Tuck a rolled up sock in your skin-tight leather pants because here’s ten more album reviews from the “hair band” genre…
Autograph – Sign In Please (1984)
Here’s a borderline entry for my site. That is, Sign In Please registers pretty low on the “heaviness” scale, drifting dangerously close to straight up AOR. Sign In Please was Autograph’s debut and it came on the heels of an apparently impressive showing as a supporting act on tour with Van Halen. The album’s lead single was the inescapable (and irresistible) Turn Up The Radio. Pretty much a “classic” of the era. (Turn Up The Radio recently showed up in the shockingly awful 2010 movie Hot Tub Time Machine.) Just a perfect pop-metal song with a great intro, Turn Up The Radio was the reason I bought Sign In Please. Surely I was not the only one (the album is certified gold). Hoping for more stuff on par with Turn Up The Radio, I instead was greeted with weak sauce. Sign In Please simply does not rock. The occasional heavy guitar shows up from time to time, and some wicked solos to boot, but fans of hard rock may want to pass on Sign In Please. One cut, Thrill Of Love, sounds like a long-lost outtake from the infamous Rothchild/Diggler studio session in Boogie Nights. (You know, the one that gave us the immortal The Touch and Feel The Heat.) My score: C
Bonham – The Disregard Of Timekeeping (1989)
For a band named for their drummer (Jason Bonham), I am surprised at the rather inorganic drum sound they came up with for this album. If they were trying to re-create Jason’s dad’s legendary drum sound from When The Levee Breaks, try again boys. Despite that minor quibble, I have to say The Disregard Of Timekeeping is an excellent commercial hard rock album. Jason Bonham’s drum style is fairly unorthodox (hence the album’s title I presume), but pretty interesting indeed. Tons of keyboards are used on the album, giving these songs a smooth, albeit corporate, touch. Kind of a relaxing, very chilled-out record. Sunday morning hard rock. Vocalist Daniel MacMaster (R.I.P.) was an excellent vocal talent that may remind some of Robert Plant just a bit. Excellent tracks such as Wait For You, Holding On Forever, and Dreams have outstanding hooks that keep me coming back to this record time and again. Just another great album from the hair era’s greatest year (IMO), 1989. Went gold in the States. My score: A-
Disneyland After Dark – No Fuel Left For The Pilgrims (1989)
Danish rockers Disneyland After Dark released No Fuel Left For The Pilgrims in their homeland via Medley Records in 1989. Later in the same year, Disneyland After Dark signed with Warner Bros. Records, and No Fuel Left For The Pilgrims was released internationally. Along with the big label contract came a name change to D.A.D. (for obvious legal reasons). This also meant a different cover for the Warner Bros. version of No Fuel Left For The Pilgrims (depicted here).
No Fuel Left For The Pilgrims opens with a pair of absolute gems in Sleeping My Day Away and Jihad. The former is a great hangover song with some tumbleweed twang thrown in for good effect. The latter is a tasty jolt of electric energy, and it has some cool lyrics to boot. D.A.D.’s sound was a nice little cocktail of sleaze and heavy boogie that reminds me of the underrated band, Dirty Looks. D.A.D. also threw in some cowboy stylin’ and punk for good measure. All in all a rather unique niche for this Danish band. (The bassist took to wearing a helmet and playing a 2-string bass. Cool!) No Fuel Left For The Pilgrims didn’t do much in the United States (but 1989 was a pretty loaded year, so some good albums slipped through the cracks). Those unfamiliar with this band may be surprised by the fun on tap. My score: B+
Dangerous Toys – Dangerous Toys (1989)
I guess you could say that Dangerous Toys were a little different from the typical hair band at the time, but these many years later that gap seems pretty infinitesimal. Some perceived “extra” heaviness comes courtesy of Jason McMaster’s wild-ish, street urchin vocals. (Yes, the same Jason McMaster who once fronted the well-respected, and hyper-complicated metal band, Watchtower.) Also, Dangerous Toys were from Texas, so they had a little bit of a Texas swagger, though they didn’t infuse it into their music as much as fellow Texans (and one of my personal faves) Junkyard. Dangerous Toys was produced by one of my favorite producers of the eighties, Max Norman, and this is another of his fine sounding final products. The two MTV “singles” from Dangerous Toys were Teas’n, Pleas’n and Scared. Neither song strikes me as a real smash, but they are okay. My personal faves from the album are the rough and tumble Bones in The Gutter and the melodic Queen Of The Nile. Sportin’ A Woody is easily my least favorite! Dangerous Toys did okay, especially considering it did not have a legitimate standout single, or even the obligatory power ballad. Reached gold certification in the U.S. in 1994. Pretty cool album cover. My score: B+
L.A. Guns – Cocked And Loaded (1989)
Does it seem like I give way too many positive reviews for “hair metal”? It feels like I do, but I’m not going to lie, I really just love most of this sh*t! It’s fun stuff and I’ll never get tired it!
