Here’s a batch of (short) album reviews. All from 1981…
Whitesnake – Come An’ Get It
Though I consider myself a rather big Whitesnake fan, I must admit I have no love for the Come An’ Get It album. Of the six studio albums David Coverdale’s Whitesnake released in the eighties, Come An’ Get It was the last one I listened to, and maybe that has a little to do with my disinterest in the album. I feel that all the best moments of Whitesnake’s rockin’ blues years were exhibited nicely on 1980’s Ready An’ Willing, and especially on the stellar Saints & Sinners (1982). When I got around to Come An’ Get It, I felt there was nothing that hadn’t been done better on the two albums it lies betwixt. Come An’ Get It is listenable (thanks to strong production courtesy of Martin Birch, and the always fine voice of Coverdale), but the songs are just tepid and lackluster. I consider this the red-headed step child of my Whitesnake collection; passed over and disowned. Come An’ Get It may be necessary for the completist within me, but nevertheless it is wasted on my ears. A rare moment of flacidity for Mr. Coverdale. My score: C+
Riot – Fire Down Under
While heavy metal bands were spreading like an STD across the U.K., only a scant few American bands were dipping their toes in the dirty waters. New York’s Riot were there in the thick of it all. Early as shit, and rocking incredibly hard for ’81. Fire Down Under was Riot’s third album, and stands today as their best known release (although 1988’s Thundersteel also has a bit of a following). Album opener Swords And Tequila roars through the speakers, introducing the listener to the open air, live-sounding production of the record, as well as plenty of crunchy power chords, and Guy Speranza’s energetic, cooler-than-the-other-side-of-the-pillow voice. (They should have named the album Swords And Tequila in my opinion, how cool a name is that?) The speedy title track follows; two and a half minutes of early metal adrenaline. Track four, Outlaw, is easily my fave of this set. Outlaw is a great piece of hard rock storytelling with the most memorable chorus on the album. Riot did America proud with this LP. What the f*ck is with that “mascot” on the cover, though? My score: B+
Hanoi Rocks – Bangkok Shocks, Saigon Shakes, Hanoi Rocks
Hanoi Rocks! Emaciated, wasted, and Finnish… these garbage pail kids debuted in 1981 with Bangkok Shocks, Saigon Shakes, Hanoi Rocks. The album was produced by the band members Andy McCoy (guitar) and Michael Monroe (vocals).
First the bad. The spoken word sections in the song Don’t Never Leave Me are just god awful! It’s like Hanoi Rocks pried open my ear canals and raped them mercilessly! I can’t express to you enough how mind-numbingly brutal this is. Hanoi Rocks later re-recorded this song (with a more grammatically correct, sans double-negative title: Don’t You Ever Leave Me) on their 1984 album Two Steps From The Move. They still included spoken word sections… much different… still awful… but not awful enough to make me want to blow my brains out like the original found here.
And now the good. Pretty much everything else! Pulling influences from all over; punk, glam, the Stones, and old timey rock n’ roll, Hanoi Rocks were able to fuse their influences into an eclectic and highly enjoyable debut. Though not particularly heavy, this album is just quality rock and roll all around. Highlights include Tragedy, Village Girl, and the exquisite Cheyenne. My score: B+
Accept – Breaker
Accept followed up their rather restrained sophomore LP, I’m A Rebel (1980), with this much weightier effort. Evidently, Accept were angry with their record label’s meddling on the I’m A Rebel recording and decided to make a statement with Breaker. Indeed, these German meisters o’ metal were full of piss and vinegar, and in the process appeared to have found their sonic identity, no longer content in being cast as a poor man’s AC/DC.
Breaker is the beginning of Accept’s ascent into near-godly status (an ascent that apexed with 1983’s Balls to The Wall in my opinion). Their defiance is embodied by the profanity-laced Son Of A Bitch, a middle finger to their record label and a rousing blast of sonic fury. The only stinker on the album is the ballad Breaking Up Again, sung by bassist Peter Baltes (Udo Derkschneider sings lead on all the other tracks). Baltes’ ordinary (boring) voice stands out like a fart in church next to Udo’s patented werewolf howling. My score: B+
Judas Priest – Point Of Entry
I would be hard pressed to convince myself that Point Of Entry is anything other than a wild swing and miss by Judas Priest. Though the band have never admitted it, their intentions seem undeniably clear with this album: to sell out to what they perceived American audiences wanted to hear. Riding high from the somewhat surprising success they achieved with the commercial-sounding songs Breaking The Law and Living After Midnight from 1980’s British Steel, Priest decided to make an album full of similarly accessible rockers, and in the process dumbed-down their sound to a more streamlined (and decidedly non-metal) approach. Apparently, lobodomizing their sound was what Priest felt they need to do to garner mass appeal in the States. I’m not sure what that says about we as Americans, but its a sad testimony indeed. Point Of Entry finds Priest consciously moving away from their strengths, sucking the metal out of their bones, and shedding their innovative skin. Overall the album is just too simple and dumb for a band like Judas Priest, and is their worst album since their debut. That being said, Point Of Entry is not a monstrosity. Afterall, any album with Heading Out To The Highway and Desert Plains makes for a worthwhile listen. Only in the context of Judas Priest’s previous works is it a disappointment. But in comparison to some of the competition out there at the time, Point Of Entry ain’t all too bad. The cover shown is the U.S. version. In Europe, the cover looked liked this. My score: B-
