For those who don't know Mick Mashbir was kinda the sixth member of the Alice Cooper Group. He came into the band around the time of 'Billion Dollar Babies' to help out and cover for the ailing Glen Buxton. Much of the lead work on 'Muscle of Love' is Mick and he toured with the band throughout the 'Billion Dollar Babies' tour right up to the final shows by the original band in South America in 1974. After that he also worked with Neal Smith and Michael Bruce on their solo material before moving on and to most simply disappearing from the radar. Now, some thirty years later, Mick is back with a solo album entitled 'Keepin' The Vibe Alive'.
The first thing that catches the attention (if you buy the CD as opposed to downloading it from iTunes etc) is the cool packaging. Basically it's made up as a mini-LP sleeve with the CD itself being black with a center label just like a vinyl release, just smaller. It even has 1500rpm as the record playing speed. Very cool, although this idea does mean that a minimum of information is available on the cover. However Mick solves this by having everything available at his website.
Performing on the record are Mick (obviously), Donald Lindley on drums and John Ciambotti on Bass, with guest appearances by Ian McLagan playing Hammond B3 Organ on "Workin' For My Wings" and "Keepin' The Vibe Alive", and another ex-Alice Cooper Group associate Bob Dolan playing Strings And Piano on "Hold On".
The album opens with a prime slice of American rock'n'roll in the guise of 'American Weirdo'. Mick's lead playing at times does have a certain ACG sound and shows he hasn't lost anything over the years and while I'm sure he'd be the first to accept he isn't the worlds greatest singer you soon get used to his tone and style and find it actually fits the material pretty well.
'God's Got A Gun' continues in the same style before the title track which actually reminds me of BDS more then anything else. It also features a VERY Cooper-esque section and some 'Black JuJu'-like drum patterns (at least to my ears). As with many records, the more you play it, the more it grows on you. The material has a real groove to it.
'Golden Touch' is Mick's ode to Elvis and Jim Morrison, and how dispite fame and wealth they were lonely figures who maybe wasted they're talent in their later years. The key phrase being "sometimes to much is too much' refering to how sometimes when you have it all, you lose that 'golden touch' which comes from struggling to make it and having something to prove.
'Hell Of A Man' has a down and dirty riff to match the down and dirty lyrics which has some similarities to early Kiss. 'Mirror Image' lightens things up a little and introduces a few vocal effects that remind me of 'The Central Scrutiniser' from Zappa's 'Joe's Garage'. Some cool wah soloing in the middle add to a slightly funky vibe. 'Same' slows the pace a little before picking up towards the end. 'Working For My Wings' has the 'Scrutiniser' voice back. A laid back groove thing with the B3 organ adding to a real seventies feel. 'Heartbreak Train' is back to the dirty riffs before 'Hold On' (with Dolan) closes the album in fine style.
'Keepin' The Vibe Alive' is a record that rewards repeated listening. While some tracks are pretty immediate, like 'American Weirdo', others wind their way into your head more slowly. There is little doubting Mick is a great guitarist and it's good at last to hear what he can do on his own. I'd recommend the album to anyone who like good 70s style classic rock and would like to more from a guy who's role Alice Cooper history is in many ways is forgotten, despite the fact you've actually been listening to him for a very long time.
To grab a copy of 'Keepin' The Vibe Alive' go to http://www.mickmashbir.com/ where it's available to buy or download via iTunes and Digstation.