As a metal band in the eighties, one of the easiest things to do was make sure your album cover was kick-ass. Whether it be something Satanic, violent, or misogynistic — you just had to make sure the album cover was provocative enough to grab a teenage boy’s attention. So many metal albums were purchased (or stolen) based strictly on their album cover. Prisoner failed to adhere to this one simple rule. The cover of Rip It Up looks like something made with Microsoft Word clip-art. With a name like Prisoner and an album called Rip It Up, there were so many possible cover choices. How about a prisoner ripping out his cellmate’s throat? Just an example. I’m brainstorming here. What about a sweaty, scantily clad vixen locked behind prison bars? That’s caged heat!
It’s not often I come across an album like Prisoner’s Rip It Up. This is one of those albums that has an endearing dumbness to it that hits on something so genuine and so adolescent that you’ve just got to buy in. I can think of two other albums that possess this quality — Black N’ Blue’s self-title debut (1984) and Hawaii’s The Natives Are Restless (1985). Rip It Up isn’t as good as either of those two, but it certainly has the same knuckle-headed charm!
Prisoner weren’t making any kind of grand statement with Rip It Up. They obviously were young, stupid, and wanted nothing more than to rock you. Teenage wasteland lyrics delight at every turn. The wonderfully titled Give Your Hips A Try uses its chorus refrain to ask the age-old question “metal or what?”. Metal or what indeed!
Guitarist Josie Steele took direction from all the usual suspects. His opening riff on Backstabber is quintessential Judas Priest. He probably rummaged through Scorpions’ garbage to find his riffs for Spin Me Round and Rip It Up. (His melodic solos are more in line with the glam metal sect.)
Prisoner’s lead singer was the Coburn Pharr (later to join Omen and then Annihilator). Here we capture the young Pharr as a total amateur. But goddamnit he’s “all in”. Singing his heart out. But his conviction can’t hide the fact that he is out-of-tune about 70% of the time! God bless this silly, mullet-headed man.
Prisoner’s Rip It Up is a fun album. It’s bad. But also good. A crisp, even mix adds to the enjoyment.
Note: Rip It Up was released on the short-lived Metal Blade sub-label Dimension. I’m only aware of two other metal albums released on the Dimension label. Both were by Jesters Of Destiny. My score: B