UFO – The Wild, The Willing And The Innocent
The second album of UFO’s post Michael Schenker era is not all too different from the first, No Place To Run. Paul Chapman returns on guitar and Phil Mogg’s continues to work out his apparent Bruce Springsteen-meets-Bad Company fixation. The Wild, The Willing And The Innocent finds UFO content in traveling in a more mature, “adult” direction (that is to say, a less kick-ass direction). As a result, the album does not necessarily appeal to the hard rock fan in me. Highlights include Chains Chains and the delicate Lonely Heart. Both were co-written by bassist Pete Way. Unfortunately, the album lacks a truly outstanding cut such as No Place To Run‘s excellent Youngblood. A quality release, but like I said, not really all that hard rockin’. My score: B
The Michael Schenker Group – MSG
The second album from The Michael Schenker Group, MSG, is better than the debut, The Michael Schenker Group, from 1980. This time around, Schenker has Paul Raymond (ex-UFO) on keyboards and rhythm guitar, and Cozy Powell on drums. Gary Barden returns on vocals. Raymond wrote my favorite track on the record, the great ballad Never Trust A Stranger (highlighted by a stellar vocal performance by Barden, and a smooth solo by Schenker). Other highlights include On And On, and Looking For Love. Unfortunately, the great lineup Schenker put together for the MSG album was blown up by the time its follow-up, Assault Attack (1982) came ’round. Such would be the story of the enigmatic Schenker’s “build and destroy” career. My score: B+
Mötley Crüe – Too Fast For Love
Too Fast For Love was originally released independently by Mötley Crüe and their management on the Leathur Records imprint in December of 1981. The indie release gained enough attention to attract a major label, Elektra Records, to come calling. Elektra signed the Crüe and released a remixed version of Too Fast For Love in 1982. (One track, Stick to Your Guns, was omitted from the Elektra release.)
Crüe were kings on the Sunset Strip during the Too Fast For Love days. Because of their shockingly glam look and live shows, their detractors argued that Mötley Crüe were more style than substance. Too Fast For Love proves that those detractors were… err… well, they were actually RIGHT! How the hell Mick Mars ever got to make a record is anyone’s guess! The man didn’t write (Nikki did all the writing), he was too ugly to be in a “glam” band, and he sure as shit wasn’t a very good guitarist. I say this with all due respect to Mr. Mars, but Jesus H. Christ, he was not ready for primetime at all! Mick Mars belongs in the Ringo Starr Hall Of Fame Of Lucky. Besides Mick’s crappy playing, Nikki’s writing was a little shaky, and Vince’s voice was still unpolished on this record. (Tommy Lee was clearly the best musician in the band.) Nevertheless, the Crüe made up for their lack of talent with insane levels of cockiness and bravado. Somehow, their delusions of grandeur worked as a contagion, making this wobbly debut something that just can’t be resisted. Rather than dissect it, I guess its best to just enjoy the wild ride. This is raw Crüe, direct from the seedy underbelly and into your speakers. Too fast for love, and too out of control to learn their craft. My score: B
Legend – Legend
Legend hailed from the U.K. channel island of Jersey. They embodied one of the NWOBHM most critical attributes; that being the do-it-yourself ethic. Legend self-released Legend (Workshop Records) in 1981. Their geographical isolation no doubt contributed to their ever-obscure status, but their fiercely independent form of heavy metal music may have also, unfortunately, left them on the outskirts of the NWOBHM scene. Today Legend seems to have amassed a very small but devoted cult fan base. Certainly the age of the internet has played an important role in the rediscovery of Legend. Also, the 2002 CD release of Legend’s entire back catalog on a two disc set called Anthology aided the cause, as their music was previously very hard to find.
Comprised of seven tracks, Legend is a unique amalgam of doom and gloom, avant-garde, prog, and even folk. Vocalist Mike Lezala kind of reminds me of Art Garfunkel sometimes (seriously!). Legend was an ambitious band to say the least. A lost treasure? Hmmmm… I don’t know about that. My score: C+
Diamond Head – Diamond Lights
This was a four song EP (12” vinyl, DHM Records) featuring Diamond Lights, We Won’t Be Back, I Don’t Got, and It’s Electric. Diamond Lights was the follow-up to Diamond Head’s debut LP Lightning To The Nations (1980). Of the four tracks, It’s Electric is clearly the best (this song was also on Lightning To The Nations). It’s Electric has a certain youthful, hopeful energy that personifies the excitement of the early NWOBHM. (Quintessential Diamond Head before the music business crushed their dreams into a fine powder.) We Won’t Be Back has a similar feel to It’s Electric, though it doesn’t measure up in terms of memorability. I Don’t Got is Zep worship through and through. The title track sounds like it was written in about three minutes, though it is endearing thanks to Sean Harris’ unorthodox, sometimes out-of-tune, vocal delivery. Incidentally, I encountered the four tracks from the Diamond Lights EP on the Diamond Nights CD compilation (Metal Blade Records, 2000), which features all of the Lightning To The Nations LP, the Diamond Lights EP, and material from Diamond Head’s early singles. All faithful, original recordings (no remixes, no re-recordings). A good one to track down. My score: B