robbin crosby

REVIEW: Ratt – Ratt & Roll 8191 (1991) #200wordchallenge

200 word

It’s the #200wordchallenge!  Rock journalist Mitch Lafon has challenged me to up my game.  Back in his print days, Mitch used to have a strict 200 word quota — no more no less.*  It separated the wheat from the chaff.  Click the link to see all the entries.

Scan_20160822RATT – Ratt & Roll 8191 (1991 Atlantic)

Ratt used to claim that their music was so unique that it deserved the title “Ratt n’ Roll”. This 19 track compilation is the one to get to test that theory. With all the key songs, including two from the first EP and a newbie, Ratt & Roll 8191 (Yes, that’s the actual title) will provide all the spills, thrills and chills that Ratt are known for. And in fact, it makes for a heck of a 77 minute CD. You’d think that would be overkill. You’d be wrong. Sleezy hard rock, flashy 80’s guitars, big drums and hooks are in store for you.

So “You Think You’re Tough”? Spin this CD “Round and Round”. Before you know it, “You’re in Love”. Get down and “Dance” just like “Way Cool Jr.”! Soon you’ll be “Back For More”, in fact it’s only “One Step Away”. Or one click away, rather, but keep in mind that “Nobody Rides For Free”. Still, Ratt & Roll can be found affordably. If you’re loaded with cash, look for a Japanese version with a 3″ bonus EP from MTV Unplugged featuring guest Michael Schenker!

If you don’t pick up this album, “Shame Shame Shame” on you.

4.5/5 stars

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*Not including title or score

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REVIEW: Ratt – Out of the Cellar (1984)

Scan_20150801RATT – Out of the Cellar (1984 Atlantic)

Out of the Cellar was my first Ratt album, acquired in a trade from next door neighbour George.  Considering how big Ratt were at the time, I expected it to be better.  In the 80’s, I felt like Out of the Cellar was a handful of singles padded out by filler.  I haven’t played the whole album in years (at least five), so this review is coming from a fresh perspective.  Dusting off the CD, I note on the credits the name of producer Beau Hill — never one of my favourites.

One of the aforementioned singles, “Wanted Man”, opens the album on an up note.  The cowboy motif has been popular in hard rock at least since David Lee Roth wore buttless chaps.  Tough, slow and menacing is “Wanted Man”.  Everything about it is classic hard rock.  Finger-blurring solos, thick backing vocals (courtesy of Juan Crocier mostly), and a big chorus are all it takes in the world of Ratt.  “Wanted Man” has always been a high point from Out of the Cellar, and it remains just as cool today.

“You’re in Trouble” kinda smells funny, as rock songs with funky bass often do.  Great chorus, but the rest of the song fails to generate any sort of fist-pumping.  This is easily forgotten since the third track is the big one.  “Round and Round”…what is it about this song?  It’s still irresistible today.  Why?  Everything clicks.  It is the perfect formulation of Robbin’s riffing, Warren’s picking, and Steven’s sneer.  Bobby and Juan keep the pulse tough and punchy.  It’s just one of those magical songs from that era that still has the goods.

Moving on, “In Your Direction” is suitable for an album track.  Ratt referred to their sound as “Ratt N’ Roll”, because according to them, it was their own sound unlike other bands.  That may be so, but unfortunately Ratt N’ Roll is pretty limited as far as genres go.  If you cross “Wanted Man” with “You’re In Trouble”, you get something like “In Your Direction”.  Ratt albums have always suffered from too many soundalike songs.  Smoking solo though — very Eddie-like.  “She Wants Money” is pretty good.  These old melodies are coming back, as are old memories.  “She Wants Money” is one of the strongest non-singles on Out of the Cellar.

Frustratingly, “Lack of Communication” is a good song that lacks a good chorus.  “Lack of communication, back off!”  Something’s not clicking there, which is too bad because the rest of the song was really decent.  What we need now is another single.  “Back For More” was always outstanding for a Ratt song. The acoustic intro was the only soft moment, on an album composed 100% of rockers. “Back For More” is punchy and memorable, a pretty great example of Ratt N’ Roll because it doesn’t sound too much like the other songs.

