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StormwitchHalloween is right around the corner my friends!  I like to keep myself busy during the Halloween season in a number of ways.  First of all, I like to prepare for the big night by putting razor blades in all the candy I’ll be handing out to the kids.  That’s a given.  But, I also like to get in the mood by watching old eighties horror movies (here’s a choice selection).  And, of course, I like to listen to some old school heavy metal with a scary vibe.  In this case, anything by Stormwitch will suffice.

Stormwitch was a German metal band that released a handful of albums in the eighties.  They wrote songs about spooky stuff like witches, werewolves, and vampires.  They dubbed themselves “The Masters Of Black Romantic”.  I’m not exactly sure what the f*ck that means, but just trust me when I tell you all of Stormwitch’s songs were about creepy stuff.  You could also always count on Stormwitch to have a cheesy (but awesome) album cover, emblazoned with their kick-ass logo.

Sonically, one could consider Stormwitch somewhere betwixt early Iron Maiden and late-eighties Running Wild (but not quite).  Fans of lesser-known German metal bands like Gravestone, Veto, and Attack may find themselves mildly obsessed with Stormwitch after just a few spins.  There’s plenty to love — twin leads, crisp vocals, and catchy hooks galore.

Stormwitch’s third album was 1986’s Stronger Than Heaven (Scratch Records).  (Nice production by the folks at Scratch, as per usual.)  Stronger Than Heaven features one of Stormwitch’s best songs, Ravenlord.  This little gem was covered splendidly by Hammerfall many years later.  Another killer tune is the epic, 7 minute plus, Jonathan’s Diary (based on Bram Stoker’s Dracula).  Pretty much a classic chunk of traditional eighties metal right there.

So come on, get in the Halloween spirit!  Throw some candy corn in your slovenly suck hole, inhale that olden rubber Halloween mask smell, and crank a little Stormwitch on the ol’ stereo.  ‘Tis the season!  My score: B+




ExtremeNuno Bettencourt!  Extreme’s debut album may sport a shitty-ass cover (nice shirt Gary!) but the music inside is a roller coaster ride of axe pyrotechnics and sing-along hooks.  Bettencourt was one of the best guitar talents to arrive on the scene in the late eighties (maybe THE best).  Like Eddie Van Halen or Vito Bratta, Nuno’s rhythm guitar tracks alone were enough to electrify the ears.  Tons of tasty flourishes, nasty squeals, and creative licks peppered his rhythm tracks.  And the solos?  Perfection of course.  Nuno also provided backing vocals and harmony vocals to beef up the excellent work of lead vocalist Gary Cherone.  My favorite track is probably Mutha (Don’t Wanna Go To School Today) which features some mammoth riffing (in the Eddie Van Halen style) and an unforgettable chorus.  Other highlights include Teacher’s Pet, Big Boys Don’t Cry, and Play With Me (a song famously used in Bill And Ted’s Excellent Adventure).  Lyrically, the Extreme album is a bit curious.  Perhaps Extreme is a loose concept album of sorts, because almost all the songs are centered around being a kid, or more specifically, growing up as a boy in America.  The song Little Girls is a little creepy though, because as far as I can tell it is about statutory rape!  (And that’s the very first song on their very first album — what a strange way to start off a career!)  Anywayz, this album is a really strong beginning for Extreme, one of the very best bands to come out of the late eighties.  Of course, Extreme’s second album, Pornograffitti (1990), was even better!  As for Nuno, these days he can be found touring with… of all people… Rihanna!  WTF!  Why is he slumming with that no-talent hack?  I don’t think I want to live in this world anymore.  My score: A

