Tales of the Tape (volume 3)

As I laid out in detail in Tales of the Tape (volume 1), I’m trying to listen to all my old tapes before they disintegrate.  Here’s ten more from the dusty vaults…

Razor – Evil Invaders (1985)

These Canadians were early arrivers on the thrash scene, debuting in ’84 with an indie release called Armed And DangerousEvil Invaders was Razor’s third album, and second on the Viper Records label.  The sound is cut-throat, back alley thrash intent on punishing posers and banging the head that does not bang.  Vocalist Stace “Sheepdog” McClaren spews his motor breath all over these no-frills swills.  Sleeveless denim for one and all.  Highlights include Cross Me Fool, Evil Invaders, and the Motorhead lovin’ Iron Hammer.  Razor were not nearly as creative as their Bay Area peers, yet they seemed at home in the underground, playing the part of simple speed merchants, and speed-bagging scrotums in the name of metal.  My score: B-

Twisted Sister – Under The Blade (1982)

Under The Blade was originally released in the U.K. by a small label called Secret Records (cover shown on the left).  At the time, Twisted Sister could not get a record deal in the States despite being an already legendary live act in the tri-state area.  Anyway, Secret Records went belly up shortly thereafter, and Twisted Sister did (thankfully) wind up on a major label, Atlantic Records.  Two years and two records later, Twisted Sister were a household name.  Riding the wave, Atlantic released a re-mixed version of Under The Blade in 1985 (with a slightly different cover, see below).  That’s the tape I have here before me.

Under The Blade opens with the rousing What You Don’t Know (Sure Can Hurt You); a potent dose of Dee and crew.  Bad Boys (Of Rock ‘N’ Roll), an energetic, old-fashioned crowd pleaser, comes next.  Run For Your Life and Sin After Sin follow; a pair of solid but unremarkable metal cuts.  Side one closes with Under The Blade’s unquestionable highlight Shoot ‘Em Down.  Tight and lethal, Shoot ‘Em Down epitomizes Twisted Sister’s insatiable hunger in the early eighties (“Shoot them down with a f*cking gun!”).  Hell yeah!  Side two opens with a trio of nasty cuts in Destroyer, Under The Blade (easily the best song on side two), and Tear It Loose.  The 1985 edition’s “bonus” track I’ll Never Grow Up, Now! is an old chestnut from 1979 that feels out-of-place on this album.  Under The Blade closes rather weakly with the ordinary Day Of The Rocker.  Overall, an impressive (studio) debut from those good ol’ S.M.F.s, Twisted Sister.  My score: B+

Deep Purple – Perfect Strangers (1984)

The classic Mark II line-up (Blackmore, Gillan, Glover, Lord, and Paice) reformed to some fanfare with the platinum selling LP Perfect Strangers.  The title track is a behemoth of epic proportions; one of my all-time favorite tunes.  Yet, I’ve never felt an urgency to elevate my Perfect Strangers tape to CD.  Of the nine tracks herein, I’ve only got big lust for Perfect Strangers, and to a lesser extent Knocking At Your Back Door, and to an even lesser extent, A Gypsy’s Kiss.  A handful of average tracks round out the album, and there’s even a full-on pile of suck called Mean Streak.  Much to do about nothing?  Not at all… Perfect Strangers is a solid album (I guess).  If I see it on CD at my local pawn shop for one buck (their standard rate), its mine.  Until then?  Tape deck city.  My score: B

Nasty Savage – Nasty Savage (1985)

The Florida metal band Nasty Savage debuted in 1985 with this self-titled album on Metal Blade Records.  Like the band Razor that I reviewed above, Nasty Savage were hell-bent on pulverizing posers into a fine powder.  Led by Nasty Ronnie on vocals and the twin-guitar assault of Ben Meyer and David Austin, Nasty Savage took a frothy power metal stance that reminds me of Mercyful Fate more so than any other band I can think of.  Nastie Ronnie is quite the character on vocals, sounding a bit cartoonish to be honest.  He throws around some King Diamond style highs as well as some belchy lows.  The real attraction here (at least for me) is the tight, intelligent riffing of Meyer and Austin.  The production on Nasty Savage is pretty good for a 1985 Metal Blade recording, making this record easy to breathe in.  I can’t classify any of the individual tracks as personal faves, which hurts the rating a bit, but the metal on display is a potent witch’s brew.  Nasty Savage is  a dose of controlled fury by an American band with blackened veins and metal brains.  My score: B-

Robert Plant – The Principle Of Moments (1983)

Well, well, well.  I was preparing to give a fresh listen to my The Principle Of Moments tape, when I opened up the cassette case to find… Cheap Trick At Budakon!  Where the hell is my Robert Plant tape?  Long lost I guess.  Anyhoo, I went out and bought The Principle Of Moments on CD (yeah… I cheated).  So now I have a copy of The Principle Of Moments in my collection and something tangible to review.