Stormy guitars and cool Pearcy vocals keep “The Morning After” rocking ’til dawn. “I’m Insane” ain’t too bad, another nondescript pedal-to-the-metal Ratt N’ Roller. “Scene of the Crime” is another fairless faceless Ratt song, which closes the album. It’s a fairly limp ending, and there’s nothing about the production that really aids or abets the album.

Listening to Out of the Cellar today is much the same as it was in the 80’s. It has enough high points to give credit where credit is due, but given the chance to listen to it or a “best of” CD, you’re going to go with the compilation. It’s too bad Ratt couldn’t have tightened up some of these songs a bit first, in the writing stage.

3/5 stars

REVIEW: Ratt – Infestation (2010 Japanese and iTunes editions)

RATT – Infestation (2010 Roadrunner Japanese and iTunes editions)

Ratt needed a comeback. Lineup changes galore, deaths, poorly-received changes in sound — forget all that stuff.  The band has since stabilized.  Pearcy’s back on lead vocals, and Carlos Cavazo (ex-Quiet Riot) has taken over guitar duties from John Corabi. Corabi’s a rhythm player, not a soloist (and that’s not a knock on Corabi).  Cavazo rocks out quite a few solos on this album. The difference is noticeable, and it’s a welcome return to something like the Ratt sound of yore. Do you like twin leads? Cavazo and Warren DeMartini rip out a few, each with his own distinct sound, but meshing well like they’ve been doing this forever. Cavazo also contributes strong co-writes to about half the album. Surely, you can’t imagine a better match than this for Ratt.

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[Note:  Since this release, original bassist Juan Crocier has also come back, replacing Robbie Crane.]

Pearcy’s in great voice, the passages of time disguise-able. But be forwarned, if you never liked Pearcy’s style before, this album is not going to change your mind. His vocals are augmented by some nice, but not overdone, backing vocals from the band. Longtime bassist Robbie Crane supplies backing vocals while holding down the bottom end.

INFESTATION_0005The sound of the album is pure Ratt, but modernly produced; surely the best sounding record they’ve done so far. Picture a heavier Out Of The Cellar. There are nods and winks to other eras of Ratt as well: I hear a little bit of “Way Cool” here and there, and damned if “Best Of Me” wouldn’t have fit right in on Detonator. Yet this is no retro-fest, as much as it does echo the 80’s. There are still sounds here that sound tougher and more modern, like the fast and heavy opener “Eat Me Up Alive” (my second favourite song).  There’s filler here, but even the filler is worth holding your finger off the skip button.  All except perhaps the dreadful “A Little Too Much”.

There Japanese bonus track is a cool slow groove rocker called “Scatter”, with a great memorable chorus. This is the best song to me.  Itunes got the track as well, but because I always prefer a physical edition, I bought the Japanese for my physical copy.  You will have to judge the value of that expenditure yourself, however I deemed it worthwhile.

There are also three live bonus tracks on the iTunes version, worth getting. These songs are “You Think You’re Tough”, “Tell The World”, and “Way Cool Jr.”, all previously unreleased and with Cavazo on guitar, “Live from the Rockline Studios”.  “You Think You’re Tough” is my favourite song from Ratt EP.

If you have ever liked Ratt, pick up Infestation if you’re curious what the band sounds like 25 years later. This is a solid Ratt album, not classic, but song for song among their better records.  They’ve retained their signature “Ratt N’ Roll” sound, but also what dignity and integrity a bunch of Ratts have. Well done.

3.333/5 stars

REVIEW: Ratt – Ratt (EP)

RIP Jeff Hanneman.  :(

Here’s the first review from the The Toronto Musical Collectibles Record & CD Sale! I promised I’d show you more of the stuff I scored. Here’s one!
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RATT – Ratt (1984 remixed EP, Time Coast)

My understanding is that this EP, much like Twisted Sister’s Under the Blade, was remixed and re-released.  It is the remixed version that I got in Mississauga at the Toronto Musical Collectibles Record Show.  I’ve wanted this EP for a long time, but for some reason it’s only now that I finally picked it up.  I was pleased to find it an enjoyable listen, easily on a par with Out of the Cellar, possibly Ratt’s best album.

Europe got 7 tracks on their version of the original mix (wishlist!), but this remixed version only has six.  Missing is “You’re In Trouble” which in re-recorded version was also on Out of the Cellar.  6 songs is a good length, too much Ratt can sound like razorblades coming at your ears, some times!  This self-titled debut keeps things brief, each of its songs more or less delivering the goods.

