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Pushking - 'The World As We Love It' http://www.rocktopia.co.uk/media/reviews/photos/thumbnail/200x200s/07/bb/ab/1113_pushkingtheworldasweloveit_1300125797.jpg Hot

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The huge star power raises expectations the material can't quite meet

If Sylvester Stallone's film 'The Expendables' boasted "the most awesome action film cast ever assembled" as the posters claim, then this album must be the classic rock equivalent. That may sound a bold statement, but hold on to your hat, here's the guest list - okay, deep breath... on guitars, Steve Lukather, Joe Bonamassa, Billy Gibbons, Nuno Bettencourt, Keri Kelli, Stevie Salas, Matt Filippini, Steve Stevens and Steve Vai. Wow! But hold on there, for this is not an instrumental album, there's some guest vocalists too. Spanning nineteen tracks, guest vocals come from... another deep breath... Billy Gibbons, Alice Cooper, John Lawton, Paul Stanley, Graham Bonnet, Glenn Hughes, Jeff Scott Soto, Eric Martin, Udo Dirkschneider, Dan McCafferty, Joe Lynn Turner and Jorn Lande. Have I got your attention?

If you've not heard of Pushking, don't worry, because their success has been limited to their home country of Russia. The band is comprised of vocalist and chief songwriter Konstantin 'Koha' Shustarev, Dmitry Losev on guitar, bass player Roman Nevelev, drummer Andrey Kruglov and on keys, Oleg Bondaletov. According to their press release, they formed in 1994 and have released fifteen albums, resulting in a cult status in Russia and complete anonymity everywhere else.

Apparently the band's management sent out promo packages and one ended up with well known producer Fabrizio Grossi. He then selected his favourite nineteen tracks from the Pushking albums and suggested they were re-recorded with a plethora of guests to draw people's attention. The guests were all so impressed with the material that they all agreed to take part... it says here.

Well, the guest list certainly did get my attention. The music - that's harder to call. Opener 'Nightrider' is great - energetic, up tempo, honky-tonk piano, some horn stabs and Billy Gibbons handling the main vocals. A second voice who I think is Koha is in there too, but it's very good. 'It'll Be OK' follows, now with Koha and Gibbons duetting. This is more of a slow burner and lacks the punch of it's predecessor.

'Troubled Love' features Alice Cooper and frankly, is a relatively generic Alice-type song with some high pitched backing vocals that really, really annoy me. The same goes for 'Cut The Wire' featuring the legendary Paul Stanley... Paul's vocals - excellent. The backing - too high and whiny for my tastes - and the Russian accent makes it sound more like 'Cut De Wi-yah'.

Glenn Hughes gives everybody a free lesson vocally on the bluesy 'Why Don't You?' The Voice Of Rock is on phenomenal form here and both the track and performance reminds me of 'See That My Grave Is Kept Clean' from Stuart Smith's 'Heaven And Earth' album. Few complaints here, except for the accented backing vocals, but they aren't as high or as prominent as earlier. Glenn is obviously popular with the band, as he sings more lead on the record than anybody, with three (and a bit) songs featuring him.

Eric Martin, Joe Lynn Turner and Jorn Lande all deliver the vocal quality you'd expect on their respective tracks - Joe's 'Head Shooter' is one of the best songs as the backing vocals mesh perfectly with his lead. Graham Bonnet does well on 'God Made Us Free' and Udo shrieks his way through the turbo charged 'Natures Child' - although Nazareth's Dan McCafferty matches him on 'I Love You' and 'My Simple Song'. I did notice however, on a lot of the faster tracks there is a very annoying generic metal scream to be heard, which I assume is courtesy of Koha. He wears it thin by doing it too often - it's not even that good a scream.

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I think that's why I'm not totally sold on this album - Koha has written some good songs here, but his singing, while competent, has a pretty obvious accent that I can't get on with. Surrounded by so many high calibre vocalists, he comes off a poor second when he duets with them, and is far outclassed when he takes the lead by himself on the oddly titled 'My Reflections After Seeing The 'Schindlers List' Movie'. When this accent appears in the sometimes multi-tracked and overblown backing vocals, it detracts from what the experienced lead singers are doing.

Final track 'Kukarracha' deserves a big mention though - as songs go, it's not bad, maybe a little cheesy, but pleasant and with probably the best hook on the record. What sells it is the fact it has FIVE lead singers - the song is divided up between JLT and Eric Martin for the first verse, Glenn Hughes for the pre-chorus, everybody on the anthemic chorus, then the second verse shared between Paul Stanley and Graham Bonnet. How good is that? That's one song featuring several of my favourite singers! As the song goes on, each one throws in some "money" notes and this is by far the most fun tune on the record.

It's by no means a bad album, but I fear that the huge star power raises expectations the material can't quite meet. My personal suspicion is that for the guests it may have been more about a pay day than a desire to see these songs recognised - but in fairness, none of the songs are poor, and every guest on it certainly gives their all. It sounds like a project record rather than a band, and while the guests certainly did succeed in grabbing my attention and making me listen, I can't imagine I'd be clamouring for a Pushking record featuring just the original five Russian guys.

James Gaden

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