You lucky, lucky readers! Guess what? It’s….
THE BEST FUCKING COLLABORATION WEEK EVER!
All week, Aaron over at the KeepsMeAlive and I will be colluding. Monday to Friday, we will be talking about the same CDs. He hasn’t read my reviews, and I haven’t read his. Today, we’re both discussing Quiet Riot‘s landmark Metal Health. Be sure to check both reviews each day this week!
Aaron’s installment: QUIET RIOT – Metal Health
QUIET RIOT – Metal Health (1983, 2001 Sony remastered edition)
While my first rock album ever was Kilroy Was Here, by Styx, my first metal album ever was this one: Metal Health, by Quiet Riot. Although I was really into Styx, Quiet Riot were the first band that I “loved”. Some music that people liked when they were in grade school embarrasses them today that they ever owned it. Not me, not this album. Since buying it in ’84, I’ve owned this album on cassette, LP and twice on CD. And I’ll probably buy it again; I understand there is a more recent reissue out with more bonus tracks. Metal Health was the crucial cornerstone in my musical development, and always will be one of my all-time favourites. Read on!
The opening drum crash to “Metal Health”, sometimes also referred to as “Bang Your Head (Metal Health)”, instantly transports me back in time. Chuck Wright played bass on this one, extra slinky and funky (although Rudy Sarzo plays on most of the album). Suddenly I’m in the basement at my parents’ house, listening to this cassette on my old Sanyo ghetto blaster. I still recall, the cassette shell was white. I played the crap out of it, annoying everyone.
“I got a mouth like an alligator” sings lead howler Kevin DuBrow, and how accurate he was. I had no idea that Kevin’s mouth would cause the band to oust him only a few years down the road. I liked the attitude of the lyrics, and the aggression of the guitars. Impossible to ignore was new drummer Frankie Banali, who to this day is an absolute ballcrusher of a hard rock drummer. His metronomic groove on Metal Health gave it the drive. I wouldn’t have been able to break it down and articulate it like that when I was a kid, but these are the factors that attracted me to the song.
“Cum On Feel The Noize”, the Slade cover, is now more famous than the Slade original or Oasis’ version for that matter. It’s a great tune, but Quiet Riot and producer Spencer Proffer nailed the sound and the vibe. The gang vocals are irresistible. The cover was a huge hit, but it painted them into a corner.
Much like my first rock purchase Kilroy Was Here, there were songs I liked and songs I hated. I don’t think I was the only 12 year old kid who didn’t have the patience for ballads. Girls? Who cares! So I also hated “Don’t Wanna Let You Go”. I wasn’t obsessive about listening to whole albums back then, since I was brought up in the LP age where we just dropped the needle. So I often fast-forwarded through “Don’t Wanna Let You Go”. Or we would play side one of the cassette, rewind, and play it again. (“Don’t Wanna Let You Go” was on side two of the cassette version). Shortly after I suddenly noticed girls were EVERYWHERE, the song started to click with me. Its sparse arrangement driven by Frankie’s drums make it a really special song. Carlos Cavazo’s guitar solo had melody and composition to it, and drew my attention to the fact that a guitar solo wasn’t just a 30 second bore, but a micro-structure within the song, like a song all its own.
“Slick Black Cadillac” is a remake of a song from the second Quiet Riot album (cleverly titled Quiet Riot II) although we didn’t know that at the time. “Slick Black Cadillac” is simply a classic today, and even though there isn’t a Randy Rhoads writing credit on it, you can hear the echo of his influence in Carlos’ guitar fills. The lyrics to this song are so catchy, and soon you too will be singin’ about those solid gold hubcaps. I was attracted to songs that told a story, and the rudimentary story here is a guy in a Caddy runnin’ from the “coppers on his trail”. There’s no Dylanesque poetry, and DuBrow was never a crooner. This is about loud guitars and drums, a singer who is screaming his face off, and songs about cars and rocking!
You know I got a fully equipped rock ‘n’ roll machine,
At speeds that take me high, high, high,
At dead man’s curve,
I only hear one word, drive, drive, drive!
Love’s A Bitch” is less successful but it has a mournful quality that isn’t bad. “Breathless” is better, a fast rocker featuring Frankie’s breakneck but steady pounding of the skins. Following at the same pace, “Run for Cover” is just as furious, but lacking in melody. Carlos Cavazo’s guitar showcase “Battle Axe” used to precede “Slick Black Cadillac” on my cassette version, which it was perfectly suited for. On the original LP and the CD, it opens “Let’s Get Crazy”. Because the running order of the cassette is permanently branded into my memory, it’s hard to get used to. “Let’s Get Crazy” is goofy, seemingly an attempt to have another song like “Metal Health” on the same album. As such it’s filler.
Finally there is “Thunderbird”, the piano-based ballad that Kevin wrote for the late Randy Rhoads. Didn’t like it then, love it today.* It’s a beautiful song and maybe the best thing DuBrow’s ever written. It’s cheesy as hell, but who cares? The heart is there.
CD bonus tracks include a fun live take of “Slick Black Cadillac” (complete with DuBrow’s “vrroooom, vrrrrroooom!”) taken from a radio promo release. Also present is “Danger Zone”, an outtake that is not quite up to the album standards, but certainly close. Remastering is loud and clear, and liner notes are informative enough.
Enjoy. Doesn’t matter if it’s 1984 or 2015, this is a great album.
* When we were kids, my sister and I used to play ‘air bands’ to this album. I’d always make her sing “Thunderbird” while I would get the ‘better’ songs!