Take the heart of Guns N' Roses, the soul of Stone Temple Pilots and add a shot of attitude from Wasted Youth, and you get the supergroup Velvet Revolver.
With its driving throwback approach to rock, the quintet (lead guitarist Slash, bassist Duff McKagan, and drummer Matt Sorum, all formerly of GNR; Dave Kushner of Wasted Youth; and lead singer Scott Weiland of STP) returns fully charged on the newly released Libertad.
The album, whose title is Spanish for liberty and freedom, is the much-anticipated follow-up to Contraband, VR's multi-platinum 2004 debut. The guys perform at the Virgin Festival by Virgin Mobile at Pimlico Race Course on Sunday, the first date on the band's national tour behind the new CD.
"Libertad has a visceral significance of what the band is going through," says Slash, who last week was relaxing at his Los Angeles home. "We have this triumphant energy having made this record."
The CD is more or less an extension of Contraband, a rollicking set of melodic but hard-hitting rock tunes. This time, though, the songs are more tightly produced, making Libertad more cohesive. Slash credits the gelled musical chemistry this time to producer Brendan O'Brien, who previously oversaw albums by the Stone Temple Pilots, and to touring the world behind Contraband.
"Brendan made us feel more comfortable in our abilities to play on the spot," he says. "We were forced to relax in the studio, so this record has more of a live feel to it. We gained a lot of experience together on the road for 19 months. We didn't have the luxury of playing clubs together before the first record and working out the kinks."
The band formed at a jam session in spring 2002. As Slash, McKagan and Sorum played, the three realized that the spark was still there and shortly afterward decided to form a new group. Kushner, who had previously played with Wasted Youth, was recruited. For a brief time while the quartet auditioned singers, the band was known as "the Project." VH1 filmed the search for a singer, resulting in the documentary VH1 Inside Out: The Rise of Velvet Revolver.
Several vocalists auditioned, including Sebastian Bach of Skid Row, Myles Kennedy of Alter Bridge and Josh Todd of Buckcherry. Eventually, Weiland, who was friends with McKagan and Kushner, offered to sing, and the band clicked.
"Artistically, we don't present any obstacles to ourselves," Slash says. "Our obstacle, if we had any, was always outside stuff like business issues and media issues, necessary evils you have to deal with in this business."
The looseness is felt throughout Libertad. Cuts such as "Let It Roll," "She Mine" and a spirited cover of ELO's "Can't Get It Out My Head" showcase how well the aesthetics of GNR and STP were fused this time. Driven by Weiland's somewhat-steely vocals, the music is propulsive.
"It's something that's hard to explain. We didn't consciously focus on the energy," Slash says. "A lot of it had to do with the ambition to make a good record. I like it. It works great in your car, man, going really fast down the highway."
See Velvet Revolver at 7:15 p.m. Sunday on the South Stage at Virgin Festival by Virgin Mobile at Pimlico Race Course, Hayward and Winner avenues. Two-day tickets to the festival are $175 and are available through Ticketmaster by calling 410-547-SEAT or going to ticketmaster.com.