Retro Review: Motley Crue – Shout at the Devil (Elektra Records)

By: Jesse Striewski

I was around thirteen years old at the time when my older sister’s boyfriend, Ed (who has since become my brother-in-law) gave me my first true taste of Motley Crue ever when he passed down two of their albums on cassette down to me at the same time; 1985’s Theatre of Pain, and, the one that really made an impression on me, 1983’s Shout at the Devil (thanks again, Ed!).

I didn’t know what to expect when I first popped that white tape in my boombox at the time, but my interest was instantly piqued via the eerie intro that was “In the Beginning.” The brief piece, which was spoken by British engineer Geoff Workman under the pseudonym Allister Fiend, set the tone for the album when it ended with the words, “Be strong, and Shout at the Devil!,” which quickly launches into one of the most memorable one-two intro punches in rock history with the fist-pumping title track and its relentless chants quickly following.

“Looks That Kill” (hands-down the biggest “hit” from the album, complete with its iconic dystopian music video featuring scantly-clad vixens) and “Bastard” keep the momentum going full speed ahead. The somber instrumental “God Bless the Children of the Beast” takes things down a notch with Mick Mars’ guitar lead sounding like something straight out of a Nintendo game, before the band dives into their blistering cover of The Beatles’ “Helter Skelter.”

The record’s second side was my personal favorite, with the numbers “Red Hot,” “Too Young to Fall in Love,” “Knock ‘Em Dead, Kid,” “Ten Seconds to Love,” and “Danger” all containing their each unique moments of greatness. There was simply something about the way these tracks sounded that felt so dark and forbidden to my young mind at the time (very similar to how I felt the first time I heard the first couple of Iron Maiden albums, too).

It was almost as though all of these songs were meant to be the soundtrack to the night lives of the depraved, or the entrance to some sort of exclusive club that I wanted in on (it’s rumored that bassist and main songwriter Nikki Sixx had been dabbling in the occult and Satanism while working on the songs that would ultimately become the album, causing him to change the name from Shout With the Devil to its eventual title after some strange moments in the studio during recording).

Since first acquiring Shout at the Devil all those years ago, I’ve seen the band live in concert multiple times, the most memorable being on their 2005 tour where they included not only the usual “hits” from Shout…, but even notable deep cuts such as “Ten Seconds to Love” (that will always remain one of my personal favorite concert memories, and a moment I had always known was destined to come sooner or later). Happy fortieth birthday to a true classic American metal masterpiece!

Original copy of Motley Crue’s Shout at the Devil on cassette from the author’s personal collection.

Retro Review: Kiss – Lick It Up (Mercury Records)

By: Jesse Striewski

Call me crazy, but I’ve always felt the material Kiss released during their non-makeup period of the ’80s and early ’90s is just as good – if not better in many cases – than the material from their ’70s hey day (it is after all closer to my own generation, having not been around yet myself until the early ’80s). While the band’s first two efforts in the earlier part of said decade – 1980’s Unmasked and 1981’s Music from “The Elder,” are to this day still at the bottom of the list for most Kiss fans – the guys slowly but surely started getting it right again.

When Kiss dropped Lick It Up on September 18, 1983, it was more than just your everyday album at the time, but rather a statement to the rock world that their talent was not based solely around their looks alone. And with new lead guitarist Vinnie Vincent in tow in replace of Ace Frehley, the band were as revitalized as ever. Vincent was one of several guitarists to perform on the group’s previous outing, 1982’s Creatures of the Night, but Lick it Up would be his first (and ultimately only) attempt as an actual full time member of the band. Late drummer Eric Carr’s (who first joined the band in time for The Elder) talent is also on full display this time around.

Fans are instantly greeted here with thrashy riffs in the form of the Paul Stanley-driven “Exciter,” a sound they had already built on with Creatures…Gene Simmons takes over with the menacing “Not For the Innocent,” easily one of the best tracks on the entire album. The infamous title track follows, and remains a staple in the band’s setlists to this very day (it was the only non-makeup-era track they performed when I finally saw them live in 2012). The dystopian music video that accompanies it also remains a classic, with the band lip-syncing the track while walking desolate streets overran by scantly-clad women in true ’80s fashion.

“Young and Wasted” is a pretty fun party track, while “Gimmie More” is not much more than filler. “All Hell’s Breakin’ Loose” was released as the second single, and features Stanley “rapping” the verses before a catchy, sing-a-long chorus. Like the title track, it too had a very similar (and fun) music video to go along with it. “A Million to One” is Stanley at his finest, declaring to an ex lover they will never find a similar love.