L.A. Guns crawled from the sewer and into the spotlight in the late eighties, along with many similar Sunset Strip acts thanks to Guns N’ Roses phenomenal success with 1987’s Appetite For Destruction. Because of Guns N’ Roses, the music industry was more willing to pay attention to gutter babies like L.A. Guns and Love/Hate.
Honestly, L.A. Guns didn’t sound as dangerous as they looked. In my mind a lot of that has to do with their vocalist, Phil Lewis, who did not have the typical “sleazy/dangerous” voice of an Axl Rose or a Sebastian Bach. Lewis was actually British (with roots back to the early eighties glam band, Girl), and had a pretty straightforward (slightly raspy) vocal delivery. A very solid, though not particularly unique, singer. Anyhoo, Cocked And Loaded (L.A. Gun’s second album) is a very strong effort with a handful of rockin’ tunes like Slap In The Face, Rip And Tear, and Never Enough. The Guns were no stranger to conventional song structures with memorable choruses and a party vibe. Biggest hit came by way of the terrific The Ballad Of Jane. Give A Little is another fave for me, with a fat-ass beat and a sticky chorus. Cocked And Loaded went platinum. It is L.A. Guns’ best-selling album, arriving at just the right time when the mainstream looked upon track marks, sunken cheeks, and eye-liner as a worthwhile endeavor. Sleazy come, sleazy go. My score: A-
Mötley Crüe – Dr. Feelgood (1989)
A supposedly sober(-ish) Crüe shat out this multi-platinum smash in 1989. It stands today as Motley Crüe’s best-selling album ever. And really, it couldn’t have happened to a worse bunch of fellas. I mean, these guys were just god-awful human beings! Did you ever read their autobiography The Dirt? I did, and these four dudes (especially Nikki) were just terrible, degenerate, miserable pieces of shit. (Even so, the book is a salacious read, and I plowed through it in like a day!) But just because the Crüe were a bunch of assholes doesn’t mean they didn’t rock. Let’s face it, Mötley Crüe were responsible for more strip-bar hits than any band in the history of the world. That alone should put them in the Hall of Fame. Yes, in many ways Mötley Crüe were style over substance (one critic calls them “the luckiest band in rock”), but they were always good for a couple of fun tunes per album. One can’t deny Dr. Feelgood had some pretty memorable tracks in Kickstart My Heart, Without You, Same Ol’ Situation (S.O.S.), Don’t Go Away Mad (Just Go Away), and the title track. All of these, comprising half of the album, were MTV hits. The rest? Not so memorable. But, five very good tracks out of ten (proper) songs? I’ll take that every time. My score: A-
Steelheart – Steelheart (1990)
Steelheart didn’t have a whole lot of great ideas to offer on their 1990 debut album. In fact, most of the songs sound as if they were stolen from David Coverdale’s trash can. But Steelheart’s ace in the hole was the superhuman vocal prowess of Michael Matijevik. The man was able to hit draw-dropping high notes in full voice (no falsetto). Steelheart is worth a listen if for no other reason but to listen in awe to Matijevik’s incredible voice. Exhibit-A would have to be the extraordinary power ballad I’ll Never Let You Go. As far as overblown hair metal power ballads go, I am prepared to declare I’ll Never Let You Go as the undisputed king of them all! You heard me. Matijevik’s vocals on this song are positively mind-blowing, shepherding this song straight into my “Hall Of Fame Of Songs That Make The Hair On My Neck Stand Up”. (I’m still working on the name.) Another good track is the rocking Everybody Loves Eileen. Went gold. My score: B-
Tesla – Mechanical Resonance (1986)
A strong debut for Tesla, though a tad frustrating at times. Mechanical Resonance contains a handful of great Tesla tunes, but also mixes in a couple of turds. On the awesome side, there is Ez Come Ez Go, Little Suzi, and two of Tesla’s all time best songs in Getting Better and Modern Day Cowboy. As for the duds, I’ll let you find ’em.
