Classic Rock’s New Releases Round-Up
This week we’ve got a selection of reissues, plus some old thrashers getting back under a new name, battle metallers from Finland. A massive live collection from old faves, and a nod towards new faves.
Words: Malcolm Dome
Twisted Sister were, and indeed still are, a phenomenon. One of the best live bands you’ll ever see. No wonder few would dare to follow those crazy mofos onstage. On album, though, there has been a tendency to represent their straightforward streetwise brio as somewhat dumb. But as the reissues of Come Out And Play and Love Is For Suckers (both on Armoury Records) prove, they were always so much better in the studio than history has suggested. The former was released in 1985, coming off the momentum of the huge selling Stay Hungry the previous year. Highlight is obviously Be Chrool To Your Scuel, with guests Alice Cooper, Billy Joel, Brian Setzer and Clarence Clemons. But there are other power trips, like the title track, Looking Out For # 1 and I Believe In You.
Love Is For Suckers (from 1987) is always viewed as representing a band in decline. In fact, there are loads of top session musicians involved – enough to make people wonder how much the band themselves had to do with it. Yet, underneath the overly smooth production from Beau Hill (under label orders?) lurks a decent record. Apparently, it was supposed to be a Dee Snider solo album, but he was persuaded to use the Twisted Sister name. Which might explain the presence of other musicians.
There’s a connection between The Dictators and Twisted Sister, and the former have had the albums Manifest Destiny and Bloodbrothers packaged together by Floating World. One of New York’s finest bands in the mid to late 70s, The ’Taters (as they were improbably known; candidates for a mashup now?) combined punk (in the US meaning of the term) with biker rock and some of the best musical headbutts you’ll ever get. Manifest Destiny (originally released in 1977) features future Twisted Sister bassist Mark ‘The Animal’ Mendoza and is arguably the band’s best album. But Bloodbrothers (put out the next year) is not far behind, See if you can spot Bruce Springsteen’s cameo appearance. Oh, and Ross The Boss is on both records, in pre-Manowar days. And the Blue Oyster Cult production team of Sandy Pearlman and Murray Krugman are also involved on the pair.
By way of a complete contrast, Hawkwind guitarist Huw Lloyd-Langton showcases another side to his talents on Classical Guitar Tales (Purple Pyramid). It’s just him playing mostly classical pieces, with two original compositions added. Diverting and pleasant, and something a little different. Also proof that Lloyd-Langton is very much an all-round guitarist.
If mention is made of daft UK thrashers Xentrix, it usually elicits a few chuckles. Ah, the late 80s band who used to constantly make Metallica style albums, but were always one step behind the masters, and seemed forever shocked that anyone thought they were ripping off the thrash giants. They also did a very silly cover of the Ghostbusters theme – and that was actually quite good. Now, former members of that band have regrouped under the Hellfighter name. Guess what? Damnation Wings (Heavy Metal Records) doesn’t sound at all like Metallica. It’s more brute force power metal, with touches of melody and also of an industrial hue. Good stuff, actually.
Turisas come out with riffs sharpened to a hurlbat point on Stand Up And Fight (Century Media). This is battle metal done Finnish style, with lots of preposterous posturing and armour-plated anthems. It could be the soundtrack to a very badly dubbed, low budget Viking movie made in Germany during the 1970s. All of which makes it compelling, in a comic strip kinda fashion. Let the blood run red, as Thor would say.
Barclay James Harvest celebrate the 40th anniversary of Once Again (Harvest) with its reissue in an expanded format. There’s a certain poignancy involved, following the suicide of Woolly Wolstenholme just before Christmas; this new edition is, in fact, dedicated to his memory. But the majesty and aura easily give the lie to the nonsense that they were always a poor man’s Moody Blues. And this was the record to introduce the immortal Mocking Bird. One of the finest albums from a great British institution.
Thunder are back, playing a one-off set at the High Voltage Festival on July 24. This is neither the time nor the place to discuss whether their reunion (albeit for just this festival) is just a little too hasty. All that need be said is their legion of fans will be delighted to see them again. And as a taster of what’s to come at HV, there’s this four-CD live set. Called Rough & Ready it showcases two gigs from their 2005 tour. The Rough comes from Japan and the Ready is from London. The former was recorded straight off the mixing desk, and is effectively of bootleg quality. The latter was done with a proper mobile studio. Neither have any overdubs, but capture the thundering (ouch!) quality of one of the best British bands of the past two decades. You can only get these from http://www.thunderonline.com/ or www.thunderonlineshop.co.uk
Finally, not exactly a new release but a band definitely worth checking out. Bow Street Revolt are a London band who sound like the Rolling Stones, The Who and Cream, but they’ve added their own twist to it all. It’s enervating, exciting and really well thought out, in a spontaneous manner. Sort of jamming with a definite blueprint. Listen to their songs at www.myspace.com/bowstreetrevolt
Tags: Barclay James Harvest, Beau Hill, Blue Oyster Cult, Bow Street Revolt, Cream, Hawkwind, Hellfighter, High Voltage Festival, Huw Lloyd-Langton, Manowar, Mark 'The Animal' Mendoza, Metallica, Moody Blues, Rolling Stones, Ross the Boss, The Dictators, The Who, Thor, Thunder, Turisas, Twisted Sister, Woolly Wolstenholme, Xentrix