The rest of the album is closed out with Simmons-fueled numbers in the form of “Fits Like a Glove,” “Dance All Over Your Face,” and “And on the 8th Day,” each with varying results. While many of these tracks have long since been forgotten by time, the legacy of Lick it Up is still strong to this day, and it’s rare to find a rock station or cover band not jamming the title track somewhere at any given time. As the album hits its fortieth anniversary, don’t hesitate to give it a spin on your record player; in the immortal words of Stanley, “It ain’t a crime to be good to yourself!”

Retro Review: Aerosmith – Get a Grip (Geffen Records)

By: Jesse Striewski

Shortly before Aerosmith released their fifteenth (and arguably their most commercially successful) album Get a Grip in 1993, I was introduced to the band via their classic 1975 offering Toys in the Attic when I came upon it among a pile of other cassettes in my family’s community “stash” of tapes and CD’s. I was roughly around twelve years old, and while I had already owned albums by the likes of M.C. Hammer and “Weird Al” Yankovic (naturally), Toys… was the first rock record that ever fully crossed my path. And what a game changer it was.

Not long after my discovery, the band released said Get a Grip album on April 20, 1993, and I was there for it all the way. I would actually shell out the few bucks it cost for a cassette single each and every time the band dropped a new song, slowly leading up to getting the album itself (I eventually would on Christmas morning that very same year, along with the band’s 1973 self-titled debut album along with it). By all accounts, the album was marketed perfectly, and I was just the right audience for it at the time.

Get a Grip starts off with an odd little intro that finds frontman Steven Tyler “rapping” some lyrics before kicking into high gear with “Eat the Rich,” arguably the most aggressive (and one of the best) track on the entire album. The equally fun title track and “Fever” follow before “Livin’ on the Edge,” the first single initially released from the record and one of the most unique videos made for any of the album’s singles (featuring Terminator 2 actor Edward Furlong).

“Flesh” takes things to a darker level, while the Joe Perry-penned “Walk on Down” brings a cool blues-ridden swag to things. “Shut up and Dance” was co-written by Damn Yankees bandmates Jack Blades and Tommy Shaw, and the band was also featured performing the track in the film Wayne’s World 2 (released later that same year). It’s at that point the “ballads” really start taking hold with the song and video that introduced the world (and every eager twelve-year-old boy at the time, such as myself) to a young Alicia Silverstone, “Cryin’.”

“Gotta Love It” is sandwiched between “Cryin'” and another Silverstone track, “Crazy,” which is where most of us also first caught a glimpse of Tyler’s tall glass of water daughter, Liv. “Line Up” is a catchy number co-written by Lenny Kravitz that somehow found its way into the 1994 Jim Carrey vehicle Ace Ventura: Pet Detective. Last but not least of the “Silverstone Trio” (and preceding the most forgettable track on the album, “Boogie Man”) “Amazing,” which featured a cutting-edge technology (at the time at least) virtual reality themed-video, and co-starring actor Jason London. Co-written by long time collaborator Richie Supa, the song also featured vocals from Don Henley of The Eagles.

Often when brought up today, Get a Grip is not regarded by many as one of their favorite Aerosmith albums (I can see now why some would feel this way). But the facts are undeniable; it was the band’s first release in their then-twenty plus year career to reach number one on the Billboard 200, and still their highest selling-album to date. Several of the hits are still played on rock radio stations to this day, and something tells me most bands that have not achieved the same level of success would absolutely welcome it.

Retro Review: Quiet Riot – Metal Health (Pasha/CBS)

By: Jesse Striewski

I can vividly remember the first time Quiet Riot’s Metal Health truly hit my senses. I was a freshman in high school, sitting on the steps of my school when my friend Scott handed me a copy of his dad’s tape. I popped it into my walkman, and instantly the whole world (and all my troubles) disappeared, leaving just me and the music. There was no doubt about it; I was falling in love.

The story behind Metal Health – a monumental achievement in metal history – was no small feat; late singer Kevin Dubrow had recently revived the name Quiet Riot in 1982 after the previous band – which had released two Japan-released albums in the late ’70s – had broken up two years prior. Dubrow recruited guitarist Carlos Cavazo, bassist Chuck Wright, and drummer Frankie Banali to complete the lineup and resurrect the name after receiving the blessing from former guitarist Randy Rhoads, who by then had gone on to join Ozzy Osbourne’s solo band.