Tesla, maybe more so than any of the bands associated with the “hair” era, had a more universal hard rock sound. This, along with the fact that they weren’t at all glam or sleaze, allows them to be taken a little more seriously through history’s lens. Tesla didn’t do a whole lot to embarrass themselves back in the eighties. They put together a pretty impressive catalog from 1986-1994, with all of their albums going platinum except for one (which went gold). It all started here. My score: A-
Warrant – Dirty Rotten Filthy Stinking Rich (1989)
If you can’t find even the least bit of enjoyment from Warrant’s music, then you need to listen to Neil Diamond’s advice and turn on your f*cking heartlight, man. There just isn’t a time that I can think of when songs like Down Boys and In The Sticks won’t have me smiling and singing along. The way Warrant dressed and carried on was a little ridiculous, but the tunes were fun. That’s for damn sure.
Dirty Rotten Filthy Stinking Rich was Warrant’s double platinum debut. Warrant wanted to make it big… nay… KNEW they were going to make it big (just look at the album’s title). Lead singer and songwriter Jani Lane knew how to write concise, ear-friendly, “hits”. He wasted no time getting to the song’s chorus, which was always ridiculously catchy, and most of the songs had a very strong bridge section, too. Lyrically, he was no Bill Shakespeare (although his lyrics did improve greatly on Warrant’s sophomore album Cherry Pie), but his talent as a musician was beyond reproach (and I am dead serious when I say that). Lane had one of the better voices in the genre, not so much for his range as for the character of his voice and a certain genuine charm that made you think he was having just as much fun singing these tunes as you were listening to them on the car stereo. My score: A+
Whitesnake – Whitesnake (1987)
Here it is. The big kahuna. Whitesnake’s 1987 self-titled album is certified 8x platinum in the United States! It is by far Whitesnake’s biggest seller. Five of the album’s nine songs have been hard-wired into the brain of anyone who owned a radio in 1987 -1988. Crying In The Rain, Still Of The Night, Here I Go Again, Give Me All Your Love, and Is This Love were all “hits”.
David Coverdale’s Whitesnake was kind of like a corporation of sorts. The boss was David, and he fired and hired members of his supporting cast pretty liberally. He was also unashamed at jumping on the commercial metal bandwagon with this album (and to some extent, its predecessor Slide It In). There was a time when Whitesnake was a boozy and bluesy band complete with slide guitars and the jingle jangle of the piano. Those days were no more. Coverdale co-wrote Whitesnake with guitar hot-shot John Sykes and the final product is a prime example of commercial, corporate metal at its very best. Old school Whitesnake fans may have been disgusted with Coverdale’s sell-out, but the bottom line is that it worked. I find enjoyment in all of the ’80s Whitesnake albums, even though they changed their style mid way through the decade. Yes, Whitesnake lacks the warmth and the cool swagger of old albums like Ready An’ Willing, but the songs just plain rock.
Crying In The Rain and Here I Go Again were previously recorded on Whitesnake’s 1982 album Saints & Sinners. This time around they are beefed up into larger than life specimens. Here I Go Again is a masterpiece, it really is. The lyrics speak to everyone who has ever needed a little impetus to pick up the pieces and get on with life. I’m sure every one of us has walked along the lonely street of dreams one time or another. For example, I walked along the lonely street of dreams like six times today. My score: A