Alice Cooper – Special Forces (1981)
Produced by Richard Podolor. I may sound crazy here, but I think this may be my favourite Alice Cooper album. Well, in the top 5, at least. It gets a bad rap, but I love the new wave, synth-laden, post punk vibe of half of this and when it rocks with the more guitar orientated stuff, it’s A-grade as well. Catchy songs filled with Alice’s usual humorous yet sardonic word-play. This is part of his ‘blackout’ period where apparently he can’t remember anything over a period of 3 years due to drug abuse. Shit, if this is him not knowing what he’s doing, maybe he should’ve continued his drug binge. Just kidding – he looked pretty unwell around this period and I’m not sure how much longer he would’ve lived if he continued. I mean, he looked unwell, but there’s something so fascinating about his macabre appearance around ’81 – he looks genuinely unhinged – it makes me like this era of Alice even more.
Slaughter and the Dogs – The Slaughterhouse Tapes
‘Situations’ – what a friggen excellent song. Wanted to do a cover of it years ago, but realised that you need a particular swagger that our band just didn’t have to pull it off. You need to play it at a pretty slow speed so it keeps it’s groove, but of course we had to play everything fast, didn’t we – fucken kids! Anyway, Slaughter and the Dogs weren’t afraid to let their rock’n’roll influences show through so were able to exude that rock’n’roll swagger that some of the other punk bands of the the time didn’t have. Mick Rossi had killer tone and licks in his repertoire, second maybe only to Steve Jones from that scene, and Wayne Barrett’s voice is pretty fucken great also. This compilation of non-album tracks would’ve been better with studio versions rather than the few live versions included here, but the studio songs that are here are fantastic. That being said, the live version of ‘Cranked Up Really High’ is blistering and an absolute classic and actually the only version of it that I own, so I guess it’ll have to do. Situations, though – man that thing rules – and Slaughter and the Dogs – what a friggen cool band name!
Trevor Rabin – Wolf (1981)
Produced by Trevor Rabin and Ray Davies. I remember seeing the cover of this in a heavy metal album covers book that I had as a teenager. The image was about 3cm square and at that size this artwork looked mighty impressive and I remember thinking, “fuck, this Trevor Rabin bloke must be heavy as shit, coz this cover looks vicious! Look, his name even sorta sounds like Rabies – as in, ‘Trevor Rabies: he’ll rip your throat right out’ kinda stuff”. Anyway, I tracked this down about 10 years ago and I love the cover even more now, but more because it belongs in the ‘bad taxidermy’ category rather than anything else. Of course I’ve known that Trevor himself was a member of Yes from the early 80s for awhile now and have long loved ‘Only of a Lonely Heart’ that he wrote. This album does have some prog orientated bits and pieces, but it’s actually more rockin’ than you might suspect. Kinda like a New Wave of British Heavy Metal band with prog inclinations crossed with Bad Company and tight production (supplied by Ray Davies from the Kinks) plus some shit hot lickage by Mr Rabies, er, Rabin. Check out the start of ‘Looking For A Lady’ with drumming legend Simon Phillips playing something that seems very like Hot For Teacher by Van Halen…maybe Alex Van Halen has some explaining to do? The rest of the song rips, too. Some songs don’t make the ‘classic’ status, but I like everything on this.
The Vapors – New Clear Days (1981)
Produced by Vic Coppersmith-Heaven. I guess the Vapors kinda got screwed by their big hit ‘Turning Japanese’. Who doesn’t love that song? But to be remembered by most people for that song alone is a miscarriage of justice! This is a friggen killer debut of power pop goodness with nary a bad song on it. Mainly snappy uptempo nuggets of energetic angst and David Fenton’s lyrics are wry and poignant, the quality of this album was just a taste of things to come, because the follow up, ‘Magnets’ was even better, although with a little darker tone. Both albums are a must have for, well, anyone with decent taste in music, ha ha. Incidentally, my old band used to cover ‘Turning Japanese’ in the mid-90s and I remember playing it at the Arthouse when we did a show with One Inch Punch in the early days. Jay, the drummer, came up to me after the show and said that they were talking about doing a cover of it, but we beat them to it…so I apologise for denying everyone the pleasure of hearing a One Inch Punch (or Mid Youth Crisis) version of the 80s classic – they used to do some ripper covers and I can only imagine that they would’ve done a way better version than we ever did. How rulin’ was their cover of ‘Try Again’, the Spermbirds classic!? Fucken rulin’!
Street Fighter – Shoot You Down (1984)
Produced by Michael Wagener and Udo Dirkschneider. I obviously bought this for the cover. It’s a mixture of excellence and shitness all rolled up into one superb not-completely-low-budget-but-low-enough slice of 80s extravagance. Lazers and Lamborghinis – can’t go wrong! I’m not even sure if that is a Lamborghini, but anything with either scissor doors or gull-wing doors was my dream car when I was 7 or 8. Ah, who am I kidding – I still love that shit. Loved James Bond’s amphibious Lotus in ‘The Spy Who Loved Me’ as well – actually, anything amphibious was high on my list of cars to buy when I grew up…hovercrafts, fuck, what about Jon Pertwee’s ’Whomobile’ from 1970s Dr Who?! Loved that stingray lookin’ hoverbeast! I’ve now got a kid of my own and I never did get a Lamborghini – or a hovercraft. I do have this album, though – Street Fighter’s sound isn’t as flamboyant as a Lamborghini or as versatile as a hovercraft, but they’ve got a solid AC/DC-meets-Accept thing going on that’s pretty enjoyable. Probably wouldn’t like it as much if it didn’t have this cover, ha ha.
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.