House Of LordsSahara may sound a little more scrubbed and corporate than one would typically prefer, but this album is not without merit.  I would put this album on par with House Of Lords’ previous eponymous release (1988), but with the added bonus that Sahara contains the exquisite cover of Blind Faith’s Can’t Find My Way Home.  This song is probably one of my favorite covers EVER, and although it did get some radio airplay at the time, I think it should have been a SMASH hit.  House Of Lords’ best weapon was their powerhouse vocalist James Christian.  With just the right amount of rasp, he possessed a voice tailor-made for melodic hard rock.  His performance on Can’t Find My Way Home is absolutely stellar.  Another solid cut is Chains Of Love.  However, Sahara does suffer from some of the typical pitfalls of the hair band era.  That is, the glossy production and overuse of keyboards (by Gregg Giuffria) give the album a certain vanilla quality that softens the impact of the heavier rockers (like Kiss Of Fire) and relegates the balladry to drippy soap opera status.  But for one shining moment, with Can’t Find My Way Home, House Of Lords reached the highest of highs.  Salute!  My score: B

SacrificePure grain, golden era… THRASH!  This is that ugly brand of old school thrash that permeated the underground in the mid to late eighties.  These guys were Canadian, and sort of early on the scene (Forward To Termination was Sacrifice’s second album).  Melody was a four letter word to ol’ Sacrifice.  They prided themselves on chaotic thrash breaks, punishing riffs, and acid reflux vocals.  A little too extreme for my taste, but I can’t deny it’s kind of fun (in a B-level horror movie kind of way).  Nevertheless, I would prefer to keep my dosages of Forward To Termination to a minimum, thank you very much.  No need for a headache today.  If you are currently wearing sleeveless denim, however, you may want to get your ass in here.  My score: C

AerosmithOnce on the brink of extinction in the early eighties, Aerosmith were back in the saddle by 1989.  Aerosmith surpassed the blockbuster success of 1987’s Permanent Vacation with the 1989 album Pump.  You would think that would put a smile on Joe Perry’s perpetual “bitchy resting face”, but nay.  Bruce Fairbairn oversaw the production, which is brimming with meticulous detail.  There’s lots of extra instruments, vocal tracks, and special effects piled on.  (Can they pull this off live?)  Pump is best remembered for the hits Love In An Elevator, Janie’s Got A Gun, The Other Side, and What It Takes.  Stephen Tyler litters the place with an endless barrage of double (and single) entendres.  He seems a bit enamored with himself — he thinks he’s more clever than he actually is — but I never decry AC/DC for the same juvenile behavior, so I won’t do it here to the man with the gaping pie hole.  It is, after all, rock ‘n roll.  (But he’s kind of exhausting, ain’t he?)  Honestly, I like Permanent Vacation a bit more than Pump.  Aside from the aforementioned singles, the remaining songs seem somewhat underdeveloped in comparison.  Aerosmith has never been one of my pet bands, but I can appreciate a good tune (or four) when I hear ‘em.  My score: B+

Turn the clock back to 1988, and you’ll find another stellar year for “hair” metal.  Hysteria and Appetite For Destruction, both released in ’87, were still burning up the charts.  Meanwhile, a plethora of new releases became big sellers, including albums by Winger, Lita Ford, David Lee Roth, Van Halen, Poison, Cinderella, Bon Jovi, and Guns N’ Roses.

Here’s a list of my personal favorite hair metal albums from 1988…

10. Cinderella – Long Cold Winter

CinderellaThere are a few really good tunes on Long Cold WinterGypsy Road and Don’t Know What You Got (Till It’s Gone) bring back some great memories.  Coming Home and Fallin’ Apart At The Seams are also winners.  The rest I could take it or leave (to be honest).  Cinderella went for a definite blues-rock twist on this album that didn’t really match up with their mega-glam appearance.  With that in mind, one can’t help but feel a lack of authenticity with Cinderella.  If they wanted to be taken seriously as heavy blues musicians, why dress up like drag queens?  The faux-raspy croaks of Tom Keifer are particularly distracting.  Listening to a whole album’s worth of Keifer faking it can become very tiresome.  This is a band best taken in small doses.  Certified triple platinum.  My score: B

