Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Pushking recruits some rock legends to make a big introduction

They have been around since 1994, and they are popular in Russia, but few people outside of their native country have ever heard of Pushking. With many albums in both Russian and English, it's about damn time this great band was introduced to the rest of the world.

The World as We Love It is quite an interesting concept. It brings together 18 of the band's hit songs, which have been re-recorded as duets with some big name musicians. I'm usually not a big fan of when bands re-record their well-known songs, but if rock gods like Paul Stanley and Alice Cooper believe in this band enough to work with them, I shall give them my full attention.

After a 15-second intro of the band singing the album's title, the first two tracks on The World as We Love It are "Nightrider" and "It'll Be OK"--featuring Billy F. Gibbons of ZZ Top. "Nightrider" is a hugely energetic rock song with a driving beat. The parts leading up to the chorus take on a funky groove that adds a little something extra, making it more interesting than your usual Speedracer driving song.

Gibbons hands over some of his guitar duties to Nuno Bettencourt of Extreme for "It'll Be OK," but he continues to lend his gruff voice (and beard!) to The World as We Love It. This track is quite a bit different than the previous one. The band slows things down, incorporating more a bluesy feel. The song feels heavier, despite the fact that it's not as "hard and fast" as the last one too. Gibbons' vocals combined with Bettencourt's superb guitar work almost gives this song a Black Label Society quality.

I was highly impressed with Gibbons' vocal intensity on his two tracks. He still sounds so young and energetic, and it's great to see that side of him shine through by him collaborating with a much younger band like Pushking. There is even a music video for "It'll Be OK" featuring Billy, Nuno, and Pushking rocking out and kicking ass together.

The following track is "Troubled Love" featuring Alice Cooper and guitarist Keri Kelli. From the very first "Oh yeah!" this song absolutely screams Alice Cooper! I wish he would release it on one of his own albums. This hard rocker with a catchy chorus about a psycho girlfriend is fun, and it won't stay out of your head.

The very next song, "Stranger's Song", reminded me of a late '80s/early '90s Alice Cooper ballad, and during my first listen, I was willing to bet that Alice had contributed to another song on The World as We Love It. By the second verse, however, I could tell that it actually wasn't The Coop lending providing the vocals to this particular track--it was prolific rock and blues singer John Lawton who is famous for his work with the band Uriah Heep. Regardless, the vocals are great, but the highlight of this slow, dramatic ballad is Steve Stevens' guitar solo. It's crisp, clean, and clear, and helps to further the drama and story of this song.

There are several ballads on this album--most which are great and then a couple of which sound a bit dated if not cheesy. I've always liked Nazareth, but their ex-vocalist Dan McCafferty was handed some sappy love songs to sing. He's a talented guy, so he does well with what he was given.

One ballad that really stands out among the rest is the epic "My Reflections After Seeing the Schindler's List Movie".  Steve Vai plays guitar on this track, but there is no guest vocalist on this one. Pushking's vocalist, songwriter, and leader, Konstantin "Koha" Shustarev is on his own for this this one. He has a gruff, powerful voice much like Billy F. Gibbons--except he has a sweet Russian accent, adding a different flavor.

While the title is cumbersome, the song is exactly about the title says, "My Reflections After Seeing the Schindler's List Movie". The track is reminiscent of a more serious, thought provoking "Winds of Change" by The Scorpions--without the whistling. Instead, this reflection on the dark side of humanity (and changing it for the better) contains a beautiful chorus sung in Hebrew. It's absolutely gorgeous, but also illustrate the seriousness of Schindler's List and the horrors inflicted upon the Jewish people.

My favorite and the final track from The World as We Love It is "Kukarracha." It is the grand all-star finale to Pushking's 18-song introduction to the world. It features Paul Stanley (also on "Cut the Wire"), Glenn Hughes (who makes several appearances), and Steve Lukather.

I love this song because A) Paul f'n Stanley sings on it, B) It makes me grin from ear-to-ear, and C) The vocal harmonies are killer.

This hard rocking song is a about really being into this woman, despite her quirks and peculiarity. It's catchy chorus of, "Ku-ku-ku-ku-ku-ku yeah/ Ku-ku-ku-ku-ra-cha" is a lot of fun, and you can definitely hear the performers having fun in the studio on this one.

The World as We Love It features a ton of great songs. The songs themselves, performed by Pushking and their famous friends, are the main focus of the album. It shows everyone outside of Russia how good Pusking, especially Koha, are at songwriting. However, I am curious to hear an album performed entirely by Pushking to find out what they alone sound like on an assortment of songs.

Bringing together the rock royalty--including Graham Bonnet, Joe Lynn Turer, Jorn Lande, Udo Dirkschneider, and Joe Bonamossa, among others--was a brilliant strategy employed by Pushking and the producers to attract some attention to this project. With a number of diverse songs whose sounds change with each collaborating artist, there is no reason why The World as We Love It shouldn't gain Pushking that much-deserved attention it deserves.

8 out of 10 stars


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