Billy Sheehan, Holy Cow! on Mascot Records
by Ray Van Horn, Jr.
Now this is one motivated rock record! You have to think after the celestial aeronautics of Billy Sheehan’s 2005 solo album Cosmic Troubadour he worked a little something out of his system. That or he soon after reignited a passion for straightforward rock ‘n roll ala his Mr. Big, David Lee Roth and Talas days because Mr. Happy Fingers himself is absolutely on fire with his current solo project Holy Cow!
As Sheehan is dabbling in prog and funk in his side entity with Tony MacAlpine, Devil’s Slingshot, consider Holy Cow! Sheehan’s kid-at-heart playground just by the steadfast, goodtime feeling on “Dynamic Exhilarator” where he and famed guitarist Paul Gilbert go berserk in each other’s company with Army of Anyone drummer Ray Luzier pounding happily at their sides. “Dynamic Exhilarator” trucks on the heels of its preceding jam, the equally peppy“A Little Bit’l Do It To Ya Ev’ry Time,” the latter of which features leads from ZZ Top’s Billy Gibbons.
Even with the midtempo lead track “In a Week Or Two (I’ll Give it Back to You)” and the steady gallop of “A Bloodless Casualty,” Billy Sheehan expounds his talents beyond searing bass licks by writing sharp-hooked rock numbers glossed with steady lead vocals, layered guitars and even some slicked-out harmonica on Holy Cow!. It’s hard not to get excited along with Sheehan on this album with the uptempo jive ‘n rock shuffling on “Just Another Humanoid” or the cheekily-titled punchy tunes “Two People Can Keep a Secret (If One of Them is Dead)” and “She Goes From Cruel to Missionary.” Returning to Sheehan’s private endeavors is Simone Sello(who previously appeared on Sheehan’s 2001 Compression album) on “Two People Can Keep a Secret (If One of Them is Dead).”
Scaling things back to a soulful twitch on “Turning Point,” Sheehan recruits one of hard rock’s most soothing voices, dUg Pinnick of King’s X, who gives the tune loft and essence. When you think about it, the more you listen to Sheehan’s own vocals on this album, they assume their own pinpointed Pinnick vibe, adding extraneous character to his songs you might not’ve expected coming to the table.
Of course, Billy Sheehan holds instrumental clinics with the aforementioned “Dynamic Exhilarator,” his dazzling “Theme From an Imaginary Sci-Fi” (nowhere even close in spirit to Mountain, but a funky enterprise nonetheless), “Sweat On An E String” and the dreamy sway guiding “Swimming Under Water” to the album’s finish line.
You’ve got to hand it to Billy Sheehan. The days of big arena rock are long gone, but not the artisans who were lords of the stage in their time. Simply stated, you can’t tell Billy Sheehan not to make an album as good as this. Were Holy Cow! released around the time of David Lee Roth’s Skyscraper, Sheehan could’ve possibly done his one-time employer in at that point. Holy cow, indeed!
Review by Ray Van Horn, Jr.