9. House Of Lords – House Of Lords

House Of LordsThis is a very solid album of AOR-tinged hair metal.  House Of Lords was formed by members of the band Giuffra.  They changed their name upon signing with Gene Simmon’s imprint, Simmons Records.  A new singer was recruited (James Christian) and House Of Lords was released in 1988.  Keyboards abound, and the production is very glossy, but the songs are pretty strong on House Of Lords.  Though there are a few hard rockers in the vein of bands like Whitesnake, it is the AOR oriented tunes that seem to grab my attention most.  Tracks like Hearts Of The World and Call My Name soar like prime Survivor.  Most of the songs on House Of Lords would fit perfectly into any number of those classic eighties movies montages.  That’s a good thing.  It’s also worth mentioning here that House Of Lords’ second album, Sahara (1990), featured one of the best cover songs I have ever heard — Can’t Find My Way Home (originally by Blind Faith).  My score: B

8. Van Halen – OU812

Van HalenIf you don’t like 5150, then there’s little chance you will enjoy OU812.  Personally I love 5150, but I will concede that OU812 is a step down from that record.

Sandwiched between the exquisite 5150 (1986) and the very good For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge (1991), OU812 seems to be the odd man out in the “Van Hagar” catalog.  Truth is, Van Halen didn’t change much approach-wise with OU812 relative to 5150, but while 5150 consisted entirely of songs I would classify as very good to perfect, OU812 was much more of a hit and miss affair.  The album’s opener is Mine All Mine, a curious choice for an opener, given the bounty of keyboards on display (and we learn right away that Alex’s questionable electronic drums have returned for another album).  Nevertheless Mine All Mine is a good song, though it would not necessarily be my first choice for track #1.  Other notable cuts include Finish What Ya Started (a tasty acoustic retreat) and the pounding Black And Blue.  And of course, Sammy Hagar began his journey to Jimmy Buffet land with the sunny Cabo Wabo, my favorite track on the album.  However, tracks like A Apolitical Blues, When It’s Love, and Source Of Infection can’t exactly be classified as top-shelf Van Halen material.  My score: B+

7. Poison – Open Up And Say… Ahh!

PoisonPoison’s best songs were almost exclusively the ones they released as singles.  That is to say, Poison’s albums weren’t exactly overflowing with deep tracks.  Open Up And Say… Ahh!, Poison’s second LP, contained four legitimate hits in Every Rose Has Its Thorn, Fallen Angel, Nothin’ But A Good Time, and Your Mama Don’t Dance.  These are four of the best five tracks on the album.  The fifth, in my opinion, would be Love On The Rocks.  The worst?  Look But You Can’t Touch.  Yikes!  Yes, Poison were easy to hate.  But their music was fun, stupid, and unapologetically glam.  My score: A-

6. Bon Jovi – New Jersey

Bon JoviThis is a pretty decent album… if you can forget for a moment the overwhelming fraudulence on display.  To be clear, I’m not saying  Bon Jovi wasn’t talented, it’s just that they had about as much credence, as much soul… as a bastard ginger baby.  Jon Bon Jovi was a shrewd businessman, that’s undeniable, and the Bon Jovi enterprise was a money printing machine.  Jon sure knew where to go to butter his bread.  Teenage girls.  They bought into the Bon Jovi enterprise in full force.  Sparkling (over) production and outside writers (Desmond Child alert!) helped feed the machine.  But a good song is a good song, and Lay Your Hands On Me and Bad Medicine are two damn good songs.  (Though I could do without Jon going full retard at the end of Bad Medicine when he asks for another repeat of the chorus).  A Bon Jovi album is like the facts of life; you take the good and you take the bad.  The good being big, juicy hooks and a fair bit of rockin’.  The bad being fake cowboys, second rate Springsteen-isms, and scripted studio banter (re: Love For Sale).  My score: A-

