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JOHN SYKES
NUCLEAR COWBOY

Universal Japan PHCW-1063
Produced by: John Sykes

Released: OUT / Website
Relatives: R.A.T.M., Blue Murder
GENRE: Hard Rock
OVERALL: 70%

  1. Intro
  2. We Will
  3. Nuclear Cowboy
  4. Arc Angel
  5. Nothing Means Nothing
  6. Talking 'Bout Love
  7. One Way System
  8. Interlude "All Good People"
  9. Degraded
  10. Sick
  11. I Wish It Would Rain
  12. Raising The Devil

I have been listening to the album a lot over the past few weeks and have found it has grown on me a lot. I still don't think it's a classic, but there is a few very clever parts to the album that only reveal themselves after I feel weren't given enough credit in my initial review.
So I have adjusted some of the comments below and rounded the score up.
I would love to hear another Blue Murder album and stand by my preference for Sykes in his classic rock mould, but there really are a few gems on this album.

I talked to John on a few occasions during the writing and recording of this new studio album and it was pretty clear from the outset that this would be a departure from the norm for him. He constantly made references to wanting to change things around, experiment a little and that he was planning on adding tribal rhythms and hip-hop beats to the music.
This worried me a lot, as something like that has to be extremely good to work and from witnessing other artists do it, I can think of none that it convincingly worked for.
Upon listening to the new album, initially I was scared off by some of these changes.
But after a lot of listening you find that the new additions only serve to enhance the songs that are still based in traditional Sykes territory.
This is a very different John Sykes record.
It's a bold and brave record with many interesting musical pieces.
This album contains some of the best production ever afforded a Sykes record and his voice sounds fantastic. The big bombastic guitar sound of Whitesnake and the Blue Murder albums is also back in places. It's like the debut Blue Murder album meets the 21st Century. (sounds like a good album title).
There will be some fans alienated by this album and the direction it takes. But like I should have done - give it some time before making final judgment.
In broadening his style and varying the approach of this album to appeal to a hip new younger crowd, he could piss off a great deal of his regular fan base that will now think twice before buying his next album.
Every single artist that has tried something different or modernized in recent history has fallen short of their mark, so it will be interesting to see what happens to this album and also the one to follow.
Now I am certainly not against change, nor am I against hearing something new and exciting, but this album took some work!
Some parts of this album work very well. Opening track We Wish is a modern and hard hitting rocker with a heavy industrial feel and guitars and vocals that scream Blue Murder.
The title track that follows is where you can hear things going wrong. A rap-like vocal leads into a heavy chorus, with industrial beats and a hip hop vibe lying underneath, and plenty of samples darting about Sykes' huge guitar solo's - which are more alternative/industrial than straight ahead hard rock. It's works better than any other artist I have heard attempt such feats.
Arc Angel is OK, it's a moodier version of the above track, faster and featuring a sung-spoken rap vocal. It also contains some smoking guitar work and a really cool heavy vibe.
Nothing Means Nothing is very guitar heavy, but backed by drum machine beats and doesn't shine like some of the other tracks do.
Talkin' About Love has a techno-pop verse, with a mind blowingly heavy semi-industrial chorus featuring swirling synthesizers. It's actually quite a bold and interesting track and has become one of my favorite tracks of the album. One of the most adventurous songs.
One Way System is as close to the old Sykes you will find here. Could have come from the last album.
I still don't get into Degraded a whole lot. Not the style, just a weaker track.
Sick is the same, a little too alternative and no real hook to grab you. Maybe the weakest track on the album.
I Wish It Would Rain is the ballad of the album and a good one at that. It's a more modern ballad that could have fit on the Loveland album, only it's been altered to fit the style of this record.
Raising The Devil is again modern and heavy and semi-industrial and one of the weaker tracks. I definitely believe the first half of the album is the best.
BOTTOM LINE: I really like some parts of this album and have grown to think a few things work brilliantly, but there are a few fillers and a few tracks that take the experimentation too far.
I still don't believe Sykes or Blue Murder fan will rate this ahead of some of the great man's earlier work, but I think it might be better than Out Of My Tree and is certainly more varied than 21st Century.
This album will appeal to those with an open mind and those with a penchant for the heavier and more experimental side of hard rock. Also those with a taste for industrial rock.
But, above anything, give it enough time to develop before you judge it!
PRODUCTION: 90% SONGS: 60% VIBE: 65%ATTITUDE: 70%
ESSENTIAL FOR: Die-hard Sykes and industrial rap-rock fans only.
DISCOGRAPHY:Blue Murder . Nothing But Trouble . Screaming Blue Murder . Out Of My Tree . Loveland . 20th Century . Chapter 1 . Nuclear Cowboy


