Since I am a product of the ’80s and Def Leppard is on the top of my list of favorites, when I read that Vivian Campbell released a blues album, I knew that it would be a nice addition to my blues collection. Well, I had a spontaneous moment and decided to buy Two Sides of If.
Usually, Vivian is seen as a rock sideman, as the rhythm guitarist for Def Leppard. Vivian joined the band after the tragic death of guitarist, Steve Clark; his first appearance was at the Freddy Mercury AIDS-awareness benefit. Vivian has also worked with Ronnie James Dio, Whitesnake, The Riverdogs, Trinity, and Shadow King.
English blues is heavily influenced throughout the CD, with covers of music by Rory Gallagher, Jeff Beck, and Eric Clapton. It is interesting that this was Vivian’s first release with his vocals — mildly throaty with a touch of grit. I have always found it interesting how another artist will interpret an original, then put their own brand on it. Being a faithful Joe Bonamassa fan, it was cool to also hear Vivian’s version of Lowell Fulson’s “Reconsider Baby”. The most commonly known cover was done by Eric Clapton.
Special guests include, guitarist Billy Gibbons (ZZ Top) and Joan Osborne, vocalist on “Spoonful”. Overall, this CD has a lot of traditional blues guitar riffs, with a definite heavier blues/rock feel injected in “Messin’ With The Kid”. I have to admire an artist that can step out of their respective genre and pull off an appealing album on a different end of the music spectrum.
A tidbit from Vivian’s site. “Why blues standards? Well, I believe in the reverence of the blues, and I don’t subscribe to the misconception that just because you can play guitar you can play the blues. It can be especially woeful to hear rock guitar players play blues with bags full of technique but hearts devoid of soul. I also believe that as simple as the blues can seem, there’s a certain intangible that can’t simply be written into the 3 chord formula, and as such I wish to bide my time and take the path to learning more about that intangible and hopefully, in due course, I’ll write within the genre myself. Still, there’s always been plenty of room for interpretation of roots music, and that is all I attempted to offer with this record.”
Would I recommend this album to the ever-faithful blues fan? Probably not, however, I do suggest it for the long time fans of Def Leppard.