5. Ratt – Reach For The Sky

RattSure, Stephen Pearcy had the emotional range of a cigar store Indian.  But hey, slippery tracks like City To City and What I’m After astutely combine infectious hooks with sleazy ‘tude.  You gotta tip your cap to the boyz.  Incidentally, this album marked the beginning of Ratt’s decline in popularity (though Reach For The Sky did go platinum), so maybe some fans out there never gave Reach For The Sky a fair shake.  Time to revisit, I say.  With all the crap passing as music these days, old Ratt is sounding sweeter than ever!  My score: A-

4. Dirty Looks – Cool From The Wire

Dirty LooksAfter a handful of indie releases, Dirty Looks finally appeared on a major label when Atlantic Records released Cool From The Wire in 1988.  I consider this album, and Dirty Looks’ 1989 follow-up Turn Of The Screw to be two sorely overlooked sleaze metal triumphs.  The heart and soul of Dirty Looks was Danish born Henrik Ostergaard.  He formed the band in the mid-eighties and continued to record music under the Dirty Looks banner up until his early demise in 2011.  The formula was a simple one; greasy blues-based riffing and palm-muted chugging over palatable, pulse-pounding beats.  Henrik’s raspy voice was tinged with a bit of that Bon Scott magic, and the result was sleaze city.  The incomparable Max Norman (best in the biz) produced Cool From The Wire.  Norman was a genius producer, and this record sounds perfect, as it grooves like a son-of-a-bitch.  Ostergaard’s lyrics of sex, drugs, and rock n’ roll were delivered with a conviction that only a man who lived and breathed the lifestyle could do.  And it seems Henrick was the genuine article, hence his unfortunate death at an early age.  Check out Ostergaard’s spot-on Bon Scott impression during the middle part of Oh Ruby.  Highlights of the album include Cool From The Wire, Tokyo, and (my favorite) It’s A Bitch.  R.I.P. Henrik Ostergaard.  Thanks for the awesome tunes.  My score:

3. Seduce – Too Much, Ain’t Enough

SeduceSeduce!  Those searching for the holy grails of American glam/sleaze metal, here’s one for ya!  Seduce was a Motor City trio that never broke through to mainstream success despite kicking some serious ass.  Too Much, Ain’t Enough (I.R.S. ) was a gritty, heavy offering that flew in the face of conventional glam metal at the time by forgoing the typical over-polished approach for a raw, loose n’ lethal sound.  Too Much, Ain’t Enough features down-tuned, heavy riffing courtesy of David Black, erratic drumming from Chuck Burns, and excellent vocals by Mark Andrews (also bass).  Side one of this album is damn near perfection!  Seduce painted a picture of a somewhat sad Detroit existence in a world of junkies and fast-fading dreams.  Check out Watchin’, and No Use if you want your tits toasted.  If I had one complaint about Too Much, Ain’t Enough (besides the weak cover art), I would say that Chuck Burns made some really unorthodox choices with his drumming.  At times his drumming can be a bit distracting, and he doesn’t always keep time.  Then again, I much prefer this wild style to the boring and over-produced drum sound found on so many late eighties glam/sleaze banquets.  Side two drops off just a hair from the insane awesomeness of side one.  Accusations is probably the least godly track on the album.  The finale of Too Much, Ain’t Enough is The Slider, a T. Rex cover.  My score: A

2. Guns N’ Roses – G N’ R Lies

G N' R LiesEight songs graced this Guns N’ Roses platter.  G N’ R Lies was released in 1988 while Appetite For Destruction was still selling like hot cakes.  The first four songs were from the 1986 Live ?!*@ Like A Suicide EP, which was a pretty rare release (so most fans hadn’t heard the songs).  These cuts were studio tracks with crowd noise dubbed in to make them sound as if they were “live” recordings.  Reckless Life is the highlight of side one.

