Jefferson Starship – Red Octopus (1975)

Starship_RedOctopus4 out of 5 Stars!

Red Octopus is the album that finally put Jefferson Airplane/Starship/Whatever back in the spotlight. Having both the wonderful Grace Slick and Marty Balin (who returned to the group full time) behind the microphone for the ’75 release, along with Paul Kantner and the revamped line-up of musicians, Red Octopus made the vocal sound of “Airplane” relevant again.

Although I was never an avid fan of the huge (and heavily edited) hit single “Miracles,” feeling it a bit too “adult contemporary” for my tastes, I still savored the vocal interplay between Slick and Balin, and through the years, eventually grew to love the lengthier album version. I was also pleased to hear some high-caliber songwriting from Slick—indeed, the album contains “Fast Buck Freddie,” which Slick co-wrote with guitarist Craig Chaquico, “Play On Love,” a collaboration between Slick and bassist/keyboardist Pete Sears, and Slick’s own “Ai Garimasu (There Is Love),” with all three becoming some of my favorite “Grace songs” of the band’s career. Besides the aforesaid “Miracles,” the Balin-fronted tracks “Sweeter Than Honey” and “Tumblin'” were also fine slices of melodic rock, while “There Will Be Love” and “I Want to See Another World,” where the group’s trademarked “gang vocals” come into play, are also quite commendable.

In truth, however, I could have easily done without the pair of instrumentals (“Git Fiddler” and “Sandalphon”) appearing on the album—with Jefferson Starship having numerous songwriters in its line-up and two dynamic lead singers in the form of Slick and Balin, one would think the band might have whipped up some additional vocal tunes to further showcase their talents and satisfy fans of the crooning duo. After all, the male/female vocal interplay is what made each album from Jefferson Airplane or Jefferson Starship so special, so why include two less-than-spectacular instrumentals and deprive the fans of additional Slick/Balin chemistry?

Regardless, with the revamped group hitting the big time thanks to Red Octopus, this insured its survival for many more years, despite numerous line-up changes and another name change/shortening that would eventually follow.

Get The Album Now!

Humble Pie – On to Victory (1980)

HumblePie_OnToVictory3.5 out of 5 Stars!

I’m not sure why this particular Humble Pie “comeback” album typically receives generally low ratings on many music-related websites. Perhaps it’s because the band at this time featured only two original members—drummer Jerry Shirley and the outstanding vocalist/guitarist Steve Marriott with his raspy, powerful, soulful delivery, undoubtedly the star of the show. For this album, Humble Pie also added Bobby Tench (Jeff Beck Group) on guitar, keys, and second vocals along with Anthony “Sooty” Jones on bass, yet perhaps because the album didn’t feature Clem Clempson’s tasteful lead guitar work, that may be part of the problem for some listeners.

And yes, this ten-track album may not contain the same overall raw and hungry atmosphere as many of the band’s releases from the early ’70s—Rock On, Thunderbox, or Smokin’, for example—but it’s nevertheless a definite step upward from the group’s previous (and poorly produced) ’75 release Street Rats. Plus, On to Victory does contain a gem of an opening track called “Fool for a Pretty Face,” along with the raucous and upbeat “Further Down the Road” and “Get It in the End,” the sleazy grind of “Take It from Here,” the bluesy and gut-wrenching “My Lover’s Prayer,” and the sax-enhanced “Infatuation.” And as always when it comes to a Humble Pie album, numerous tracks feature the gospel-tinged female background singers and an appropriate amount of organ and piano accents. Therefore, although On to Victory certainly isn’t a perfect album, not entirely “victorious” as the band no doubt had wished, it definitely ain’t half as bad as some listeners might have one believe either.

And hey, any album that includes an ass-kickin’ rocker with a silly title such as “You Soppy Pratt” can’t be too dismal, right?

Get The Album Now!

Krokus – Headhunter (1983)

Krokus_Headhunter4 out of 5 Stars!

Although I was never a huge fan of Switzerland’s Krokus, feeling the band’s albums to be horribly inconsistent with silly lyrics, hackneyed riffs, and often tame production, with the group usually coming across like a second-rate version of AC/DC, 1983’s Headhunter certainly packed a mighty wallop and finally had me sitting up to take notice.

