25 Years Ago: Izzy Stradlin Goes Solo With ‘The Ju Ju Hounds’
In 1985, guitarist Izzy Stradlin formed Guns N Roses with his friend Axl Rose. Within a few short years, they'd be the biggest band on the planet, taking off in ways the Hollywood via Midwest kids could never have imagined.
Their debut studio album, Appetite for Destruction, quickly became a multi-million seller as the band toured around the world. By 1991, it all got to be too much for Stradlin, who left the band he founded to pursue his own musical vision. "You get to the point where you're like, ‘Am I going to carry on like this or am I not?’ I said I'm not," he said in an interview at the time of his departure.
Released on Oct. 13, 1992, Izzy Stradlin and the Ju Ju Hounds contained little of the screech and circumstance of his previous band. The Ju Ju Hounds were a much warmer and modest group, taking cues from blues, reggae, punk and, most notably, the Rolling Stones' classic early '70s period that included Sticky Fingers and Exile on Main St. Stradlin took his love for that earthy style and created his own take on it.
The album kicks off with "Somebody Knockin'," a raunchy Glimmer Twins-style rocker that sets the stage for where Stradlin's head and heart truly lied. A punk-fueled cover of Toots & the Maytals' "Pressure Drop" stirs things up before "Time Gone By" and "Shuffle It All" head right back into Stones' territory. Stradlin comes alive within the album's bluesy grooves. It's like an open love letter to the music he loved. Nothing sounds forced here.
The Stones and Faces influences aren't by chance. Guest appearances by keyboardist Ian McLagan and guitarist Ronnie Wood (both of whom were in the Faces) make certain of that. Legendary session player Nicky Hopkins also contributes piano to the record. The album also includes a cover of Wood's solo song "Take a Look at the Guy," just in case all these connections weren't already in place.
Izzy Stradlin and the Ju Ju Hounds was recorded before Stradlin had signed a record deal, though it eventually ended up on Geffen, home of his former band. Even though the album attracted positive reviews and overall enthusiasm from those who heard it, it pretty much came and went without much of a trace. "Shuffle It All" was released as a single, and received modest radio and MTV play, but failed to really take off. Not that Stradlin seemed to care; he just seemed happy not being part of the circus GNR had become.
He was also clean and sober by this point, giving him a different perspective. "I think around 1989 I bottomed out," he later recalled. "I said, Hey I gotta change -- this isn't working for me anymore. There was a point in 1991 when I was, like, I'm pulling out of this thing. I've had enough. It was absolutely out of control. I'm gonna do something else. There's more to it than this. There's gotta be more."
Izzy Stradlin and the Ju Ju Hounds, in the end, sounds like his definitive statement of purpose.
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