The last four songs (side two) are the real reason that G N’ R Lies is an essential album.  Patience is probably the best known (as it was a hit single).  This beauty features one of the best uses of whistling I can remember in a rock song (Scorpions’ Wind Of Change came out two years later to challenge the title).  The acoustic version of You’re Crazy included here trumps the faster, electric version on Appetite For Destruction (IMO).  As for the controversial One In A Million?  What can I say?  Axl had humongous balls of steel, that’s for sure.  There is no way in hell that Geffen would ever release a song with such incendiary lyrics today.  No way.  Times have changed.  We live in a world where everyone is just waiting to be offended.  The G ‘N R Lies album shows that, in 1988, Guns N’ Roses were so insanely popular that they could do whatever the f*ck they wanted.  That’s rock ‘n’ roll!  My score:

1. Kix – Blow My Fuse

KixThe high point of Kix’s catalog is also (IMO) one of the greatest hair band albums ever made!  Blow My Fuse is loaded with great party metal from start to finish.  Cold Blood has to go down as one of the best songs of the hair-era!  It was a “classic” in our house back in the day, as it was repeatedly broadcast loudly from the stereo in my older brother’s room.  There’s so much to love about Blow My Fuse.  For example, the lyrics on this album are really quite clever.  I particularly like She Dropped Me The Bomb (which compares getting dumped to getting shot down in an aerial dogfight) and Red Lite, Green Lite, TNT (about a street-walker; “she has to water all the flowers in our town”).  Of course, Steve Whiteman’s vocals were sleaze-city awesome, and chief songwriter (and bassist) Donnie Purnell shat out an awesome set of tunes with AC/DC-esque riffs and killer hooks.  Often, the verse sections were just as catchy (if not more so) than the actual choruses (examples include Piece Of The Pie and She Dropped Me The Bomb).  The album’s biggest hit was the superb ballad Don’t Close Your Eyes, a song I love to sing along to, although I can’t hit any of Whiteman’s high notes.  No Ring Around Rosie is another fave o’ mine.  My score: A+

Big Balls!!!  Hey there folks.  Recently, AC/DC announced they will be releasing a brand new album in late 2014 called Rock Or Bust.  Needless to say, I’m f*cking stoked!  Here’s hoping it sounds as good as Black Ice.  Anywayz, while I wait with bated breath for Rock Or Bust to sexify my ear holes in a couple of months, allow me to reflect back on AC/DC’s tremendous back catalog from the years 1980-1990.  Here’s a list of ten songs from that era that I would consider to be AC/DC’s most “underrated”.  Now, we all know that “underrated” is a very overrated word, so just play along, okay?  Anyway, to qualify as underrated, said AC/DC tune must meet two criteria.  First, the song must kick ass.  Easy enough.  And second, in my view, the song must be lesser known or lightly regarded in the AC/DC canon.  (Very subjective I know.)

Back In BlackBecause of the second rule mentioned above, you won’t see any songs from Back In Black on this list.  That is because every last song on Back In Black is a stone cold classic, and everybody knows that every last song on Back In Black is a stone cold classic!  So I can’t really call anything on Back In Black underrated, can I?  NO!  (It is, after all, the biggest selling hard rock album of all time!)  So we’ll skip Back In Black (which came out in 1980) and head right to 1981 and the For Those About To Rock We Salute You album…

Night Of The Long Knives and Spellbound from For Those About To Rock We Salute You (1981)

For Those About To RockFor Those About To Rock We Salute You is a killer album.  It spawned two singles in For Those About To Rock (We Salute You) and Let’s Get It Up.  As far as underrated tracks go, I would have to cast my vote for the last two cuts on the album; Night Of The Long Knives and Spellbound.

First, lets talk about Night Of The Long Knives.  Here we have a great lead riff (first appearing at the 20 second mark), a HUMONGOUS chorus refrain, some very cool lyrics, and Brian Johnson screaming his ass off!  What more do you need?  The lyrics here are a little different from the usual AC/DC fare (re: sexual innuendo and/or the majesty of ROCK).  Instead, this song seems to be about betrayal.  The title alludes to a very specific historical event that occurred in Germany in 1934.  (Listen to Night Of The Long Knives here.)

