HURRICANE – Over the Edge (1988 Enigma)
I was aboard on the ground floor with Hurricane, as soon as I heard of them. I was already a huge Quiet Riot fan, and Hurricane had in their roster the brothers of Rudy Sarzo and Carlos Cavazo. On guitar was Robert Sarzo (now in Operation: Mindcrime), and on bass Tony Cavazo. Their first video ever, “Hurricane”, was in near-constant rotation at Chez LeBrain. When I joined the Columbia House record club, Hurricane’s first full length Over the Edge was in my introductory first order.
I loaned Over the Edge to my buddy Bob, who did not like it. I was surprised because I thought it was right up his alley, but he didn’t care for the singer Kelly Hansen (now in Foreigner). I was digging it at the time, and although there were some tracks that were undoubtedly filler, I thought it had quite a few killers too! The first single “I’m On to You” for example was memorable, tough enough, and catchy as anything that major bands had been releasing.
There were two big names attached to the album: Mike Clink produced it, with Bob Ezrin acting as executive producer. You would expect it to sound a lot better than it actually does. Vocals and guitars often seem distant, the drums don’t have enough snap, and there are weird distracting keyboard overdubs that cramp the mix. Over the Edge is not horrible sounding by any stretch, but it sure is not up to the standards of Mike Clink and Bob Ezrin.
It’s not always your best bet to open an album with a slow-building semi-rocker like “Over the Edge”, acoustic intro and all. Thankfully, Robert’s electric riff kicks in and the track begins to rock like an old Europe anthem. It’s a little more dark and foreboding than most of the hard rock making the charts in ’88 — it has some weight to it, and that’s what I liked about it. But I also get what my friend Bob didn’t like about Hansen’s vocals. He has powerful lungs but when he’s pushing, his voice can sound a little uneven. As an album opener, “Over the Edge” implies there will be drama and twists and turns ahead.
The first twist is a bizarre cover of Alice Cooper’s “I’m Eighteen” that slows down and unnecessarily modernizes the track. Maybe this cover was Ezrin’s doing. I don’t know and I advise that it’s a track for skipping as it just kills the momentum. “I’m On to You” is way, way better. A bright hard rocker with a catchy na-na-na chorus and fiery guitar licks is a fast way to the heart.
“Messin’ With a Hurricane” is a pretty cool song, sounding a bit like 80’s-era Ace Frehley lyrically and musically, but without Ace! Then “Insane” (a song title Ace also used in ’88) ends the side with a boring “blues” rock jam. Nope, sorry, no sparks happening for me here. Even worse though, side two opener “We Are Strong”…oh man. I am struggling to describe how bad this song is. Imagine swimming in a jar of lukewarm Cheez-Wiz. Nothing about this sounds good to me.
Hurricane salvage the situation with “Spark in My Heart”, a decent hard rocker with an anthemic chorus. It has some balls to it and Hansen’s singing here is great. “Give Me an Inch” is really good. It uses the guitar sparingly and has an unusual construction that I am immediately attracted to. It’s very different, and still hits the spot today. Likewise, “Shout” is still a good song, although Kelly Hansen pushes the limits of his range on it.
One thing about Kelly Hansen that I need to point out is that since 1988, his voice has barely changed at all! He has lost nothing. Singing with Foreigner is a serious gig, and he does it.
The best and worst track on the album is the instrumental closer “Baby Snakes” (no relation to Frank Zappa). In an unexpected left turn, the band crank out a fast-paced metal shuffle with smoking drums and solos. But…but but but! These amazingly smoking instrumental passages are then lowered in volume as we listen to some guy named Jeff calling up some girl named Jenny and constantly asking her out, while she blows him off. It gets tired fast, especially when, for a brief moment, the volume comes back on and Robert Sarzo rips out a killer solo only to be interrupted by Jeff and Jenny again. Bad call, guys. Bad call.
MVP: Drummer Jay Schellen, a serious talent with chops and creative fills. The guy smokes all over this record.