The first disc is all covers. In looking at the track list, there are several songs that could be very cheesy or cringe-worthy, such as “Ice Ice Baby, ” “YMCA” and “Mmm Bop.” But LNJ and company put a hard rock/metal spin on them, giving them some edge. Seann Nichols of Adler’s Appetite sings and talks instead of rapping on “Ice Ice Baby,” giving it an interesting vibe.
The over the top disco anthem “Stayin’ Alive” is transformed into a low-key acoustic song by Kip Winger. The guitars are cranked up and Kelly Keeling (Baton Rouge) adds a bluesy flavor slightly topped with cheese on “YMCA.” Milli Vanilli’s “Blame It On The Rain” is bolstered by some strings and becomes a power ballad. The boy band song “Bye Bye Bye” morphs into a heavy rocker, a big improvement on the original. A key change makes the poppy Lionel Richie song “Dancing On The Ceiling” sound slightly ominous. I was pleasantly surprised by the cover songs, with only one or two mis-steps.
The second CD also features tons of guest musicians, but the material is original. The songs are heavy but melodic with thick guitars and catchy choruses. There’s a definite ‘80s vibe on most of the tracks, but modern production touches make sure they don’t sound dated. “The Greatest” could be a preview of the band’s future direction, since it features new vocalist David Cagle. If that’s the case, it’s a positive direction. He has a great voice with a lot of range and expression.
The acoustic version of “Sin” with vocals from the late Jani Lane (Warrant) appeared on last year’s Hell Is Coming To Breakfast, and the full electric version is included on The Cigar Chronicles. Louis St August of Mass isn’t one of the best known guest singers, but he does an excellent job on one of the album’s catchiest songs, “Daddy Long Legs.”
Other artists making an appearance on the albums include CJ Snare (Firehouse), George Lynch (Dokken), Phil Lewis (L.A. Guns), Bumblefoot (Guns ‘N Roses), Mark Kendall (Great White), Mark Slaughter (Slaughter), Ron Keel (Keel) and many others. Overall, The Cigar Chronicles is an entertaining and diverse double album.
(released March 5, 2013 on LNJ Records)