Season’s beatings! I bring you tidings of great (and not so great) metal and hard rock…
Nightmare – Power Of The Universe (1985)
Power Of The Universe was Nightmare’s second album. It was released on the U.K. label Ebony Records. And while Ebony had some very good bands on their roster (like Chateaux and Grim Reaper), their albums always suffered from low-rent production values. Power Of The Universe certainly was no different. This one sounds tattered and frayed for sure. Still, Nightmare was able to make a convincing go of it. Of particular note are the soaring vocals of one Jean-Marie Boix. Sure, he’s wasn’t always pitch-perfect. Also, his lyrics are hard to understand thanks to his thick French accent. (Did I mention these guys were French?) Anywayz, ol’ Jean-Marie gets by on starry-eyed exuberance and conviction alone. Out front in the mix, warts and all, take a bow Jean-Marie (R.I.P.). My score: B-
Blackfoot – Tomcattin’ (1980)
How about a little Southern-fried hard rock? It’s hard not to get a shit-eating grin on your face when listening to Blackfoot’s tails of backwoods boozery and tomfoolery. Blackfoot’s front man was Rickey Medlocke — a crazy-eyed son of a bitch with a great voice, Native American blood, and charisma to spare. Don’t let the southern rock label fool you, these guys had the amps cranked up to ten. Nope, Blackfoot weren’t content on merely front porch twangin’ — they were fixin’ for a fight. You can practically smell the beer on their breath through the speakers. Check out Every Man Should Know (Queenie) – a great cut! Blackfoot had a bit of success in the early eighties with this album and its follow-up Marauder (1981). But when MTV came along, Blackfoot didn’t really translate to the new medium du jour — their ugliness not helping matters. My score: A
Celtic Frost – Into The Pandemonium (1987)
Enter the mind of Tom G. Warrior. Celtic Frost’s guitarist, vocalist, and songwriter was of a strange breed indeed. His obtuse take on metal makes for a unique first listen, though not necessarily one warranting return visits (IMO). Warrior’s experimental nature has been greatly applauded by critics and fans, though I get the sense he was eclectic for eclectic’s sake. That is, he was trying to please the critics — to be an “artist”. One need only to peruse the ridiculously pretentious lyrics for proof. Celtic Frost put some genre-bending bells and whistles on to this album — take for example filler cuts like One In Their Pride and Tristesses De La Lune (a track included on the North American issue of Into The Pandemonium). But behind the veil, Into The Pandemonium is merely a collection of rudimentary metal songs, badly sung. Interesting? Sort of. Life changing? Hellz no. Highlights: Mexican Radio and I Won’t Dance. My score: C
The Black Crowes – Shake Your Money Maker (1990)
I would venture to guess that the song She Talks To Angels is responsible for more broken guitar strings than any other song in the last 25 years. You see, She Talks To Angels has one of those great acoustic riffs that every new guitarist wants to learn (much like Over The Hills And Far Away or Wish You Were Here). But because She Talks To Angels is performed using “open E” tuning, it means that two guitar strings have to be raised a full step, and another string raised a half-step in order to play the song. Needless to say, you have to be careful when tightening the strings or… POP!! You learn the hard way! She Talks To Angels is a great song that has certainly left its mark on rock history. A mountain of broken strings is your proof.
When The Black Crowes arrived on the scene in 1990 they were a refreshing presence. They were old and they were new. The Black Crowes were old because they wore their 70’s rock influences on their sonic sleeve. They were new because not many bands were practitioners of the “classic rock” sound at the time. Many a young rock fan raised on MTV and glam metal hadn’t even heard the slew of 70’s rock bands that had influenced The Black Crowes. So hey, it was new to them!
Shake Your Money Maker contains no less than five essential songs — Twice As Hard, Jealous Again, She Talks To Angels, Thick N’ Thin, and Hard To Handle. Except for Hard To Handle, all the songs on the album were written by the Robinson brothers. Guitarist Rich came up with some great riffs (Twice As Hard is probably my fave). And his brother Chris had the perfect voice for this brand of rock — a very smooth delivery with a slight rasp. He also had a touch of blues, and even gospel, in his voice. Together the two brothers and The Black Crowes made a timeless slice of rock n’ roll. This kind of thing seems to have a universal appeal, and never shows its age. No wonder Shake Your Money Maker is currently sitting at 5X platinum! My score: A+