11/06/04: Cartonpiedra - cartonpiedra@fuckoff.com
Rating: 90
This album is WAAYYY COOOOL -- I love it! Yes, it's a change from past deliveries, but I welcome it as I rather disliked the monotony of "Out of my tree" and "20th Century", and the mellowness of "Loveland". "Nuclear Cowboy" is unarguably more diverse and bolder. It actually has a more modern mood with the use of loops and industrial / nu-metal / hip-hop tricks, but the guitar sounds SOOO heavy that you beg for more and more and MORE! I think that the solos Sykes played in this CD are the best of his entire life from a technical point of view. His voice is however overproduced for my taste and that's why I'm giving to it "just" 90 out of 100. Nevertheless, if you're a fan of metal guitar and agressive playing (as I am myself), this CD is a must. Actually, it hasn't left my CD player since I purchased it several weeks ago. And I'm still discovering new musical colors each time I listen to it, up to the point to not knowing which song is my preferred one -- I like them all! So, in few words, this is a very audacious and successful effort. Open your ears and get into it. Great music is beyond genres and trends. Great music comes from the heart and tries to be original. And "Nuclear Cowboy", IMHO, actually is a good example of what great music is.

13/02/01: Joe White - joewhite007@aol.com
Rating: 10
This album rules. In a climate where real good heavy music is few and far between, how any of you could write a bad review about the latest Sykes opus is crap. Sykes is by far the most consistent artist today. He continues to release great albums one after the other without fail. I was a little worried at first when I read about the change in direction this album was going to take. Like another review stated, this never works. But, it only takes a few spins through the CD to realise that the hip hop thing is not a big part of the album and that it's pure classic Sykes. And, in fact, the new vibe works very well. The title track is amazing. John's vocals are beautiful and the melody is addicting. Listen to the song a few times and it will play in your head for a month. I love it. One Way System is another nod to his punk influence like I don't Wanna Live My Life Like You and Look In His Eyes. I love it when Sykes gets in this mode, showing his inspiration and tribute to the late Phil Lynott. I Wish It Would Rain is the best ballad he's done since If You Ever Need Love. I also like the songs that act as therapy sessions concerning his ex wife, John, you got the last laugh. If you are a Sykes fan, you should like this album. If you don't like it, then you aren't a true Sykes fan and you never were.

31/01/01: Carl Noonan - rochford@noonan80.freeserve.co.uk
Rating: 90
I was worried this was going to be poor when I read Andrew's review but I downloaded the samples and thought "What's The Problem ?". I immediately ordered the cd and looked forward to it'a arrival. Having played it about 6 times I am writing this and have to say it's a great album. Yes there are some modern production values eg samples and vocal effects but to give the impression that's all there is to it is wrong. This really is not that far removed from his previous work and the techno beats etc are simply minimal colouring touches.
This is HUGE hard rock with great vocals and guitar work but lets not forget the drums here. The percussion work is not just samples and a few beat box rhythms, how can it be when you have the powerhouse pummelling of Carmine Appice on most of the tracks ?. Make no mistake it's heavy but the songs are there if your open minded to enough to listen properly.
Give me this over a Mitch Molloy cd ( which I like ) anytime.

30/01/01: Ardian Nurcahyo - nurcahyo@tf.itb.ac.id
Rating: 100
This is the first Sykes album I've ever heard and it rocks big time! I haven't got the albums after Blue Murder's "Nothing But Trouble" because they are unavailable there... I downloaded the songs using Napster and looking forward to buy the real thing.
This is NOT hip hop metal. This is an album to piss hip hop metal, showing that John is much better than those shit like Korn or Limp Bizkit.

