It’s been just over seven years since The Winery Dogs released their Hot Streak album, which is the equivalent of 49 years in human terms. In those seven long years, the members of The Winery Dogs have been kept busy with their respective day jobs and also two years of that Covid-19 thing. So now we finally get a new Winery Dogs album, and it’s an absolute banger from start to finish.
The Winery Dogs – III (Three Dog Music)
Release Date: 3 February 2023
Words: Robert Adams
The Winery Dogs are Mike Portnoy on drums, Billy Sheehan on bass and Ritchie Kotzen on vocals and guitar. All are masters at their respective crafts, and that mastery shines throughout III.
The album opens with the first single, Xanadu, which is a blistering hard rocking funk monster. The sound of Portnoy’s sticks hitting the floor at the song’s conclusion is clearly audible. Portnoy said he was tossing them “not in frustration, but very much in satisfaction of what we had just done.” As far as an opening statement goes, it’s pretty damn powerful.
Next up, we have the soulful sound of the second single to be pulled from III – Mad World. No, it’s not a Tears For Fears cover, but it is a glorious slice of Kotzen-driven funky soul. “‘Get on the bus, go do the exercise’ is the opening line of the song, and it really sets the tone,” Richie Kotzen said. “The song is dealing with a certain attitude or way of thinking forced on individuals regardless of your own life experience or unique individuality. I remember a time where opposing opinions and viewpoints were more accepted. A good old healthy debate was a great thing back then. This song is really shining a light on how there may be certain consequences to pay if you don’t think a certain way. It’s also reflected in the lyric, ‘You’d better bite your tongue, so you sound the same.’ It also offers a glimmer of hope in its chorus with the line, ‘Turn from a scar into a pearl.’ So it’s not all doom and gloom. There’s always a chance to turn things around.”
Breakthrough starts with a palm-muted single-string riff from Kotzen, along with his Cornell meets Prince vocal delivery. Rise starts with yet another funky riff from Kotzen, with Sheehan and Portnoy matching the riff with their ever-present gusto. As insane a guitarist as Kotzen undoubtedly is, he couldn’t be placed with a better rhythm section that has the chops to keep up with him. For any guitarists reading this, Kotzen doesn’t use a pick and everything you hear is solely played with his fingers.
Stars has a sweeping, heavily chorused and flanged riff and is the most ‘pop’ sounding track on the album. That’s not to say it’s not good. It gives a nice sense of light and shade to the album as a whole. The Vengeance has an instant earworm chorus, and you’ll find yourself singing this constantly.
Pharaoh leads off with a heavily saturated bass run from Sheehan before the rest of the Dogs kick in. This mid-tempo groover will have your head nodding approvingly. Gaslight hits your ears, running at full speed with a riff that brings to mind Diamond Dave’s Shy Boy, which Sheehan wrote and played on. It’s a top-drawer, unapologetic rocker and is a thing of aural beauty. The solo battles between Kotzen and Sheehan are nothing short of spectacular.
Lorelei slows the pace, and this gorgeous ballad showcases Kotzen’s vocals and restraint with his playing. He can shred with the best of them but always plays what the song requires, which, in this case, is a beautifully understated riff.
The album closes with The Red Wine, and we’re back with the funky rock grooves that The Winery Dogs do so well. It’s a cracking closer, which leaves you panting for more.
I hate the term ‘supergroup’. Usually, that means a band of top players thrown together to maximise profit due to the respective player’s reputations. The resulting music never reaches the sum of its parts. The Winery Dogs are not a supergroup!! They are three ridiculously talented musicians who are making wonderful music together.
It’s only the start of February, and I already have a major contender for my album of the year. Grab this album with both hands and move heaven and earth to see them when they hit the road later in the year. Having seen The Winery Dogs on their first UK tour, I can guarantee that you won’t be disappointed.
The Winery Dogs – III
The Red Wine