, this album features Russell’s distinctive voice and a powerful band supporting him. At its worst, however, it will leave you tilting your head in confusion, wondering if you are seriously listening to Jack Russell, the singer of Great White.
“Sign of the Times” is an admittedly strong opener that rocks hard and does a good job leaving a first impression; it is just a shame that not everything else here could be this good. “She Moves Me” is a surprisingly funky, bluesy rocker that starts off with great promise, only to have Russell derail it by rapping in the interlude (seriously, I’m not making this up!) “Crazy” is a solid rocker not unlike Ratt or Firehouse at their most bluesy, even if the Beatles-esque vocal harmonies in a few parts of the song feel out of place, and more like they belong in an Enuff Z’Nuff song. “Love Don’t Live Here” impresses as a rock/pop ballad of sorts. “My Addiction” is a terrific melodic rocker, and is followed up by “Anything For You,” one of the few truly genuine ballads here. It may very well be the strongest track present on the record.
Things continue with the title track, a more modern sounding song that still manages to impress for the most part, though again a weird choice of vocal-heavy interlude leaves the wrong impression on listeners. More questionable musical choices come in the form of “Don’t Let Me Go,” which almost ends up feeling like a reggae song. The highlight of the album’s latter half is “Spy Vs. Spy,” featuring some of the album’s best guitar work, and more straightforward rock, not to mention what is arguably Russell’s best vocal performance on the record. An instrumental bridge section certainly does not kill the momentum. “Blame it on the Night” is another strong performance, and one of the few songs on this album that I could actually picture appearing on an older Great White record. Unfortunately, things take a major step backward with closing track “Godspeed,”a laughably bad acapella song that sounds like something you would expect to hear playing over the speakers in a fifties diner.
When He Saw It Comin’ rocks, it rocks. And when it doesn’t… let’s just say that the questionable music choices in a few spots are going to alienate more than a few listeners. Fortunately, there is still plenty to like about this release despite its shortcomings, so it at least merits a moderate recommendation.
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