Recording of the album commenced in North Hollywood, CA, and shortly after, Rhoads died tragically in a plan crash while on tour. At that point, former bassist Rudy Sarzo (who had also joined Osbourne’s solo outfit) was asked to perform on the track “Thunderbird” as tribute to Rhoads. Sarzo quickly took the place of Wright, who had already recorded the tracks “Don’t Wanna Let You Go” and the album’s crushing opener, “Metal Health” prior to leaving.

A cover of Slade’s “Cum on Feel the Noize” would propel the band into superstardom, shooting to number five on the Billboard Hot 100 in November of 1983, eight months after the record’s March 11 release date. The video received around-the-clock rotation on the then-new MTV station at the time. “Slick Black Cadillac” was a re-recording of a track from 1978’s Quiet Riot II, while “Love’s a Bitch,” “Breathless,” and “Run For Cover” keep the momentum going. Cavazo shows off his chops with the instrumental “Battle Axe,” while “Let’s Get Crazy” kicks things up a notch before finally slowing it down with the previously-mentioned “Thunderbird.”

There’s no denying the lasting impact the record has had for generations. And as the first heavy metal album to ever reach number one on the charts, it literally put metal on the map, causing a craze for the music that would last the rest of the decade. When I was finally able to see the band live in October of 2006, I was instantly greeted with the familiar sounds of the guitar solo to “Cum on Feel the Noize” as I arrived fashionably late for their set. Dubrow and company then killed it with “Metal Health” before finally exiting the stage, and I knew I had just witnessed true greatness in the nick of time.

Retro Review: Faith No More – Angel Dust (Slash/Reprise)

By: Jesse Striewski

I was no stranger to Faith No More before owning their dark swan song Angel Dust; prior to owning it, I had already collected copies of their 1985 debut, We Care A Lot, as well as their 1989 breakthrough effort, The Real Thing. But as soon as Angel Dust came across my radar, I was hooked.

I can even remember the day I first got it; I was still in high school, and had to ride my bike to the pawn shop I found it at (along with some Danzig and Monster Magnet CD’s thrown in the mix, too). I also remember trying to hurry home before a thunderstorm hit, and to this day I can’t listen to the album without picturing those overcast Florida skies.

Lead singer Mike Patton reportedly spent many nights hanging around bus stops and diners, people watching in preparation for the songwritting, and it shows. The funk-driven “Land of Sunshine” kicks off the madness, with Patton giving his best infomercial salesman try, proclaiming at one point, “Here’s how to order!” This is followed by the thrash-esque “Caffeine,” which the band performed live that year for an MTV taping. The album’s first single, “Midlife Crisis,” continues things with Patton’s menacing whisper-vocals layering over an eerie keyboard riff from Roddy Bottum, with bassist Billy Gould and drummer Mike Bordin’s pronounced rhythm section leading the way.

The jazzy “RV” almost comes off as upbeat, if not for the it’s depressing trailer park anthem lyrics that Patton mumbles in his most sinister way possible. “Smaller and Smaller” continues deeper into the void, complete with some of Gould’s best bass work over top of aboriginal chanting. In contrast, the poppy “Everything’s Ruined” proceeds things on the lighter side, and is one of the most underrated singles from the album.

“Malpractice” is arguably one of the sloppiest songs on all of Angel Dust, and never quite finds its footing. But things quickly get back on track with the macabre-sounding “Kindergarten,” which looks back on lost playground memories. “Be Aggressive,” Bottoum’s ode to oral sex, follows and features a cheerleading squad spelling out the chorus, highlighting the absurdity of it all.

“A Small Victory” is without a doubt one of the finest pieces of music found here, and could have easily ended the album. Featuring some of Jim Martin’s best guitar work, it should’ve been a massive hit when released as a single, but barely made a dent on the charts. A beautifully constructed song from start to finish indeed.

“Crack Hitler” and “Jizzlobber” are on the sillier side, but have their own unique merits when in the proper mood. And the instrumental theme from “Midnight Cowboy” always seemed like an odd choice to end the album on, but is yet another example of its overall experimental nature.

Angel Dust would prove to be the band’s final output with Martin on guitar, who claimed to even hate the album’s title from the get go. Despite its dark tendencies, it was praised at the time by critics, many even calling it “album of the year,” which would ironically be the name of their next album’s title four years later. It’s unfortunate they would never have the chance to catch lightning in a bottle the way they did here again, but for that one moment in time, Faith No More gave us a brief flash of genius.