Racer X – “Street Lethal” (1986)

Racer XWe can credit Yngwie J. Malmsteen’s Rising Force LP (1984) for ushering in a wave of shred-centric metal albums in the mid and late eighties.  The idea that a metal band could center solely around a virtuoso guitar player was a relatively new one (at least in the commercial sense).  We certainly had seen virtuosos before, but they had almost always shared the spotlight with a lead singer of equal billing.  After Yngwie’s arrival, we started to see shred records without any vocals at all, or records where the lead singer took a back seat to the marquee attraction — the guitarist.

Shrapnel Records was synonymous with shred in the 80’s, and this is the label that introduced us to Racer X.  Notice the album cover says Racer X “with Paul Gilbert”.  Paul being the flashy young guitarist.

Street Lethal features fast metal with a nod towards the popular glam movement happening in L.A. at the time.  High hair and high octane, Racer X attempted to appease the shred-thirsty niche fans as well as the pop metal masses.  For the most part, Racer X succeeded at toeing the line.  There are flaws though.  The hooks are a little weak, and Jeff Martin’s vocals are average at best.  Shabby production doesn’t help either.  My score: B-

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3 thoughts on “Racer X – “Street Lethal” (1986)

  1. Not great? Flaws? Paul Gilbert was just a gangly 18 year old when this album was recorded. Racer X was the prototypical Shrapnel Band. Shred-Fest at it’s best. They could be considered a faster paced Judas Priest rip off. Much like their song Y.R.O (Yngwie Rip Off).
    Street Lethal, Get Away, Into the Night. Many quality rockers in this debut. And a fine debut it is. Their sophomore album Second Heat brings even more to the race track, Along with new drummer Scott Travis who has been the drummer for Judas Priest since Painkiller. Starting to see the connection are you not? Get it and turn it to 11!

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