Since forming in 2013, The Dead Daisies have stayed true to making straight-ahead, no-frills rock n’ roll. Some of rock’s greatest players have recorded and toured with the Daisies while maintaining roles with their main bands; for that reason, The Dead Daisies may be seen as more of a side project or sometime supergroup. Turn your ear to the music and none of that will matter.
Holy Ground (read our recent review here) featuring Glenn Hughes (bass and vocals), Doug Aldrich (guitar), David Lowy (guitar), and Tommy Clufetos (drums) is the band’s fifth studio album, eleven tracks of supercharged rock, and arguably their strongest musical statement to date. (Deen Castronovo provided drums and some vocals on the album.) Holy Ground has been a long time coming, not surprisingly due to the COVID-19 pandemic, although the band began fleshing out material when it was announced that Hughes had officially joined the band in September 2019.
Big, guitar-driven tracks like “Unspoken,” “Bustle and Flow,” and “Righteous Days” gave the world a taste of the new direction that Daisies music was taking. Aldrich and Hughes, brothers by rock and lineage, had toured together and previously talked about collaborating. “We had always talked about it,” Aldrich says, “but we didn’t have any set plan. When I found out Glenn was talking to Daisies management I thought, ‘Wow, that would be really cool. That’s like a really fresh start.’”
Things began to move quickly when Hughes said “Doug, it’s time for us to do some music together.” Hughes says the revolving lineup with The Dead Daisies will no longer continue. “We’ve had a few changes. I’m the third singer, and there have been a couple of guitar changes, and now we’ve had a couple of drummer changes. So let’s keep it as it is now. Let’s move forward like this.” He adds, “When I joined the band I didn’t have a lot of things to say other than wouldn’t it be great to make the first record with me where we can actually live together? Basically, an in-house studio with accommodations?”
After some consideration, Hughes, Aldrich, Lowy, and Castronovo decided to go to the South of France where they would write, record, and ultimately gel as a band. Aldrich says that eating, playing, and doing everything under the same roof without having to go anywhere was key to making their creative ideas come to fruition. Hughes agrees; “Having breakfast with the guys every day, making some music, having some laughter, making some more music, and having dinner together every day for the six weeks was great. I came in with a bunch of songs, about ten songs. We used seven of them. We did two sessions in France; one before my solo UK tour and the other at the end of my solo UK tour.”
“Everybody put their best into the songs, so whoever brought the songs it didn’t matter. When you start working with somebody in (the) writing capacity it takes time to gel,” Aldrich said, referring to Hughes. “I was really happy to help him with his songs. He helped me with mine. It’s a good fit.”
Hughes, previously dubbed the “Voice of Rock” by critics and peers alike, is undoubtedly one of the greatest singers in rock n’ roll. Additionally, he is one of the finest bassists in the business. Aldrich had Hughes in mind when he wrote the initial music for what would become “Like No Other,” the song with a loaded groove that provides Hughes with the platform to shine as a bass-wielding frontman. “Doug wrote the intro for me to expand and we took it to another place,” says Hughes. “I didn’t even know I was going to play a bass solo. I hadn’t gotten any lyrics to the song, but I had the title, ‘Like No Other.’ I kept thinking, ‘Can ya feel my bass line?’”
When asked if “Can ya feel my bass line?” was used euphemistically, Hughes laughs, insisting it was tongue-in-cheek and on-the-fly, while laying down the track in the studio. “I could see Ben Grosse (producer) on camera… I could see him in the video, and he was really digging it. ‘Ok, I’ll sing it to every chorus. ‘Can ya feel my bass line?’ And it worked.” “He’s a ferocious player,” pronounces Aldrich about Hughes. “His tone. I just love it. In rehearsal, it was the first time I ever asked for a bass cabinet to be on my side because I want to feel what he’s doing.”
The last song on the album, “Far Away” has a musical and lyrical composition unlike anything heard previously from the band. With a run time of nearly eight minutes, it is a rock n’ roll odyssey, a spellbinding epic you didn’t see coming. “I wanted to hear a song orchestration with a heavy middle part and a crescendo at the end,” Hughes says. “You know my work, it’s all those lyrics about healing and letting go. You gotta let go and you gotta move on. When I played it to the band, they loved it.”
Aldrich recalls his reaction to the initial composition Hughes played for the band with an acoustic guitar. “I could envision where I was going to bring in heavier guitars and other orchestration and basically build that thing, and it turned out exactly how we wanted it to. I had kind of done that before with Whitesnake with a song called ‘Forevermore,’ where I basically just had to get the treatment right. Of course, the chords are all good and everything, but it’s how you build it that really makes it happen.”
The Dead Daisies are fired up, looking forward to when they can hit the road and promote the new album. As of now, shows are scheduled to begin in early June. “We have no other plans except to do this, promote this,” says Aldrich. “Glenn and I are definitely set on it. So we’ve turned everything else away.” While it’s only February, Holy Ground may end up being the best rock album you will hear in all of 2021. Stay tuned.