A Taste of Irish Music Featuring a List of Irish Guitarists

4.  Vivian Campbell – Deff Leppard, Dio, Whitesnake


Sixteen years old in 1978, Vivian’s first band Sweet Savage hailed from his hometown of Belfast, Northern Ireland. Along with other hard-core bands like Budgie, they were pre-cursors to bands like Metallica who were strongly influenced by Sweet Savage’s sound, and later recorded their own version of Sweet Savage’s “Killing Time” for their “Garage, Inc” album.


Out on tour supporting bands like Thin Lizzy and Motorhead around Britain, Vivian caught the eye of bassist Jimmy Bain, who would soon join Ronnie James Dio to record his post-Black Sabbath solo debut for Warner Bros. In searching for a dynamic, powerhouse guitarist, Jimmy recalled his memorable impression of the young unknown Vivian, and recommended him to Ronnie.


Vivian was 19 when he auditioned and that line-up went into the studio to record the now classic Dio albums “Holy Diver” and “Last In Line”. The boy from Belfast was on his way. In 1987, Vivian was invited to join Whitesnake, a bonafide hard rock supergroup. With a slick, sexy, MTV image and fronted by ex-Deep Purple vocalist David Coverdale, that album would become the year’s phenomenon and finally break Coverdale (who was already a big star in Europe) as an artist in the U.S. But things were not to be, and Vivian yearned to create music that was more blues-based and less hard-rock, and also to try his hand at singing, his undisclosed secret weapon.


So the Riverdogs were born, a four-piece outfit with Vivian and cult blues singer Rob Lamothe on lead vocals. This line-up would record one album for Epic Records before Vivian was on the move again. In 1991 during an extended hiatus from touring he would finally begin writing songs for his own debut solo album for Epic Records. Its tone and direction would pay homage the pop-rock sounds of the singer/songwriter movement and the soul and R&B of Motown.


Writing collaborations produced beautiful demos and recording of the album was about to commence when the call came from Def Leppard singer Joe Elliott. The tragic death of guitarist Steve Clark left a gaping hole in the line-up of one of the world’s biggest selling acts. Always having been a fan of Def Leppard’s soaring harmonies and sterling pop hooks, it was a crossroads decision; you only get one chance to join a legendary rock band, and the solo album was put on hold.


Thirteen years later the time finally came to pursue a solo album again, but this time the direction would take a different form. Living in Los Angeles, Vivian had immersed himself in the world of the local blues-club circuit, quite a change from the intricate arrangements, multi-overdubs and state of the art production values of Def Leppard. The spontaneity and “one-take” urgency of the true blues genre dictated a specific new set of rules that would be applied during the making of “Two Sides Of If.” Rule number one: it had to be recorded LIVE in the studio, being sure to always maintain eye contact between all of the musicians. This meant Vivian singing lead vocals while playing solo guitar – no overdubs allowed….. Rule number two: have fun and fly by the seat of your pants. With wish-list players like Terry Bozzio on drums, and Billy Gibbons and Joan Osborne making guest appearances, the sessions were inspired and the end result is “Two Sides Of If.”


Twenty years in the making and not a minute too soon.


Check out Vivian Campbell on his myspace profile at http://www.myspace.com/viviancampbell



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