Warren DeMartini

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

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: Whitesnake – Greatest Hits (1994)

WSWHITESNAKE – Greatest Hits (1994 Geffen)

I don’t own this CD.  Never have, actually.  I gave it enough in-store play (only while working alone!) that I have no problem reviewing it. This Greatest Hits CD dates back to 1994, the year I first started working at the Record Store. As such, it was the first ever official Whitesnake Greatest Hits CD, the first of many. The band had been broken up for about four years at that point. Even by 1994 standards, it was only an OK release. It did contain some rare tracks, but was limited to Whitesnake’s 1984-1989 Geffen output only. For budget-priced collections, I would recommend the cheaper 20th Century Masters – The Millennium Collection because it still has all the hit singles from that period at a lower price. For fans who need more, the much better Whitesnake Gold or Silver Anniversary Collection make a more complete picture with more rarities and deep album cuts. These of course weren’t available in 1994.  Today music buyers have a lot more to choose from.

One inclusion that some listeners may not enjoy about Greatest Hits is the version of “Here I Go Again” chosen. This is not the well-known album version that most people have heard. This is the “single remix” with different guitar solos (by guest Dan Huff) and more keyboards. Some radio stations do play it from time to time, but I think most casual buyers would listen to this and say, “I don’t like it as much”.  And nor do I, but it is a rarity.

Otherwise, this album (like 20th Century Masters) contains every hit single from the period, and nothing from the blues-based records before. It does feature some other cool rarities: the B-side “Sweet Lady Luck” featuring Steve Vai, “Looking For Love”, and “You’re Gonna Break My Heart Again”. However, with the many compilations and remasters released since 1994, these songs are no longer hard to find. “Sweet Lady Luck” was even released on a Steve Vai boxed set!

Rounding out this selection of hits and rare tracks are deeper album cuts.  These are include the glossy Kashmir-esque “Judgement Day”, “Crying in the Rain ’87”, “Slow Poke Music” and the wicked “Slide It In”.  They help balance out the ballad-y hits that Whitesnake were adept at writing.

Interestingly, when this album was released, David Coverdale assembled a new, shortlived Whitesnake and toured for it. That version of Whitesnake included former members Rudy Sarzo and Adrian Vandenberg, both of the 1987-1990 version of the band. It also included drummer Denny Carmassi (Coverdale-Page) and guitarist Warren DeMartini (Ratt). Shame that no live recordings from this version of the band have never been released. The band disolved for several year again after this, only to reform in 1997 with a new lineup including Carmassi and Vandenberg.

This album is only mildly better than 20th Century Masters, but is inferior to the more recent, more comprehensive compilations I have mentioned. Buy at a sensible price point.

2/5 stars
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