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With the Southern influences of Alabama native guitarist Tommy Shaw (formerly of Styx) and the rocking intuition of bassist Jack Blades (formerly of Night Ranger), this album is destined to find a cozy spot on album rock stations across the nation.

The duo is still teamed with Motor City Madman Ted Nugent and drummer Michael Cartellone in Damn Yankees - so fans, you can relax - but while the band takes a much needed rest, Shaw and Blades - dubbed as the workaholic "never leave brothers" - felt the need to record a side project.By enlisting producer Don Gehman, who has handled similar chores for John Mellencamp and R.E.M., as well as guest drummers Cartellone and former Journeyman Steve Smith, Shaw and Blades have created a laid-back, bluesy ditty with hard-rock hooks that will allow any listener to kick back and enjoy the trip.

The album kicks off with the grooving first single, "My Hallucination," a clever 20-year musical overview that ranges from the nation's civil upheaval during the 1960s to the present civil upheavals. Lyric fans will savor the word play.

"I'll Always Be with You" keeps the groove coming, with soothing harmonies mixed with harmonica, acoustic guitars and steady, back-heavy snares.

And though Damn Yankees does mix a couple of power ballads and acoustic intros in its repertoire, none of the songs on "Hallucination" seems likely to ever find their way onto a Damn Yankees album. These arrangements are exclusively Shaw/Blades.

Though all the songs are strong, one of the best is "Come To Be My Friend." The progressive piece starts off with a furious acoustic intro that segues into Blade's backporch-flavored vocal line. Once it hits the chorus, power-rock chords chopped out on an acoustic guitar highlight a driving chorus. The cut is then completed by a funky interlude chant that ends with a punch.

Yes, there are sentimental cuts as well. "I Can't Live Without You" is the staple "baby, please come back" story, while the Caribbean-flavored "Don't Talk to Me Anymore" is hauntingly reminiscent of Shaw's solo single "Lonely School," from his debut solo album "Girls with Guns."

Then, with another style change, the anthem-like nostalgia of "Down That Highway" and the fully acoustic "The Night Goes On" serve as the boys' nod to mellow, backwoods country music.

Shaw/Blades also targets road lovers with the sentimental open road song "Blue Continental" and the cinematic restlessness of "How You Gonna Get Used to This."

"The End," not to be confused with the Doors' apocalyptic hypno-piece, ends "Hallucination" with soothing harmonies and acoustic guitars enhanced by a Hammond organ.

This Shaw/Blades album cuts to the bone.

RATINGS: four stars (* * * * ), excellent; three stars (* * * ), good; two stars (* * ), fair; one star (* ), poor, with 1/2 representing a higher, intermediate grade.