Ross The Boss, axeman supreme for The Dictators (among other bands), is revered by heavy metal fans for his shredding days as part of Manowar. I personally prefer his work within a more melodic structure, where he’s power-chording rhythm until bubbling over into a solo (that’s how most Dictators tracks work – think “Stay With Me” or “Science Gone Too Far”, for starters). Seeing his name in the credits on an album is always reason enough to listen.
I was never a big fan or the heavy metal efforts, but when he did return to crunching rock with The Spinatras, that was fun. Most Dictators fans I know weren’t even aware of the band, so I figure that has to qualify for an Under The Radar status. Here’s my original review from ten years ago as it ran in PopMatters…
Ross The Boss is the guitar player in this band. What, you’re still here? Get to the store now!
I would love to get away with writing a review like that, and I guarantee you that most of the fans of his work in The Dictators already went looking for their wallets. But for those of you still reading, Ross Friedman a.k.a. Ross Funicello a.k.a. “Ross The Boss” is one of the tastiest fret-meisters strutting this mortal coil, and “strut” is no idle adjective. Although his tenure in Man’O’War treaded the ponderous boards on occasion, with The Spinatras, he returns to basics — fun and rock and roll. As in air-guitar, head-bobbing songs with titles like “Dog” and “Ketchup”. Okay, so it’s not lyrically brilliant like Shernoff’s gems for The Dictators. Just play the damned thing loud, okay?
That’s not to say that they don’t sometimes bury topics in wads of Pearl Jam; the title track takes on Internet chat rooms, and “Anti Depressant” can get a little whiny if you don’t have much patience for vocals with a little grunge on the side. But right alongside them, there’s the absolutely unbridled pop SCHWINNGGGGGG of “Michelle” (an ode to blond Goddess Pfeiffer), the harmonic bounce and blistering guitar of “Comfort Zone,” the generation gap opus “Guess Again” and a walloping cover of “My Back Pages” (Bob Dylan, The Byrds) that sounds like an urban Jason & The Scorchers. In other words, when they don’t take themselves too seriously, they rock! And isn’t that what it’s all supposed to be about in the first place?
Brian Corley has that oh-so-snotty snarl down to a science. The rhythm section is no slouch, manned by forceful drummer Richie Fazio (is that a New Yawk name or what?) and fluid bassist Ron Giordano. Extra props to Giordano; there are no show-off bass solos, but you’re always aware of what he’s doing. And Ross The Boss is the guitar player. In case you forgot, Ross rules.
Trivia: @midnight.com was the first album title with “@” in it.