The Principle Of Moments is Robert Plant’s second solo album after the demise of the mighty Zep.  Solo Plant didn’t really share much in common with the “Hammer Of The Gods” sound of ol’ Led Zeppelin.  Instead, an older (and wiser?) Robert Plant tackled some sort of pan-world, modern sound.  Not heavy at all.  In fact, its softer than Charmin bath tissue.  The arrangements are sparse, seemingly underwritten (intentionally?), and really laid back.  Nevertheless, The Principle Of Moments is an enjoyable, rocking-chair of a record.  Included are a couple of radio staples in the exquisite In The Mood, and the atmospheric Big Log.  Plant seems to have lost some range in his voice, as he doesn’t test the waters at all.  He stays comfortably at home within the new confines of his aged pipes.  Without Jimmy Page, Robert Plant is a whole different animal.  More “adult” now, and chillin’ with dudes like Phil Collins (who drums on this record).  If you can accept what Plant is trying to do here, you can really get behind these spatial (de-)constructions.  For tea-sipping moods.  My score:

Rush – Moving Pictures (1981)

Side one of this famous Rush record contains a couple of FM classics — the immortal Tom Sawyer as well as the catchy Limelight.  These two accessible rock tracks appeal to easy-to-please, dunce-cap wearing rock fans like myself.  Side one also contains the instrumental YYZ and another radio friendly tune called Red Barchetta (though this one is not a fave of mine).  Side two is where Moving Pictures kind of loses me (the casual fan).  It  kicks off with a pair of long, indulgent progressive snoozers called The Camera Eye and Witch Hunt.  (Am I in an elevator?)  Rush have legions of fiercely loyal fans who drool over progressive excursions such as these, so I must be missing something.  I guess I just don’t have that Rush gene.  Oh well.  The album closes with Vital Signs — a good song that awakens me from my slumber.  Rush has always been a hit and miss game for me.  Tell me I don’t get it.  I’ll tell you that you are right.  But at least I try, doesn’t that say something?  My score: B

Keel – Lay Down The Law (1984)

That classy cover photo houses the debut record from the band Keel, named for their leader, vocalist Ron Keel (ex-Steeler).  The album opens with a pair of loud n’ proud cuts, Thunder And Lightning and Lay Down The Law.  Keel was sort of a grittier take on (early) hair metal; much heavier than Dokken and more anthemic than Ratt.  (Think T.K.O.)  Ron Keel had a fine metal voice, sounding nasty and somewhat gravelly, but also possessing a potent scream.  The band’s attempt at a ballad is a wild swing-and-a-miss; Princess Of Illusion has them spreading their butt-cheeks and spraying rancid diarrhea all over my tape deck!  The metal tunes are much more in Keel’s wheelhouse.  Side two kind of languishes a bit until the upswing of the album closer, a pretty good cover of Let’s Spend The Night Together.  Overall, Lay Down The Law is a cheap ‘n nasty, low-budget party metal album that just doesn’t seem to have that extra something to get it out of 1984.  My score: B- 

Icon – Night Of The Crime (1985)

I am a  fan of Icon’s 1984 self-titled debut (previously reviewed here).  That album is an overlooked slice of (early) hair metal that stands up pretty well today against some of the more “famous” records from 1984 by bands such as Ratt, W.A.S.P, or Dokken.  The follow-up to Icon was 1985’s Night Of The Crime, an album that saw Icon moving away from the hard-edged metallic nature of the debut and into a very commercial AOR direction.  Apparently no longer interested (or willing?) to compete with the metal crowd, Icon tried their luck with a sound akin to the Night Rangers and Survivors of the world.  Can’t say they didn’t throw themselves headlong into the AOR pool with this keyboard-heavy, glossy arena rock offering.  They seem fully committed to the approach.  But in so doing, they crafted a very generic sounding record that lacks the fire of the debut.  Though well-executed, I consider Night Of The Crime a disappointment.  It’s just too light in the loafers for my taste.  I think Icon tried too hard with this one.  My score: C+

Slade – Keep Your Hands Off My Power Supply (1984)

Slade had been around for a very long time by 1984.  They had a series of hits in the U.K. in the early ’70s when glam rock was in fashion.  Despite their success in the U.K., Slade were pretty much ignored in the United States.  But Quiet Riot’s 1983 cover of Slade’s Cum On Feel The Noize was a humongous hit in the States, and as a result Slade was given another crack at the U.S. mainstream.  CBS Records released Keep Your Hands Off My Power Supply in 1984.  The album consisted of material from ’82, ’83, and ’84.  Most of the songs on Keep Your Hands Off My Power Supply appeared previously on Slade’s 1983 album The Amazing Kamikaze Syndrome (which was not released in the United States).

I’m not really sure if Keep Your Hands Off My Power Supply qualifies as hard rock, but I chose to include it here anyway.  Close enough.  The album opens with its two radio hits, Run Runaway and My Oh My.  Both have inescapable melodies that jump right out of the speakers and grab the listener’s attention.  This is pure ear candy.  Other highlights include the title track and Slam The Hammer Down.  The songs on Keep Your Hands Off My Power Supply are immediate and easy to digest.  Though this isn’t a record I can see myself playing over and over, I can’t deny the sheer pop sensibility of these tunes.  Noddy Holder’s patented holler is one to behold.  This bit of Queen/Meat Loaf/Dexys Midnight Runners song craft is a happy little fix.  My score: B+

Helix – No Rest For The Wicked (1983)

Here’s a sweaty batch of hot ‘n dirty hard rock.  Helix didn’t mess around too much on No Rest For The Wicked.  This is meat and potatoes stuff that wants no more than to get “wild” in the “streets” with “rock and roll” (and other assorted lyrical clichés).  Everybody sing along because its party time, and Helix is buyin’.  Power chords and crowd pleasing choruses greet you in every tune.  The anthemic refrains come early and often, smacking you right in your ugly face, forcing you to smile.  It ain’t rocket science, but I’m sure it sounded real good blasting from the car’s tape deck on a hot Friday night in ’83 (make that a cold Friday night… these dudes are Canadian).  If you’re in the right mood, No Rest For The Wicked and a frosty brew may be all you’ll need tonight.  Let the good times roll.  My score: B+

See also:

Tales of the Tape (volume 1)

Tales of the Tape (volume 2)


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