, June 3, 2010
The Brighton Bar continues its winning streak for picking groups that are infamous and in some way historically vital to rock and roll as we know it. The May 8 show featured the heavy headlining sounds of Fifth Avenue Vampires.
Featuring Dennis Dunaway (Alice Cooper) and Ritchie Scarlet (Mountain, Frehley’s Comet), the band’s name brings back dark and majestic memories. Visions of walls of Marshalls dance in your head, while groupies and backstage passes cover the hotel room bed. The lifestyles of the rock and roll famous may be a thing of the past but the guys that helped create that legendary time are still performing for the public. Dunaway and Scarlett played on many of the songs that inspired all of us to pick up electric guitars and chase that lifelong passion of music.
In case you didn’t already know, Dennis Dunaway co-penned several high-profile rock tunes including Alice Cooper’s “Eighteen” and “School’s Out,” two of my favorite rabble rousers. He was also part of Bouchard Dunaway & Smith (BDS) with fellow Alice Cooper vet Neal Smith and Blue Oyster Cult alum Joe Bouchard. They released two albums and did a European tour. Dennis remains deep in the action, recording new music and doing shows with bands involving his musical friends. Bouchard Dunaway & Smith, the Dennis Dunaway Project, Blue Coupe, and now Fifth Avenue Vampires.
Partner in crime Ritchie Scarlet has been slinging guitar and bass with Leslie West (Mountain) and Ace Frehley for years and between cutting his own discs (I believe there are five), he’s even got some featured spots on Peter Criss’ new record reported to be coming out some time this summer. Scarlet’s style is reminiscent of Gary Moore, and visually he’s over the top. Playing weathered, black ‘70s Les Paul Customs behind his head, bending Stratocaster necks a la Robin Trower and generally being as aggressive as Ritchie Blackmore could ever hope to be.
Along with drummer Russ Wilson (Dennis Dunaway Project) and Joe Von T, The Fifth Avenue Vampires took the Brighton Stage by storm. I really got into the way they treated the Brighton show, playing just as enthusiastically as if they were playing the Spectrum. And that’s what keeps real rock and roll with us. Media moguls do not govern these musicians like some pre-packaged Justin Bieber nonsense. This is a lifestyle earned through years of hard work, not some cute fantasy inherited by standing on the shoulders of Leif Garrett. That’s what makes their latest disc,
, so exciting and believable.
The band rocked out on tunes from the new disc such as “Cravin A Drink,” a tune that started off with Scarlett’s Les Paul Violin tricks, honey warm a la Jimmy Page as the rhythmic stalking of Dunaway and Wilson circled around, looking for a soft spot and finding it up underneath the creepy vocal growls of Joe Von T. The Vampires unleash twisted fantasy a la synth-heavy rumblings of the damned here. It’s campy, guitar snarling righteousness.
“Light In My Head” spews Pink Floyd glass smooth electrics, warbling Echoplexed stutters slide into Joe Von T’s rough and road weary vox, leading the way as the band lobs Alice In Chains/Zeppelin cacophony over napalm riddled runs, stop-gap drums smacking half time heavy underneath the guidance of Dunaway’s spooky rumble. Synthesizers dance around the skeletal edges, making this the perfect theme song for the next installment of the movie,
“Psycho Sexual” hits all the sweet spots guitar junkies crave. Scarlett creeps the flesh with his castle sized tone, pull offs, trills and heavy Marshall icing that launch this thing like a scud missile lobbed into the front door of CBGB’s. Punk, rage and compositional explosions raise the eyebrows of critical shredders, as Dunaway and the clan step in to raise the royal ghosts of Phil Lynott and Eric Carr. The only thing missing for me is a Lamborghini and two bottles of Maker’s Mark.
The Tom Waits-meets-AC/DC feel of “Vampires Of 5th Avenue” should chart with rock radio. Spewing edgy rock and punk darkness mixed with barrelhouse pianos and Chuck Berry guitar licks, this anthem showcases the boy’s road trip in a triumphant manner. And of course their version of Cheap Trick’s ”Dream Police,” brings you right back to 1979 and the smell of cheap nickel bags at the Garden.
Part punk, hard rock and all American, The 5th Avenue Vampires waste no time as they suck the very marrow from influences such as their obvious mentor Alice Cooper, The Stooges, Kiss, Cheap Trick and The New York Dolls.
“Drawing Blood” is a fan-fucking-tastic romp through hard rock’s best time from some of the savviest survivors in the game.
was released on April 20 and is available for purchase on their site. Interesting fact: It just so happens that the disc was released on the anniversary of Bram Stoker’s death. Coincidence? Go find out over at