10 Hair Band Albums Reviewed (vol. 3)

Back in the day it wasn’t called “hair” metal.  That name came much later.  It was glam.  It was sleaze.  It was cock rock.  It was many things, and it was all the rage.  So here’s ten more albums from those crazy days (or… daze) of yore…

Tesla – The Great Radio Controversy (1989)

“You know I’m on a slick trip, I’m always ready to KICK ASS!”  A superb offering by Tesla, a band lumped in with the “hair” crowd, although their sound was more or less straightforward American hard rock/metal and their image was markedly less glam.  Tesla fans had to wait until 1989 for Tesla to follow-up their 1986 debut Mechanical Resonance (a near eternity between albums back in those days), and Tesla rewarded their fans’ patience with a robust set of thirteen songs, and (IMO) the best album of their (very solid) career.  Tesla displayed great depth on the album, mixing gritty blues-based hard rock and accessible heavy metal.  Tesla also used acoustic guitars liberally.  Heaven’s Trail (No Way Out) and Love Song are two absolutely essential tracks from this album.  The former, a great rocker that gets the juices flowing.  The latter, an exquisite (and unorthodox) ballad.  The Way It Is, Be A Man, and Lazy Days Crazy Nights are a few more of my favorites from The Great Radio Controversy.  Just a very cool band.  Tesla’s overarching message, it seems, was simply to enjoy life.  And The Great Radio Controversy provides a perfect soundtrack for just that.  My score: A+

Tesla – Five Man Acoustical Jam (1990)

This album captured Tesla in Philadelphia “f*cking around” and performing an all-acoustic set.  Five Man Acoustical Jam was another platinum seller for Tesla.  Along with a bevy of Tesla tunes from their first two albums, Tesla also peppered in a few covers (most famously Signs), showing their reverence to mid ’60s and early ’70s rock and roll.  The band was obviously enjoying themselves on stage, and the crowd seemed to love every second.  That said, I much prefer Tesla’s studio albums to this live set.  While there is a bit of a novelty factor to the acoustic versions of songs like Modern Day Cowboy and Comin’ Atcha Live, they pale in comparison to the plugged-in originals.  Like most live albums, I consider this one to be non-essential.  Five Man Acoustical Jam helped spark the “unplugged” craze that took off in the early to mid nineties.  Not sure if that’s a good thing or a bad thing.  If you’ve ever heard Alice In Chains’ 1996 MTV Unplugged album… then it’s a bad thing.  My score: B-

Kingdom Come – Kingdom Come (1988)

There was quite a bit of backlash thrown Kingdom Come’s way when this album came out.  Many thought Kingdom Come was ripping Led Zeppelin off big time.  And, to be honest, I can see their point.  Let’s face it, Lenny Wolf sounded very much like Robert Plant.  That alone shouldn’t be a crime, but Wolf went the extra mile and copied Plant’s style to a f*cking tee!  That’s probably going a bit too far, isn’t it?  But at the end of the day, I really don’t give a crap.  If the tunes sound good, that’s all I care about.  If you’re going to copy someone, why not copy (one of) the best bands ever?  It’s certainly better than the hundred or so thrash bands copying Slayer at the time!  Primo tunes include What Love Can Be, Get It On, and Loving You.  That said, some of the songs drift a bit to much — they lean a little too heavily on Zep’s “jam” side.  I would have preferred more concise songwriting.  Kingdom Come’s second album In Your Face (1989) was a bit better.  Despite the bad press, Kingdom Come is certified gold.  My score: B

Winger – In The Heart Of The Young (1990)

The second Winger album.  Another platinum seller for Kip and crew.  ‘Twas to be their last big seller, as soon the mainstream would turn their back on Winger, as they did pretty much all of the “hair” bands.  Winger, though, were hit particularly hard by the backlash as I recall.  Right or wrong?  I don’t know.  There is no denying the guys in Winger were talented musicians.  True pros.  Reb Beach was no slouch as a lead guitarist, that’s for sure.  In The Heart Of The Young, like its predecessor Winger was a mixed bag.  Some good tunes, some okay, a few duds.  Nothing on In The Heart Of The Young quite measured up to Madalaine or Seventeen from the debut.  Those were two great tracks!  The best song on In The Heart Of The Young, in my opinion, is Loosen Up.  A slick little rocker.  Can’t Get Enough, Miles Away, and Easy Come Easy Go are also pretty decent, though not mind-blowing.  Those four tracks, incidentally, were the first four songs on In The Heart Of The Young.  The last half of the album kind of falls of the shelf, though.  Kip Winger even raps on one song.  Whaaaa?  My score: B-

Helix – Over 60 Minutes With Helix (1989)

This was a CD compilation released by Capitol Records in 1989.  It contained 21 tracks on one CD, culled from three of the four albums Helix had recorded for Capitol Records at the time; No Rest For The Wicked (1983), Walkin’ The Razor’s Edge (1984), and Long Way To Heaven (1985).  These three albums had yet to be released on CD at the time, so Capitol used the compilation format to introduce selections from these albums to CD for the first time.  Helix’s 1987 album Wild In The Streets (also on Capitol Records) had already been released on CD.  As such, nothing from that album was included on this comp.  Three unreleased tracks were also included on Over 60 Minutes With Helix (none of them particularly great).  Nevertheless, how could you go wrong with 21 tracks from Helix on one CD!  Highlights include Rock You, Does A Fool Ever Learn, Check Out The Love, and No Rest For The Wicked.  My score: A-

