Classic Rock’s New Release Round-Up
This week we’ve got reissues from Autograph, Fandango, Cycle Sluts From Hell and Wall Of Voodoo, and a brand new DVD called Amazonia from The Scorpions. Turn ze spotlights on ze endangered species!
When, in March 1985, West Coast wimps Autograph scored an unlikely US hit single (Turn Up The Radio) their original record company, RCA, rushed them back into the studio to record a follow-up to their debut album Sign In Please. The result, That’s The Stuff, is back on the shelves via the Rock Candy label. It mightn’t be the band’s best work – but with song titles such as Blondes In Black Cars, who cares? Autograph clearly knew their AOR chops but in the cold light of 2010 That’s The Stuff often comes across as a pastiche of the genre. Steve ‘Plunk’ Plunkett’s vocals somehow contrive to both limp and lascivious; Steve Lynch blatantly apes Neal (Journey) Schon’s guitar-playing style; Take No Prisoners is so Loverboy-esque it’s not true. Yes, it’s weak-kneed and puny – and it kinda tickles when it sinks its milk teeth into your ankles – but its charm is undeniable.
Before he joined Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow as replacement for Graham Bonnet, frontman Joe Lynn Turner released four albums with New Jerseyites Fandango. (The fact that Fandango included a guitarist by the name of Rick Blakemore was pure coincidence.) The final album of the quartet, Cadillac, is another Rock Candy reissue. As Turner says in the sleeve-notes, personality clashes meant the band were on the brink of disintegration when they recorded it. “It was impossible to make a great album,” he confesses. Well, Cadillac may not be great but it’s certainly more than half-decent. Turner is at the top of his suave-tonsilled game, while Hall & Oates-style harmonies and a Santana-esque rhythm section (Fandango were a seven-piece, sporting both drummer and percussionist) add an intriguing twist to proceedings, particularly on Stranger. The quality of the songs always shines through: Sweet fans will remember the late Brian Connolly’s cover of Hypnotized, while Ted Nugent, Alcatrazz and Rage all recorded versions of Blame It On The Night.
Cycle Sluts From Hell were the real deal, raddled bitches who gave up working in seedy bars on NY’s Lower East Side to rejoice under the noms de plume of Queen Vixen, Venus Penis Cruncher, Honey One Percenter, She Fire Of Ice and Gladys Pringle (just joking about that last one). Coming across like a dishevelled Runaways, a more mainstream Plasmatics or an X-rated Girschool – take your pick – the Sluts’ self-titled first album came out in 1992. Shame there was never a follow-up. Still, the debut has now been re-released on the Ironbird label – and it hasn’t dated at all. I Wish You Were A Beer is a scathing critique of the Aqua Net generation (‘I need a machete just to get to your face’); By The Balls brings genuine tears to your eyes (‘Got a real bad temper – and a real good grip’); Bloodlust makes the Venom song of the same name sound like Taylor Swift. Masterful.
Like Lieutenant Pigeon, The Goombay Dance Band and Sabrina Salerno, Wall Of Voodoo fit firmly into the ‘one-hit wonder’ category. Well, almost. Their early-80s single Mexican Radio wasn’t nearly as successful as one remembers, reaching No.33 in Australia but not even making the Top 50 in the UK or US. The LA New Wavers’ first two albums – Dark Continent and Call Of The West – have been re-released as a double-pack via the Raven label. The band might’ve sounded bold and innovative back in the day but time hasn’t been kind to their signature approach, which combined jerky synth rhythms with an Ennio Morricone obsession. Today Stan Ridgway’s clipped singing style is intensely irritating, while the twitchy Farfisa and stupid sonic effects sound like they were added for a jape by The Goons’ Michael Bentine.
Finally, here’s a brand new DVD for ya. The Scorpions’ Amazonia (Sony Music) features footage from two of the German band’s shows in Brazil: a complete performance from the coastal city of Recife in September 2008, and five songs from Manaus, deep in the jungle, a year earlier. The latter concert was supported by Greenpeace to help raise awareness of the plight of the Amazon rainforest. Royalties of DVDs sold in Mexico and Brazil will go to Greenpeace Brazil’s projects to protect the region. There’s also a short Greenpeace documentary on the DVD, where the Scorps fly up in a plane to witness Amazon destruction for themselves. “It’s the height of the dry season now,” the commentary tells us, “when slash burning reaches its peak.” Hmm… doesn’t bode too well for his forthcoming solo album, does it?