Next up on the list is the album finale from For Those About To Rock We Salute You, a song called Spellbound.  This song has a very menacing vibe and a slow burning character.  Lyrically, Spellbound is another AC/DC outlier.  The words to this song are somewhat depressing (quite rare for the Brian Johnson years).  “Spellbound, my world keeps-a-tumbling down!”  This evil little ditty perfectly caps off what I consider to be AC/DC’s most evil album.  (Listen to Spellbound here.)

Landslide and Badlands from Flick Of The Switch (1983)

AC_DCLet’s move on to the Flick Of The Switch LP.  This 1983 album wasn’t a commercial blockbuster, or even a critical success for AC/DC.  However, a lot of hardcore AC/DC fans love this album’s raw energy (myself included).  Flick Of The Switch just might be AC/DC’s heaviest album.  Many call Flick Of The Switch their most underrated record, too.  It’s definitely a hidden gem in their catalog.  I guess that means that any song on Flick Of The Switch could technically qualify as underrated, but since the songs Flick Of The Switch, Nervous Shakedown, and Guns For Hire were actually released as singles, I will disqualify them from this list.  So from the remaining seven tracks on Flick Of The Switch I’ll cast my vote for Landslide and Badlands as this album’s resident underrated cuts.

Landslide is rock ‘n’ roll so pure that you just want to chop it into lines and snort it up your nose.  It’s one of the fastest AC/DC tunes of all, and it rips unmercifully!  Queue up Landslide on the ol’ car stereo and you’ll be driving 110 mph in no time.  (Listen to Landslide here.)

Badlands has a greasy slide riff and a nasty-ass groove.  Oh how I miss the days when Brain had his full voice!  He could scream like no other.  Flick Of The Switch was the last album before Johnson’s voice took a steamy dump.  He used to write his own lyrics too, which I also miss because he was a pretty witty writer.  (Listen to Badlands here.)

Stand Up from Fly On The Wall (1985)

Fly On Te WallFly On The Wall was a disappointment for a few key reasons.  First, the production was awful.  Second, Brian Johnson’s voice was in bad shape.  Finally, Fly On The Wall was the first AC/DC album without Phil Rudd manning the drum stool.  AC/DC just didn’t sound the same without Rudd.  It’s hard to explain, but Rudd’s drumming always provided that special something to the AC/DC sound.  Nevertheless, Fly On The Wall had some good songs (despite the inferior audio quality).  Most fans and critics agree that two songs in particular stand out; Shake Your Foundations and Sink The Pink.  Great tunes indeed.  I won’t consider these two cuts underrated because they are widely considered the album’s best.  (Both songs, incidentally, were released as singles, as was the track Danger.)  So looking elsewhere, allow me to call attention to a nice little nugget hiding on side two of Fly On The Wall called Stand Up.

Side two of Fly On The Wall has become an oft-forgotten destination for many an AC/DC fan.  I must admit that I neglected this side of the LP for many years.  So it would only be appropriate that I picked a tune from the ass-end of Fly On The Wall for this list.  Think of it as an atonement for my years of delinquency.  Stand Up is a good choice.  For me, this song is all about the verse sections, which I’ve always enjoyed.  That steady groove just flows like wine.  (Listen to Stand Up here.)

Who Made WhoWe’ll skip 1986’s Who Made Who album.  This LP only had three new songs, two of which were instrumentals (Chase The Ace and D.T.).  The other new song was Who Made Who, which is hardly underrated, as it’s one of AC/DC’s (many) greatest hits.

Meanstreak and Nick Of Time from Blow Up Your Video (1988)

Blow Up Your Video

Like Fly On The Wall, 1988’s Blow Up Your Video suffered from lousy audio quality.  The whole album is absolutely swimming in reverb!  Blow Up Your Video also featured Brian Johnson in his worst voice ever.  Was he gargling boiling acid?  Eating razor blades?  Who knows.  Brian actually sounds better nowadays than he did way back in ’88!  Despite these flaws, Blow Up Your Video sports some really cool songs.  Heatseeker and That’s The Way I Wanna Rock ‘N’ Roll were the album’s two singles.  Both were pretty good cuts.  As for underrated songs on Blow Up Your Video, I’ve got to go with Meanstreak and Nick Of Time.

