Ex Hanoi Rocks and New York Dolls bass man, Sami Yaffa has released his debut solo album and it’s a belter.
As an original member of the band Hanoi Rocks (1980-85) he recorded 5 albums with the band and toured the world extensively, until the tragic events that ended the flight of the pioneering band.
Hanoi Rocks became a major influence on many bands that later became huge like Guns N` Roses and Pearl Jam.
Yaffa’s career continued after the break-up of Hanoi and he ended up playing with Joan Jett and The Blackhearts, the legendary New York Dolls, the Swedish RnR machine The Hellacopters and many more artists.
Sami began playing with Hanoi Rocks lead singer Michael Monroe again in 2010, the collaboration with Michael continues to this day.
Now, however, we have the first set of songs to be released as a project under his own name. The Innermost Journey to Your Outermost Mind was released last week on Vallila Music House.
Sami has described it as having a “beating heart of rock ‘n’ roll and punk“. These are Sami’s songs, not band collaborations. They are what came out of his head, although his Michael Monroe bandmate, Rich Jones, has co-writing credits on quite a few of the tracks.
Given this, we’re expecting a move away from glam of Hanoi and the Dolls
So, perhaps the glam of opener, Armageddon Together may not be the radical departure we were expecting. It’s a fine song, but you can tell where its influences lie. As we’ll discover while we listen on, this familiar style won’t get much more of an airing.
However, we move on to Selling Me Shit and now we see where he’s coming from. Pure punk with an almost Ramones thrash to it. This is a clear demonstration as how there are songs on this release that don’t fit well elsewhere into his band projects.
The surprise comes in the last half of the song when the thrash gives way to a dubby reggae break for a minute or so before picking up where it started, with Sami yelling: “You’re Selling me shit, but I’m not buying it” over and over again.
Fortunate One is based around the heavy drums and Sami’s fuzzy bass. Everytime he sings: “Hey Man“, we could swear Iggy Pop is in the room. Mike Monroe makes his sole appearance on sax and a welcome one it is too. He brings a richness to these proceedings.
The pace changes again with Rotten Roots, classy Clash style Sandinista era skank groove.
And, so the album progresses, exploring these different ideas with flair. We even get a laid back country feel with the 12 string guitar of Timo Kämäräinen on Down at the St Joe’s (video below).
I Can’t Stand it could have been Motörhead at a somewhat slower pace. Sami does a pretty good Lemmy impression on this one.
There’s another reggae break next from You Gimme Fever and then again, although with a bit more blues, from penultimate track, Look Ahead.
The album closes out with Cancel The End of the World, by far the longest track of the album’s 43 minutes in which Sami considers he needs to get his point across. Seeing as we’re doing comparisons, then this is a pretty clear nod to more recent Leonard Cohen.
If we make this sound like a mish mash of different styles thrown together, then that’s entirely the fault of our writing. This is a masterpiece. In the way that David Bowie’s Pin Ups was a nod to those bands who influenced Bowie, then this is Sami Yaffa’s Pin Ups moment.
The difference is that while Bowie’s Pin Ups were all covers, Sami’s version is his own work. There are quite obvious nods at times to where his inspiration came from. But this is no covers album, nor is it copying anything. Like all [good] artists, he’s just borrowing bits here and bits there.
And in that respect his selections and curation is absolutely spot on.
Nothing here has been thrown together. It’s well thought out and well worth your time.