It must be especially good to be in Slash’s shoes (and top hat) these days. The veteran guitar hero truly has the best of both worlds. On the one hand, he can go out and fill stadiums — not to mention his wallet — with the reconstituted Guns N’ Roses. And when he needs a break from Axl Rose and the rest of that circus, he can switch gears and make new music with his long-serving solo band of Conspirators featuring Alter Bridge frontman Myles Kennedy, along with guitarist Frank Sidoris, Canadian bassist Todd Kerns and drummer Brent Fitz (the usual full disclosure: I’ve known him since we taught drums in the same music store as kids). With all that going for him, maybe it’s no wonder the band’s third release sounds like Slash is having more fun than he’s had in a long time. Unlike some of its darker, drearier and more forced forebears, the dozen-track Living the Dream has an undeniable spring in its step, an unmistakable lightness in its spirit. Which is not to suggest it doesn’t get the job done rock-wise. Plenty of these tunes pack just as much punch as anything Slash has put his name on. His ultra-dependable band is firing on all cylinders as always. Kennedy is surely the least annoying frontman Slash has worked with. And of course, his fiery, complex solos are still front and centre of every number. OK, maybe there are a few more midtempo numbers and ballads here than the purists really need. But upbeat headbangers like The Call of The Wild, Mind Your Manners and Sugar Cane more than make up for that, crackling with an energy that seems more in line with the hooky accessibility of old-school Guns than the humourless, heavier-handed fare of his other extracurricular releases. Whatever’s behind that, he oughta keep doing it. Hats off.