Faster Pussycat – Wake Me When It’s Over (1989)

The best thing about this album is the monster ballad House Of Pain.  It’s one of the saddest and most poignant ballads from the hair era.  The lyrics are about the pain of growing up in a broken home.  Just a great song that tugs on the ‘ol heart-strings.  As for the rest of Wake Me When It’s Over, it contains a healthy dose of scum bag L.A. sleaze.  Booze, sluts, drugs… you know the score.  Vocalist Taime Downe had the quintessential sleaze rock voice.  This album has a touch of blues character mixed in with its degenerate glam n’ sleaze metal.  Though not consistently great, Wake Me When It’s Over has its moments.  Where There’s A Whip There’s A Way is probably my favorite song next to House Of Pain.  But honestly, I think L.A. Guns’ Cocked And Loaded (1989) and Love/Hate’s Blackout In The Red Room (1990), among others, did a better job delivering this brand of second-tier sewer rock.  My score: B

Dokken – Under Lock And Key (1985)

Before I get any further let me just say THAT ALBUM COVER SUCKS!  Look at those ridiculous rock helmets!  Look at those outfits!  Jeesh!  Once you get past the sucktacular cover shot, the music underneath ain’t so bad.  Under Lock And Key sports several of my favorite Dokken songs; Unchain The Night, The Hunter, In My Dreams, and Lightnin’ Strikes Again.  Those four songs, plus the weak Slippin’ Away, comprised all of side one of the original LP and cassette.  Side two, by contrast, was a bit disappointing.  Only It’s Not Love deserves any attention.  Under Lock And Key was not a particularly heavy album, and as such it can be rightfully considered an overt commercial attempt.  But this slick style suited Dokken quite well.  The melodrama of Don Dokken’s lyrics and smooth vocal delivery was the ying to George Lynch’s guitar-crunch yang.  Lynch gave Dokken a bit of street credibility with his metal acumen.  Though Dokken have never been one of my favorite hair bands, this is the Dokken album I listen to the most… well, side one anyways.  My score: B+

Black ‘N Blue – Black ‘N Blue (1984)

Black ‘N Blue debuted in 1984 with this self-titled album (Geffen Records).  In my opinion, Black ‘N Blue distinguished themselves from peers such as Ratt, Dokken, and Motley Crue by showcasing a more muscular and clean sound.  I would describe Black ‘N Blue’s brand of “hair” metal on this album as “athletic” or “jockish”.  The album exhibits plenty of testosterone, while minimizing elements of pretty boy glam posturing or sleaze.  Jaime St. James provided a crisp vocal delivery, spouting lyrics that can be best described as endearingly meat-headed.  Future Kiss scab Tommy Thayer teamed with Jeff Warner to dish out the guitar hijinks, while bassist Patrick Young and drummer Pete Holmes provided a very solid rhythm foundation on Black ‘N Blue.  This well-produced album is loaded with stout rock anthems like Hold On To 18, Chains Around Heaven, The Strong Will Rock, and Wicked Bitch.  Damn, I used to jam to this cassette in my car all the time!  These tunes sounded so great blaring from the car speakers.  Good dumb fun.  My score: A-

Twisted Sister – Come Out And Play (1985)

After reaching the highest of the highs with 1984’s Stay Hungry, something strange happened to Twisted Sister upon the release of their 1985 follow-up, Come Out And Play.  Fans, it seems, disappeared in droves.  I even remember my older brother straight up giving me his Come Out And Play cassette, as he was disappointed in his purchase.  Twisted Sister’s first single off Come Out And Play, their cover of Leader Of The Pack, was a poor choice for a single.  The album’s second single, Be Chrool To Your Scuel, was accompanied by a rather funny (and pretty cool… in a ’80s kind of way) music video.  Unfortunately, the video was banned by MTV.  This, one can be sure, really hurt Come Out And Play‘s sales (and the song was kind of silly, too).  Ironic isn’t it, that MTV, who were once instrumental in the blockbuster success of Stay Hungry, were now contributing directly to Twisted Sister’s rapid commercial decline?  MTV giveth, and MTV taketh away.  Overall, Come Out And Play was not a terrible album.  It was well-produced and had a couple of great tracks.  I think the song Come Out And Play is a great Twisted Sister tune!  Easily the best thing on the album, and the one track I listened to over and over once I got my hands on my brother’s unwanted cassette.  The intro to the song pays homage to the old movie The Warriors.  I’m also fond of You Want What We Got, another in a long line of simple, but effective, Twisted Sister anthems.  Lyrically, this album is pretty weak (but Dee Snider was never a great lyricist anyway), and side two of the album lacks anything outstanding.  The end result was a lukewarm follow-up to Stay Hungry, but not something without merit.  My score: B

Dirty Looks – Cool From The Wire (1988)

After 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:


2 thoughts on “10 Hair Band Albums Reviewed (vol. 3)

  1. The Black and Blue “Black and Blue” CD was first done in Japan, Geffen/ Brunette Records, then again in 2003, by Majestic Rock, and that one is getting harder and harder to find…and starting to see it show up in the collectors market for more than 3 times its original purchase price.

  2. You bring back a lot of memories. I remember a lot of those albums and have lots of memories from them. I remember my mother seeing the Dokken album and being jealous of the band because they had prettier hair than she did. Come Out and Play was a long way down from Stay Hungry although the track, “Looking Out for Number 1” became my personal motto back then.
    Thanks for the memories and hope you bring more.

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