Ginger’s Secret History Of Rock’n’Roll (pt.5)
“Tie me to a rugby post and shoot me fulla steroids but I f***ing LOVE pop!” The Wildhearts mainman has a sinful confession to make…
1979 Casablanca/Mercury Records
Probably the most well known of this largely unknown bands album output, Sinful (originally titled Bad Publicity) signals a band at the peak of their pop rock powers once again being criminally ignored in favour of far inferior fare.
Apparently discovered by Gene Simmons and signed to Casablanca, the label set up by Kiss manager Bill Aucoin in order to get Kiss albums out to a largely uninterested audience, things never looked anything but precarious for Washington DC’s Angel. Advertised as the white yin to Kiss’s black yang, they would forever wither in the 8 foot shadows of the four accountants of the apocalypse, and suffer from the free ride on one of the 70s most out-of-control hype machines.
The band released their self titled debut in 1975, a Deep Purple-flavoured pomp classic followed by the equally grand Helluva Band in 1976. By 1977, and by the time Kiss ruled America, Angel had been stuffed into a commodity sized lunchbox, stripped of their pomp roots and marketed for easy consumption with albums On Earth As It Is In Heaven and White Hot. Confused and unsure, these albums saw a band reaching the top of their game musically but floundering in the identity stakes. Anthemic and androgynous in equal measure, the band had too little machismo and too much melody to appeal to America’s masses, and by 1979 Casablanca – themselves hitting a commercial brick wall and selling their stock to Mercury records – had no idea what to do with Angel.
On this, their fifth, and final album with the classic line up of Felix Robinson (a better looking replacement for Mickie Jones) on bass, Greg Guiffria on keyboards, Barry Brandt on drums, Frank Dimino on vocals and Punky Meadows (whose feminine appearance was infamously lambasted in Frank Zappa’s cutting ‘Punky’s Whips’) on guitar, Angel dropped the pretense, cut loose from the competition and, in the middle of the punk craze, did the most punk rock thing anyone could have possibly dared to do. They made an all-out, no bullshit, sugar and candy pop record. As light as Abba, as sweet as Big Star and as awesome as The Beatles.
Angel fans hated it and critics scratched their collective heads but for me this is the statement that will see the history books look back at this preening pop band with a great fondness.
Sinful does not contain a bad song – not one single clinker in all of its 10 song, 35 minute running time.
Yes, it’s poppy, awesomely cheesy and as sugary as you could stand without getting tooth cavities in your ears, but hey, tie me to a rugby post and shoot me fulla steroids but I fucking LOVE pop. The sweeter the better. Just make sure that the tunes are worth the sacrifice to my manhood, willya?
And, ladies and gentlemen, this is where Angel leave you with sexual assertion intact. They bring the choons to the table.
Kicking off in harmony-blasted style with ‘Don’t Take Your Love’, the hooks stay in the skin and on the disc. ‘LA Lady’, ‘Just Can’t Take It’ and ‘You Can’t Buy Love’ leave the listener either nauseous or breathless, as Frank Dimino’s incredible voice swoops and swoons, range limitless, audacity tireless, chorus after goddamned sunofabitchin’ chorus until ‘Bad Time’ finishes off side one, as heavy as Angel get in this collection.
Even in heavy mode, however, Angel still thrill with pure pop power. Side two, or track 6 if you aren’t fortunate enough to own a record player, kicks straight back with business being well and truly taken care of in the shape of ‘Waited A Long Time’, before ‘I’ll Bring The Whole World To Your Door’ ups the pop ante once again. Jesus, just how many melodies can you fit on one album? How can this album get any higher?
It is with a knowing wink that Angel then throw in ‘I’ll Never Fall In Love Again’, a ballad so gargantuan that Reo Speedwagon could only gaze in awe. One aspect of the infectious nature of this set of tunes, largely ignored today, is how successful the running order is on this album. The album is set up with all the songs in mind, not just as a showcase for the singles.
‘Wild And Hot’ and ‘Lovers Live On’ push the rock side of the pop cart home with two awesome up tempo numbers designed to make you instantly miss the album and repeat the whole thrilling experience.
Okay, so the CD typically tags a couple of bonus fluffers on the end, but my advice would be to scratch this section of the CD so the album cannot play beyond ‘Lovers Live On’.
From the amazing upside down/right way up logo, to Punky’s admission of wanting a vagina transplanted into the back of his Fender Strat to enable him to “fuck it onstage”, to the outrageously camp cover shot of this album, the world is unlikely to see the likes of Angel again. Only in an era as funky, souped-up, coked-up, anything-goes as the 70s could such a band be dreamed up.
Warning: approach with extreme caution. This ain’t pop the way you’re used to hearing it today. There are no ironic statements, no punk stylings and very few lyrics concerned with how unfair life is treating the writer. These are love songs, baby. With the exception of ‘Bad Time’, the album focuses on boy meets girl, love, sex and shagging guitars.
This is bubblegum pop from an age where bubblegum came in candy flavour only, without artificial sweeteners.
But for the brave of heart, and comfortable of sexual preference, this is a truly exceptional collection of songs that linger long after the album leaves the deck.
The 70s wasn’t a perfect era, but songs like these could make you believe it really was.
And isn’t that, after all, what really matters?
Listen to Angel here: http://www.myspace.com/angelofficialsite