We Will -> catchy chorus, heavy guitars
Nuclear Cowboy -> my favorite track, very heavy in the chorus, and Sykes solo is a bit out of ordinary but fits the song
Arc Angel -> typical Sykes rhythm guitar sound
Nothing Means Nothing -> fun rocker with heavy feel
Talkin' 'Bout Love -> reminds me of Deep Purple's Mistreated, blues with monster metallic rhythm section
One Way System -> old punk rocking Sykes, short but good
Degraded -> almost into hip hop, but way much better
Sick -> heavy like Degraded
I Wish It Would Rain -> heartbreaking ballad, I love it
Raising The Devil -> evil rocking track

Thanks to John for releasing this album. Marco Mendoza did great job there, also thanks to all the drummers!
But I expect something different from the next Sykes album... this is what John is all about... dare to do a different thing without being a loser...
Great album

26/01/01: ROCKGOD - zakk@satlink.com.au
Rating: 4
Ive been waiting for this album for a long time and heard that it would contain drum loops and hip hop grooves, at first I thought it wouldnt work, but upon hearing the album I have to proclaim it the best Sykes release since his first Blue Murder cd. Opening with We Will (one of my faves) the vocals in the verses build to a really cool catchy chorus. Guitar solo's a bit short but a promising start. Next up Nuclear Cowboy where John's voice in the verses sounds alot like Sting and another cool chorus. Arc Angel is another upbeat song with an awesome guitar solo-great vocals. One of my favorites is next the killer Nothin Means Nothin-This song has an awesome chorus which is very commercial and a HUGE middle section with a great guitar sound. Talkin Bout Love is the most Blue Murder sounding track on the album-Very Epic, one of John's biggest guitar sounds (shouldnt have mentioned Samson and Delilah though). One Way System sounds like something off Out Of My Tree/20th Century and is the weakest track on the album for me, no chorus. Degraded has a VERY Def Leppard vocal intro, but is a cool/moody type rocker with a very Vai like solo. Sick is another funky type tune with great vocals and an awesome bluesey solo that Ive never heard Sykes play like before. I Wish It Would Rain is very Loveland/Blue Murder style ballad with a great Gary Moore style solo, one of the better Sykes ballads for a while.
Well Ive lived with this cd for a while and dig it way more than his previous releases, Im glad he's experimenting with his style because I found Out Of My Tree and 20th Century lacking in variation, even people that wouldnt listen to this style of music have enjoyed it, so DO YOURSELF A FAVOUR and open your mind.

26/01/01: Christopher Ryan - cncryan@ij.net
Rating: 70
Every artist needs to step outside what is expected from them from time to time. For some it works for some it doesn't. Sykes Nuclear Cowboy doesn't fair well when compared to his previous solo works. BUT it shouldn't be judged that way. Reviewing this CD on its own merits, finds hard hitting guitars blasting over some heavy SLIGHTLY techno beats. Sykes's soloing still proves that he is still one of the most gifted guitarists alive. If this was your first chance to hear a Sykes solo CD you wouldn't be dissapointed. Sykes kicks ass in ANY format. We can only hope that Sykes and Gorham do a new Lizzy studio CD. But until then, this CD doesn't dissapoint.

24/01/01: Noddy - nod@machinemen.com
Rating: 60
Disappointment of the year 2000, and no doubt about it. Whitesnake 1987 and Blue Murder are two of the greatest hard rock albums ever recorded and still blow me away today. When Blue Murder failed to have the commercial success it deserved, the career of John Sykes faltered badly. By the time the second Blue Murder album came out 4 years later, the music was rather more predictable and the chance for world domination had slipped by.
Nuclear Cowboy has been a long time in the making and definitely not worth the wait. It is easily the weakest of Sykes' four Japanese Only releases. Experimental in rather crass and dare I say it "obvious" manner. Quirky scratches and drum samples picked up from the floor of some urban New York recording studio. A couple of decent songs, "Talkin' Bout Love" and "One Way System" are familiar Sykes/Blue Murder fayre and the title track is oddly compelling. The rest is at best average and at worst just plain horrible. Maybe the rumoured Thin Lizzy studio album will force Mr. Sykes to keep to what he does best.
A rating of 60% is generous and probably based as much on his past glories than the merit of Nuclear Cowboy.


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