Meanstreak features an obtuse main riff that first appears at the 5 second mark.  This sleazy little riff gives the song a cool, laid back vibe.  The pre-chorus elevates the song nicely, too.  Brian’s wise-ass lyrics are also a big highlight.  “I’m the guy they just can’t teach, and I always kick the castle that’s been built up on the beach.  Ha Ha!”  (Listen to Meanstreak here.)

Nick Of Time has a few tasty guitar licks.  My favorite part is the pre-chorus lick (appearing at the 1:10 mark).  It sounds like Angus is doing a succession of quick string pull-offs without picking, making his guitar sound almost like a keyboard.  Angus has used this technique quite a bit through the years (check out Who Made Who for a prime example).  Good stuff.  (Listen to Nick Of Time here.)

Rock Your Heart Out, Shot Of Love, and Let’s Make It from The Razors Edge (1990)

The Razors Edge

A few changes this time around for AC/DC.  Malcolm and Angus took over the lyric writing from Brian Johnson, and Chris Slade joined as the new drummer.  Thankfully, the production on The Razors Edge was much crisper than the previous couple of albums.  As for Brian Johnson’s voice, well, by this time we all realized that he was never going to regain his Back In Black form.  But we love him anyway!  At least his voice can be heard clearly, without a butt load of reverb getting in the way.  The Razors Edge was a big hit for AC/DC, spawning the classics Thunderstruck and MoneytalksAre You Ready was also a successful single, and Fire Your Guns is a fan favorite.  In terms of underrated tunes, I’ll take Rock Your Heart Out, Shot Of Love, and Let’s Make It.

Rock Your Heart Out is a nifty little composition.  The first part of the verse is backed by only drums and bass.  No guitars.  For the second half of the verse section, Angus and Malcolm join in on guitar, each playing different, complimentary riffs.  This kind of dual riffing is a trademark of the AC/DC sound.  My favorite part of the song first appears at the 1:46 mark, when everyone chants “Rock! Rock your little heart out!”  (Listen to Rock Your Heart Out here.)

Shot Of Love is a fairly simple AC/DC tune.  AC/DC have a tried and true song formula that has always worked to perfection.  AC/DC does not know how to make a bad song.  Shot Of Love is pretty typical of the kind of song that Malcolm and Angus could write in their sleep.  This why we love ‘em!  (Listen to Shot Of Love here.)

We’ll end this list with Let’s Make It.  There’s nothing complicated about this little gem.  Simple riffs feed the simple song structure.  But GOD DAMN I have always loved this song!  It’s very melodic.  The verses in particular are deliriously catchy.  (Listen to Let’s Make It here.)

Well there you go!  The ten most underrated AC/DC tunes from 1980-1990!  Apologies to the songs that I may have missed like Breaking The Rules, Inject The Venom, Kissin’ Dynamite, Playing With Girls, and… well… ALL OF THEM!  Nobody does it better than AC/DC!  Bring on Rock Or Bust!

The CultThe Cult reached their apex with 1989’s Sonic Temple.  This album was the follow-up to the successful Electric album of 1987.  Electric consisted of skeletal hard rock designed to appeal to the commercial masses.  Electric was produced by Rick Rubin.  Personally, I found Electric to be a rather weak and derivative album (with a couple of good songs).  Rubin always had a fondness for AC/DC’s bare bones approach and I think he pushed The Cult too far in that direction, resulting in a record that was little more than a second-rate AC/DC rip-off.  Sonic Temple, by contrast, was more original, more varied, and more powerful.  Bob Rock took care of production duties this time around.  The album spawned a handful of rock radio singles including album opener Sun King, the mighty Fire Woman, the elegant Edie (Ciao Baby), and the soaring Sweet Soul Sister.  Fine deep tracks like American Horse and Soldier Blue helped to make Sonic Temple a well-balanced album.  This disc can be played from start to finish without any need for the skip button.  If you don’t have it, GO GET IT!  My score: A

