Krokus – Metal Rendez-vous (1980)
They had 3 albums before this, but this is the first one with Marc Storace singing and really marks the start of their career in earnest. This period gets compared to a second-rate AC/DC a lot, and I can see the comparison, but there’s a bit of Rose Tattoo as well – a Swiss band, with a Maltese singer, influenced by Australian bands – makes for some pretty good boogie-laden rock’n’roll, actually. One of the songs has a reggae-vibe that was a style attempted by quite a few hard rock bands back in the early 80s – bit of a strange mix, but not unenjoyable. It wasn’t until the Headhunter album 3 years later that I think Krokus really got it right, and then the absolute masterpiece of pop metal, The Blitz, in ’84, but this was the start of building a good foundation. And the cover: love the concept, the photo is fantastic, the metallic airbrushed title rules…the only thing that let’s it down, which is hard to see in the photo, is the sloppy replication of the logo – seriously, whoever drew that inaccurate copy of the band logo should be ashamed…he says with the benefit of computer illustration programs.
Kiss – Hotter Than Hell (1974)
Produced by Kenny Kerner & Richie Wise. A lot has been said about how shit the production is on this. When I got this as a 14-year-old, I didn’t notice anything wrong with it – cool songs, cool cover art – what more could you want? Now that I know a bit more about sound production, I agree that technically it’s not the norm, but I kinda like the character that it adds to the songs. And what songs they are! This album far surpasses their debut with a depth and intricacy that their first album lacked. This was one of the last Kiss albums that I got back in ’87 I think it was. It still hadn’t been repressed at that stage, like the first album and Destroyer had, and there were no secondhand record stores in town that I could try and hunt down all my missing Kiss albums. Bronwyn, a friend from class, knew I loved Kiss and said her older brother used to be into Kiss but had lost interest so might be willing to sell his Kiss collection to me. “I’ll ask him tonight and let you know tomorrow.” Talk about excited – that was one sleepness night, for sure. I’ll cut to the chase – every Kiss album from the debut up until Alive II for something like 2 bucks each – one of my best memories of collecting music over the last 33 or so years. Anyway, this was a definite favourite out of the bunch. I had never seen a cover so insane, especially the back – fucking debauchery! How evil does Peter Criss look! The whole thing is strange but in a good way. They’ve been garbage since they put the makeup back on, but Kiss friggen ruled for a long, long time as far as I’m concerned and I still love nearly everything pre-reunion.
The Damned – Anything (1986)
Produced by Jon Kelly. I had all their other records and wasn’t even aware that this existed until I stumbled across it at the old Au-go-go Records shop on Little Bourke Street in the early 90s. When I got it home, it was possibly the most disappointed I had ever been in a record. I’d like to say it was because Captain Sensible was no longer in the band and they’d lost their direction, but I didn’t mind the Captain-less previous album, Phantasmagoria, although that also holds less appeal than albums even previous to that. I think Phantasmagoria still had enough good songs to hold my interest and the cover art is iconic – two points which Anything fails on. The title track is the best on the album, but it’s only OK. Two things left the Damned with Captain Sensible – a sense of humour and at least a few energetic songs per album. It worked to a certain degree with Phantasmagoria because of the handful of good pop Goth songs, but this album is just plain old boring – and that could be the biggest insult you could give the Damned, because they started off as the antithesis of that. One of my favourite bands and they split up after this, their weakest album. I know that the Captain came back and they’re still touring, but the magic will never be there again.
Def Leppard – On Through the Night (1980)
Produced by Tom Allom. A couple of weeks ago I pretty much slammed Hysteria…and why wouldn’t I when I had this to compare it to?! This is such a killer debut and even more so when you realise that Joe Elliot was 21, 3 of the others were 20 and Rick Allen was friggen 17 years old! This album is so together it sounds like something done by musicians way beyond the young Def Leppard’s years. Riffs galore, scorching lead breaks. Out of the only DL records that matter (the first 3), this used to be my least favourite (still loved it and that tells you how good the next 2 albums were!), but now I can’t split them – they all have something unique about them. This does have things in common with a few of the other New Wave of British Heavy Metal bands around at the time, more so than the next 2 more hard rock and pop leaning albums, but the seeds were there and this contains hooks all over the place. Really like Joe Elliot’s vocal style on this – more natural sounding than the vocally fried Brian Johnson-like scream that would happen on subsequent albums. Pete Willis slays on this and when he got kicked out of the band during the recording of Pyromania, I think the soul, or at least the attitude within the band left with him. Steve Clark is a ripper too, of course and with his death, so died whatever remained of my faith in the band. Can’t complain, coz we got 3 absolute classic albums, starting with this one. If you only know DL from Hysteria onwards and have written them off as pop garbage, check this album out before you totally write them off. Love the artwork too, coz nothin’ says we’re rockin’ the fuck out like a semi-trailer carrying a massive guitar, ha ha.
Grace Jones – Warm Leatherette (1980)
Produced by Chris Blackwell & Alex Sadkin. I remember watching Rage back in the early days and some nights they’d play 2 or 3 hours of heavy metal…and then fucking Grace Jones would come on and you knew that was the end of rockin’ out for the night. Still, there was something sensually enjoyable about her music videos. Fast forward to the late 90s and I was fully digging the white boy funk orientation of Gang of Four’s much maligned ‘Hard’ album and coincidently heard ‘Pull Up To My Bumper’ around the same time, immediately being taken by the smooth funk bass line. Off I trot to Dixons Recycled Records during my lunch break and come back with ‘Nightclubbing’ and this killer album. Turns out this was the first of three albums that featured the Jamaican powerhouse rhythm section duo of Sly Dunbar and Robbie Shakespear. Consequently, this has a huge reggae influence, but there’s also some rock in there as well. She’s more of an interpreter rather than a songwriter and here you get great versions of everything from the Pretenders to Tom Petty to Flash and the Pan to Roxy Music. Prior to this her 3 albums were disco orientated and pretty forgettable, but the reinvention to a more reggae/new wave/rock sound for this and the subsequent 3 albums, at least, is genius. That being said, this is my favourite of hers and each album from here on in would drop off in quality, for me, at least. Still, her mystique and presence, in my mind, make her one of the great pop icons of the last 40 years.
Written by Karl Mautner.
Read more of Karl’s entertaining and insightful thoughts on classic albums at the Rise of the Rat Facebook page, and Karl’s own Instagram page.