On the Winery Dogs' third album it's the wizardry that lingers, not the songs

Who let Messrs Kotzen, Sheehan and Portnoy out again?

The Winery Dogs - III cover art
(Image: © Three Dog Music LLC)

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Having toured in 2019 – following their 2013 debut and its 2015 follow-up, Hot Streak, – The Winery Dogs have returned to the studio. No slouches, the Dogs lineup continue to star Richie Kotzen on guitar, Billy Sheehan on bass and drummer Mike Portnoy, with all three contributing vocals. 

The trio insist that when they record – as live, in the room together – it's the songs that come first and the performances second, but that’s not what comes across. The playing is off-the-scale A-list, but when each number ends it’s the technical wizardry  that lingers in the memory, not the melody. 

Xanadu, Breakthrough and The Vengeance are fine, but only Stars – at once broody and funky, with some otherworldly guitar from Kotzen – is superb both while you’re listening and in retrospect.

III is good but not great.

Neil Jeffries

Freelance contributor to Classic Rock and several of its offshoots since 2006. In the 1980s he began a 15-year spell working for Kerrang! intially as a cub reviewer and later as Geoff Barton’s deputy and then pouring precious metal into test tubes as editor of its Special Projects division. Has spent quality time with Robert Plant, Keith Richards, Ritchie Blackmore, Rory Gallagher and Gary Moore – and also spent time in a maximum security prison alongside Love/Hate. Loves Rush, Aerosmith and beer. Will work for food.