For fans who have been waiting for new music from Los Angeles based rock band Slammin’ Gladys, the years of anticipation are finally over. Their second studio effort, TWO, was released on Feb.12 — almost three decades after the band first garnered wide-spread attention with a captivating self-titled debut album along with their energetic live performances that steam-rolled concert venues across the U.S.

The new batch of nine songs is a satisfying, diverse mix of well-crafted slow blues rockers, funk-inspired groovers, and knockout pop-rock songs. TWO is a culmination of all the best song elements that were commonplace on rock radio back in the 70s, 80s, and 90s, melded into its own refreshingly modern and well-produced sound.

The original lineup, Dave Brooks, J.J. Farris, Al Collins, and Stephen DeBoard, now all well-seasoned music industry veterans, are a versatile and cohesive unit whose sound and songwriting has evolved. Gone are the limitations and musical genre ‘boxes’ that came with being labeled as a ‘hard-rock’ or ‘hair-band’. This may disappoint closed-minded fans and critics who question how advancing musically past what the band was 30 years ago can be considered a success. That’s a shame. As a listener, you get the sense that Slammin’ Gladys created this record exactly as they wanted. And any notion that TWO would be just a half-hearted attempt of a band trying to relive its past glory days is shattered.

The nuanced lead track “Toxic Lover” alone makes the time since the band’s last release worth the wait. With its lyrically rhythmic chorus, lush backing vocals, and melodic guitar work, this infectious pop-rock gem is reminiscent of Def Leppard’s sound at height of their popularity. The kind of catchy song that just seems to make the world a better place. “Hold Up My Blue Sky” stands out for its similar qualities.

 

Funk-inspired tracks “Dragon Eye Girl” and “Light Up” stay true to the band’s original sound with deep grooves laid down by Collins and DeBoard. Farris’ sizzling erotic guitar licks would have Hendrix and Prince smiling like proud parents. The rap performed by drummer DeBoard on “Light Up” provides an unexpected and interesting twist — and undeniable proof of Slammin’ Gladys’ musical freedom.

Nowhere is lead vocalist Dave Brooks’ and the band’s maturity more apparent than on gritty, blues-based songs “Lost in Texas” and “Ice Water.” Highlighted by the authentic, bad-ass harmonica-playing of guest Stacie Collins, the band leaves L.A., and heads south in a figurative manner. Brooks clearly has maintained his strong pipes over the years, and it is evident throughout TWO that the songs are a good fit for his vocal range. These two tracks, plus “Toxic Lover,” truly display his ability to use his voice as a fine instrument, perfectly adding subtle inflections and expressions that build the character of the songs.

The game-changer on TWO is the decision to plug guitarist J.J. Farris in his double-duty role as producer. Farris, who has honed is production skills over the past decade or two in Hollywood, recorded, mixed, and mastered all the songs. His creativity, attention to detail, and instrumentation choices bring the songs to life in the best way.

Clocking in at an ambitious 7:20, the anthem-like song “Poison Arrow” closes out the album. The recorded version feels just a smidge too long, but the hopeful, soulful track, elevated by a Hammond B3 Organ, should translate very well in a live setting when concerts return. You can envision fans on each other’s shoulders, with their cell phones waving in the air and lighting up the arena, swaying and singing along ‘Hey, hey, you can lean on me.’

One common trait of a great record is that it gets even better with every listen as the special nuances of each song continue to reveal themselves over time. Well-written, performed, and produced, TWO really is a trifecta and deserves an honest listen. Your ears will be glad you did.

Preface

Before my Physician Specialist came in to see me, I sat perched upright in a straight-back padded chair surrounded by all the fixtures in your typical sterile doctor’s office environment. Fluorescent lighting poured down on me from above, like an interrogation room, making me slightly uncomfortable and anxious. A serious, young female African-American nurse in her early thirties worked quickly in front of me on the computer to complete her electronic questionnaire, entering the necessary information she needed to gather about my medical history. You know the same routine questions: Have you ever had surgery? Do you smoke? Do you drink? Are you allergic to any medications? Have you ever been diagnosed with a serious illness? As I patiently answered the familiar questions, I could see the expression on her face changing based on my matter-of-fact responses — auto-immune disease, Scleroderma, from ages 4 to 11. When I was 26, I had surgery for a detached retina in my right eye and ended up blinded. At age 33, I was suddenly diagnosed with cancer. And at age 42, the vestibular nerve in my left ear was damaged overnight by a virus. Never truly recovered.

This was not the first time my resume as a medical patient raised some eyebrows, so I anticipated her possible comment but had no idea what it would be. Finally, her fingers on the keyboard stopped. She paused, lifted her head and looked me directly in the eye — with a slight and almost perplexed smile she asked me one final and candid question that would have a lasting effect – “Do you know just how lucky you are?” The simplest questions can be the hardest to answer.

I was not quite sure how to respond other than muttering a simple “Ahh, I do know how lucky I am” but that really did not give how I felt the justice it truly deserved.

Dealing with both common and perplexing health issues has run through a large majority of my life. Working through the physical, mental and emotional after-effects has been a daily challenge for as long as I can remember. But it was stunning to hear a stranger so bluntly point the obvious at me. In all my years of doctor office visits, tests, diagnoses, surgeries, treatments and rehabilitation therapies, no one had ever directly questioned, and at the same time communicated it so powerfully simple before. I absolutely realize how fortunate I am, given the alternatives. But what I wanted to scream though was the question that has haunted me for many, many years: What the fuck can I do with everything I’ve gone through so that it might help someone else? Well, here we go . . .