Nitro – “O.F.R.” (1989)

NitroRidiculous!  How else can one describe Nitro’s O.F.R.?  Nitro took glam metal to the extreme, offering up what I can only assume was a tongue-in-cheek satire of heavy metal in the late eighties.  Everything Nitro did was preposterous and over the top.  In a way, Nitro did to glam what Manowar did to traditional metal — taking the tropes of their chosen genre and exaggerating them to a point of absurdity.  Their hair was out-f*ckin-rageous, their vocals were out-f*cking-rageous, and their guitar playing was out-f*cking-rageous.  In case you haven’t figured it out by now, O.F.R. stood for Out-F*cking-Rageous.

Of course, we can’t go any further without first discussing Jim Gillette’s dog whistle vocals.  The man possessed a jaw-dropping vocal range, much like King Diamond.  But just because you can hit glass-shattering high notes doesn’t mean you should do so all the time.  But Gillette does so about 90% of the time!  Like King Diamond, this becomes laughably idiotic about 30 seconds into the album.  And like K.D., when Gillette goes for the real low notes, he sounds cartoonishly awful.

As for guitarist Michael Angelo (Batio), the man could play insanely fast, and he was obviously a word-class shredder.  He sometimes played a special “quad-guitar”, too.  Check him out in this video for the song Freight Train.  His rhythm playing on O.F.R. was pretty straightforward, but his solos were awe-inspiring (even if they weren’t exactly “musical”).

An album like O.F.R. is pretty immune to any objective criticism because it shouldn’t be taken seriously in the first place.  The only thing I can do is ask myself whether I enjoy listening to it or not.  The answer, surprisingly, is “yeah”.  I particularly like the song Long Way From Home.  It is the closest thing we get to a legitimate song on the album.  The vocal harmonies are actually really cool!  Another song that kind of kicks ass is Shot Heard ‘Round The World.

You have to be in the right mindset to even attempt to listen to O.F.R., but when the mood strikes it can be a guilty pleasure.  Just make sure nobody overhears you listening to it.  That would be embarrassing.  My score: B-  

In HeatBlack ‘N Blue originally emerged with a really strong debut called Black ‘N Blue in 1984.  But despite the promise delivered by that first record, Black ‘N Blue’s career never took off.  Fast forward to 1988 and Black ‘N Blue’s fourth album In Heat.  By this time, Black ‘N Blue had hitched their wagons to none other than certified asshole Gene Simmons.  Gene took the band under his (bat) wing — producing In Heat, co-writing a few songs, and generally steering the band towards “success”.  But of course, relying on Gene Simmons to help you succeed musically is like asking Helen Keller to babysit your kids.  The man was wholly and hilariously without a clue.  Let’s face it, Gene’s musical acumen in the eighties was pretty f*cking suspect.  The only thing he had mastered was the fine art of “filler”, thanks to his underwhelming contributions to the KISS albums of the eighties.  Anyway, In Heat really reeks of Gene’s miserable taint.  Gene took Black ‘N Blue’s best attribute, knuckle-headed sincerity, and shat on it with his misguided notion of what it means to make music.  What once seemed natural and endearing to Black ‘N Blue (good dumb fun), now seemed overly forced and insincere.  It is as if Gene wanted every song on In Heat to be some kind of crowd pleasing, sing-along rock anthem.   But the execution was so tepid and unnatural that it pains me to hear Black ‘N Blue reduced to this level.  Production-wise, Simmons obviously wanted to make an album like Def Leppard’s Hysteria, but of course he failed miserably.  Too bad for Black N’ Blue, because they were kind of a cool band (and there are a few nice riffs and hooks here).  Unfortunately, Gene never knew a thing about having a soul, so it’s not surprising that In Heat feels soulless and calculated.  You can taste the desperation.  My score: C+


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