There were an astonishing number of great hair/sleaze/glam metal albums released at the tail end of the 80s and the dawn of the 90s. In fact, it was hard to keep track of all the new bands that were getting signed to record deals at the time. There were so many new bands coming out that it was inevitable that many talented bands were looked over. Now is as good a time as any to go back and take a look at the plethora of quality albums that flooded the market back in the day (ESPECIALLY the ones that slipped through the cracks). Case in point: Spread Eagle!
I dare say that the Spread Eagle album (MCA Records) was the heaviest of the “hair band” albums released in 1990. These gutter rats came screaming out of NYC with some of the sleaziest, harshest stuff the genre had to offer. Three of the band’s four members originally came out of Boston, but relocated to NYC to join up with vocalist Ray West. These guys had a real street vibe that seemed genuinely dangerous. Check out this rare footage of the Spread Eagle guys stomping around New York in the early nineties, and you tell me if these guys weren’t true street urchins.
If you have never heard Spread Eagle, I liken this album to Skid Row’s 1991 album Slave To The Grind. Like that album, the tunes are not immediate or particularly radio friendly, but they are heavy and dark. While many hail Slave To The Grind as an amazing album, few have ever heard Spread Eagle, which actually came out the year BEFORE Slave To The Grind! Gotta respect that.
As far as I am concerned, Spread Eagle is a worthwhile addition to any old-school collection because of three particular tracks; Broken City, Thru These Eyes, and Switchblade Serenade. Broken City is the album opener, and features some sick, jacked-up blues riffage from guitarist Paul DiBartolo. Ray West’s dumpster-baby shrieks put him somewhere in that coveted Axl Rose stratosphere. The sense of inner-city decay is perfectly conveyed. Thru These Eyes starts off quite mellow with some nice acoustic guitar playing by DiBartolo. The track eventually swells into a monster. This is the closet Spread Eagle gets to a power ballad. A really great cut. The album’s “Oh Shit!” moment, however, comes by way of the INCREDIBLE Switchblade Serenade. Visions of bloodshot eyes and plunging needles dance disturbingly in my head as I listen to this epic sleaze-fest where West’s vocals rule and DiBartolo’s playing rips. Why is this song not legendary? (Note: The video version of Switchblade Serenade, seen and heard here, is not the same version that appears on the album– the album version is way better.) My score: B+