May 232024
slash demi lovato

Slash’s latest album is called Orgy of the Damned. As befits an elder statesman of the field, he has been able to call in some good friends to fill out his blues and soul tinged recording. The latest single release is his version of “Papa Was A Rolling Stone,” with Demi Lovato providing vocals and added emotional heft.

The original song was born of conflict, on a local and national level. The Temptations were feuding with producer Norman Whitfield, Motown was about to leave Detroit for good, and no one needs reminding that 1972 was not the greatest time for the United States. Whitfield and Barrett Strong initially created the song for the group The Undisputed Truth, but were reworking it for their better-known partners. The story is familiar, that of a feckless father who let down his friends and family, but it is easy to see an allegory or two of the times in the story. The funk, and Funk Brothers, infused version may not have been to the liking of The Temptations’ eminent vocalists but it is a classic of its time.

The new version sets its stall out early. The rhythm section provides a foreboding backdrop, with the drums forceful and unsettling. The wah-wah guitar is further back in the mix, and it does not provide the relaxing color of the original. Lovato has said in interviews that the subject matter speaks to her personally, and she certainly holds nothing back on the vocal gymnastics and emotion, showing that she has rock in her armoury as well as pop. The band are all comfortable with each other and Slash himself lets loose on a Blues-tinged solo. Overall the whole thing is a tour de force. It is easy to see the current days as actually or potentially turbulent as the ’70s, and now we have our own version of this song to match the mood.

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