Black Sheep – Trouble In The Streets
Just another L.A. band that never turned the corner. Black Sheep was led by a guy named Willie Basse. The band gets its name because Basse was black (but to be clear, he was NOT a sheep). Basse sang and also penned most of the tunes on Trouble In The Streets. The sound here is a clanky, in-your-face style of streetwise Hollyweird glam. Kind of like early Keel, maybe? Fact is, Black Sheep may have undermined their own delusions of stardom by being a bit too heavy for their own good, and that of the burgeoning L.A. scene. No matter, as the songs aren’t anything to get a pants tent over. Side one is pretty damn forgettable. Side two picks up the pieces just a bit. My fave is Stick! (To Your Guns). Trivia note: the band featured a young Paul Gilbert in their ranks. My score: C
Mad Max – Stormchild
Stormchild was Mad Max’s third album, and second with singer Michael Voss in tow. This is the follow-up to Mad Max’s excellent Rollin’ Thunder album of 1984, an album that turned me on to these German melodic metal merchants in the first place. Having heard Rollin’ Thunder well before acquiring Stormchild, I think I may have been spoiled by my own expectations for another kick-ass Mad Max LP. I am a bit disappointed with Stormchild for no other reason than the songs aren’t as good. I really can’t say that Mad Max made any significant departure from Rollin’ Thunder here, it’s just that the quality has diminished. Maybe its a case of “been there, done that” for me. That is, I don’t hear any progression on Mad Max’s part (though usually that’s not something I look for anyway). Oh well, no need to over-analyze. I guess it’s just a case of lightning not striking twice. Stick with Rollin’ Thunder and you’ll be fine. My score: C+
Leviticus – The Strongest Power
When vocalist Hakan Andersson proudly exclaims “my heart is beating for the Lord” on album opener The Winner, you know these guys were hitting the Jesus juice hard. With his crisp baritone and heavy Swedish accent, Andersson gave glory to his God in a somewhat awkward, never-rhyming fashion. Meanwhile his band mates (led by guitarist/songwriter Bjorn Stigsson ) dished out a thundering brand of simplistic metal behind him. Though I’m always a little uncomfortable listening to Christian bands recite their love letters to Jesus Christ, at least they believed in what they were preaching. Their sincerity makes them likeable, even though their message means nothing to me. The Strongest Power is a little more polished (and less cheesy) than its predecessor I Shall Conquer! from 1984. However, what The Strongest Power lacks is any truly infectious tunes (unlike I Shall Conquer!, which had a few). This album was originally released in Sweden by Twilight Records. In 1986, The Strongest Power was released in the United States (with a different cover) by the premiere U.S. Christian metal label, Pure Metal Records. My score: B-
E.F. Band – One Night Stand
One Night Stand was the third and final E.F. Band album. It was unlike the previous two E.F. Band records. With One Night Stand, E.F. Band stepped away from their retro-seventies prog fog and into the world of meat n’ potatoes metal. They were signed by the non-discerning Belgian metal label Mausoleum Records — a label willing to sign pretty much anyone based on two stipulations: 1. You must own an instrument, and 2. You must look ridiculous. Yes indeed, E.F. Band jumped on the metal bandwagon hard, and they fit right in with the second (or third) tier crowd. I would put them somewhere between Victory and Bullet on the ranking charts. Stock riffs, steady drums, and a decent singer all add up to a worthwhile listen. Problem is, the vocals are inexplicably mixed WAY back. Very frustrating indeed. This knocks One Night Stand down a peg or two. No points awarded for that terrible album cover either! My score: C+
Black ‘N Blue – Without Love
After only about six months of gigging in Los Angeles, Portland’s Black ‘N Blue landed a major label deal with Geffen Records. Their 1984 debut album Black ‘N Blue was a strong album (IMO), but didn’t perform to the band’s expectations. Frustrated by a lack of radio airplay, Black ‘N Blue made a conscious effort to write lighter and more accessible tunes for their sophomore album Without Love. Unfortunately, the album didn’t return any hits as hoped.
I don’t think Without Love is as good as Black ‘N Blue, but it’s still the same loveable and adolescent Black ‘N Blue at work. In fact, I think the lyrics here are actually dumber than the debut (no small feat, mind you). There are two great tunes on Without You that deserve a little extra attention — Without Love and Nature Of The Beach. The former is an infectious mid-paced rocker that will stick in your brain all day long. The latter is knuckle-headed bit of fun in the sun that will have you daydreaming of summer and big ol’ bikini-clad titties! My score: B
Odin – Don’t Take No For An Answer
Odin are best known for their appearance in the 1988 documentary The Decline of Western Civilization Part II: The Metal Years. That movie didn’t paint Odin in a very flattering light. My favorite part of the movie was when the director asked Odin lead singer “Randy O.” why he wears assless chaps on stage, to which Randy replied “to ventilate my scrotum sack”. Classic. The movie also showed Odin performing live in L.A. — and they were awful. Needless to say, the director tried to make a fool out of Odin, and Odin (to their discredit) made it all too easy for her. Hey, say what you want about Odin, but at least they were having a blast and living out the rock ‘n roll dream!
A few years prior to The Decline of Western Civilization Part II: The Metal Years, Odin released Don’t Take No for An Answer (Half-Wet Records). While the movie would have you think that Odin weren’t even capable of wiping their own asses, Odin actually sounded professional and well-schooled on this six track record. Sure, Randy O. kind of oversold his vocals to the point of annoyance, and the songs seem to falter come chorus time, but I can honestly say Don’t Take No For An Answer doesn’t suck. The sound here is L.A. glam mixed with American power metal. Actually, this album is heavier than you might expect. And it came in a cool white vinyl (which I proudly own). Heck, maybe we should all take a lesson from ol’ Odin and not take life so seriously? Maybe we should all let our proverbial scrotum sacks dangle in the breeze? Maybe I should just shut up now. My score: C+