RATT LABELThe opener “Sweet Cheater” and “U Got It” are the faster side of Ratt.  I love Bobby “Da Blotz” Blotzer’s simple but gleeful drum intro.  (Can’t believe this guy was in Tateryche.)  Both songs have decent riffs, once again keeping things simple.  Pearcy’s trademark vocal snark is in fine form.  Ratt are not a great rock n’ roll band, but they certainly satisfy my cravings when I need some spandex-wrapped non-wimpy LA hard rock.  No ballads.  They had their own sound, largely due to Pearcy’s one-of-a-kind voice.

The closest thing to a ballad would be “Back For More”, which is to say, it has some acoustic guitars before Pearcy yelps, “You turn him away, you tell him you’re mine, You make him believe you’re but one of a kind.”  Meaningless but cocky.  Which maybe sums up the whole Ratt experience.  This is an early version of the hit song from Out of the Cellar, a bit longer, needing some of the fat trimmed.

“Walkin’ the Dog” is a Rufus Thomas cover via Aerosmith.  Aerosmith were in no danger of being dethroned by Ratt’s version, but it’s fun.  It suits their sound, it’s heavy, they throw their own attitude into it, and I’m sure there were youngsters of the 1980’s who assumed it was their own original tune.  The guitar solo is great.

The best song is the single “You Think You’re Tough”.  If Ratt has two sides (fast, and mid-tempo) then this is the mid-tempo side.  The riff is one of their best, the chorus and bridges are great, and the video had both Ozzy and Motley Crue in it.  Cool.

That’s Tawny Kitaen on the cover.  Pre-Coverdale.  She was dating Robbin Crosby at the time!

4/5 stars

Side A:

  1. “Sweet Cheater”
  2. “You Think You’re Tough”
  3. “U Got It”

Side B:

  1. “Tell the World”
  2. “Back for More”
  3. “Walkin’ the Dog”

REVIEW: KISS – Killers (1981 German and Japanese editions)

Part 18 of my series of Kiss reviews, leading up to the release of Monster!

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KISS – Killers (1981)

Killers is a greatest hits CD with four “new” tracks, released in ’81 everywhere except North America. After The Elder bombed, the European record company requested demanded a greatest hits album with new songs, specifically rock songs, no exception. Paul Stanley sings lead on all four new songs, and Paul, Bob Kulick & Robbin Crosby play guitar in Ace’s absense.  Yes, Ace was on the album cover but nowhere on the album.  He was effectively though not yet officially out of the band.

The new songs:

“I’m A Legend Tonight”: A great song with Eric Carr finally showing off what he can do on the drums. Although Paul himself tends to disown the songs on Killers, this is great. The riff is very memorable and the song is catchy (even if the chorus reminds me somewhat of “I’m So Excited” by the Pointer Sisters).

“Down On Your Knees”: Co-written by Bryan Adams (his first but not last collaboration with Kiss), this is a nondescript rocker. Catchy enough as an album track, but not outstanding. The cymbals are mixed a little high.

“Nowhere To Run”: The was one of the first songs written for The Elder sessions, and you can kind of tell by the falsetto that Paul employs in the bridge. It was dumped when they decided to go all concept album on The Elder, but here on Killers it is the standout track. The riff is stellar, the acoustic intro is cool, and Paul’s singing is perfect.

“Partners In Crime”. The weakest song. It’s a slow plod with nothing really going for it.

The rest of the album is filled with the greatest hits, but it is crucial to note that aside from one track on an Australian-only version (“Talk To Me”), all songs are sung by Paul and Gene. I do not believe any of the hits are remixed, but some feature edits/fades not present on the original albums (“Detroit Rock City”). I loved that “Sure Know Something” was included as it’s one of Paul’s under appreciated classics.

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The Japanese, which I have, included “Shandi” from Unmasked and “Escape From The Island” from The Elder. An instrumental, “Escape From The Island” was one of the few rockers on The Elder, which Ace wrote. Therefore, the Japanese version is a much more complete version and the version I recommend.

Killers is actually a great CD for new and old fans alike, which is a rare thing in the KISS catalog. There are cheaper compilations out there, but this one has a nice variety of tunes including oddballs like “Sure Know Something”. Of course there’s the four new songs too, two of which are really special.

4/5 stars