Album review: Vivian Campbell, Two Sides of If (2005)


By Steve Newton

When Vivian Campbell was a kid he went to see Rory Gallagher at Belfast’s Ulster Hall, then rushed home to grab his guitar and imitate the underrated Irish guitar hero.

Campbell’s still copping those licks, though he doesn’t get away with it in his current band, Def Leppard. He had to put out his own blues-rock solo CD so he could strangle the frets on the Gallagher-penned “Calling Card”. He also opens the disc with “Messin’ With the Kid”, an old blues stomper Gallagher favoured in concert.

Campbell shows himself to be an extremely tasty blues picker on covers of tunes by Willie Dixon, Robert Johnson, and Lowell Fulson. His lead vocals are commendable, although they sound a bit too much like Jon Bon Jovi to suit the serious blues numbers.

Guitar freaks will appreciate Campbell’s habit of including all the equipment details for each song in the liner notes. For example, on “Messin’ With the Kid” he used a Gibson Les Paul ’56 goldtop reissue, a Marshall 900 amp with a custom 2×12 cabinet, and a Tube Screamer pedal.

As talented (and detail-oriented) as Campbell is, though, you only have to listen to the closing track, “Willin’ For Satisfaction”, to spot the difference between a fine, accomplished player and a true guitar genius.

ZZ Top’s Billy F. Gibbons wrote the tune and contributes a nasty solo in his unmistakeable Texas-fried style where, as expected, he uses way fewer notes than Campbell to say a whole lot more.


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