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Vivian Campbell - Two Sides of If Review

by Zane Ewton

Guitar players have been praising the blues for decades. Recently rock guitarists have released an increasing number of their translations on old blues standards. Two Sides of If is another testament to the blues. This time offered up by an Irishmen who spent the last 15 years with pop/rock legends Def Leppard.

Vivian Campbell was forged in the New Wave of British Heavy Metal with the band Sweet Savage. Ireland must be close enough to count. He then jumped ship to join Ronnie James Dio's solo band. Campbell played a major role in the records that have become the essential Dio records before leaving in 1986 for a short stint with Whitesnake. When Def Leppard needed a guitar player, Campbell filled the role and has stuck with the band since.

There have been a few side projects for this underappreciated guitarist but Two Sides of If stands as his solo debut. The path Campbell has taken makes the idea of a blues record seem like a curious choice. But the proof is in the pudding and Two Sides of If is a highly appealing chunk of swaggering electric blues.

Campbell's guitar work is a highlight but the best surprise lies in his vocal performance. The raspy, Irish accent lends itself well on these songs, which range from Rory Gallagher, Robert Johnson and maybe an unhealthy amount of Willie Dixon.

The album was recorded in three days with some fine musicians who offer up more than just a backing band for Campbell to show. The rushed schedule gives the record an immediate and excited feeling if a bit cleaner than it probably should have been. Billy Gibbons of ZZ Top and Joan Osborne offer guest performances. Gibbon's song "Willin' for Satisfaction" is the best of the bunch, closing out the record on a high note.

Blues covers albums may be coming around more often then they should be but when the results are this good it's hard to argue against that trend. A great guitar player with a respect and taste for the blues, but is still able to let it swing and swagger, just completely "gets" what the blues is about. Makes for a great good-time record.

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