Here, with Krokus expanding its AC/DC-influenced sound and writing truly exemplary head-banging material with more mature lyrics—thundering and catchy tracks such as “Night Wolf,” “Russian Winter,” “Eat the Rich,” “Ready to Burn,” “Stayed Awake All Night,” and the single “Screaming in the Night”—plus adding a take-no-prisoners energy, a more sinister atmosphere, and a richer full-bodied sound (thanks, no doubt, to producer Tom Allom), the upgraded heaviness-factor nearly rivaled that of Germany’s Accept. Hell, the album’s furious and fiery opening track, “Headhunter,” blasts out of the speakers to create pure metal mayhem, instantly becoming a classic of the genre.

Therefore, not only was this my favorite Krokus album by far, but it was also the band’s most commercially successful. To me, considering Krokus’s previous less-than-spectacular platters, Headhunter displayed the group’s amazing transformation from having only a “second-string opening act” ranking to achieving full-blown “potential headliner” status, obviously a giant leap forward in the band’s development.

But unfortunately, Krokus never again matched Headhunter‘s sheer power, and by the time of the next album a year later, the band had already sold out to its newfound commercial success and once again delivered watered-down, inconsistent, and fairly lame material. Needless to say, my interest in the band quickly faded.

And what a shame, since Headhunter—showing the band’s full potential with the right producer at the controls—simply slaughters!

Get The Album Now!

Britny Fox – Britny Fox (1988)

BritnyFox_13.5 out of 5 Stars!

From Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the glamming, slamming Britny Fox had much in common with the band Cinderella…not only regarding its city of origin, but some of its personnel, its overall rocking sound and big-haired image, and (as it turns out) its ultimate “level of fame”—although Cinderella undoubtedly had a tad more of the latter (and a head start) thanks to becoming “MTV darlings” upon the release of its debut album several years earlier.

Regardless, even though the bands are so darned similar, with the raspy vocals, the beefy guitars, the driving rhythms, and the infectious choruses, I preferred Britny Fox overall, finding the band’s first two albums more consistent than those by Cinderella (which noticeably altered its style between its debut and sophomore albums).

Anyway, with catchy boot-stompers such as “Long Way to Love,” “In America,” “Girlschool,” “Kick ‘n’ Fight,” “Hold On,” “Rock Revolution,” and a rollicking version of Slade’s “Gudbuy T’ Jane,” Britny Fox delivered some often-engaging material. “Dizzy” Dean Davidson’s lead vocals seem a cross between Cinderella’s Tom Keifer and Nazareth’s Dan McCafferty, therefore it didn’t seem particularly odd that the music also comes off as a blending of these two bands, with perhaps extra inspiration from groups such as Kiss, Quiet Riot, W.A.S.P., Black ‘n’ Blue, Tesla, and several other acts from the era.

Whatever the case, Britny Fox’s self-titled debut album proved especially addictive to fans of the “hair metal” genre during the fun yet silly, sleazy yet glittering, and mascara-lined and Aqua Net-infested ’80s, and truth be told, the music on this platter holds up rather well even all these decades later.

Get The Album Now!

Frijid Pink – Frijid Pink (1970)

FrijidPink_14 out of 5 Stars!

On the debut album from Frijid Pink, a long-forgotten band from Detroit, the “Motor City”/Michigan influence truly shows, especially when it comes to the blues-based Hard Rock style on display.

The band seemed to follow a similar starting template as other popular Hard Rock acts to arise from the same general area of the USA, including The Stooges, Alice Cooper, Grand Funk Railroad, and perhaps even MC5 (although definitely not quite as blisteringly loud or frantic as the latter). Nevertheless, tunes such as “Crying Shame,” “Tell Me Why,” “I Want To Be Your Lover,” “Drivin’ Blues,” “End of the Line,” and the catchy opener “God Gave Me You” are liberally sprinkled with shredding riffs, a fuzzy psychedelic guitar tone, frantic “Keith Moon-esque” drumming, and a rowdy and rebellious (almost proto-punk…or dare I say “proto-PINK”?) atmosphere. And one additional highlight of the album is the band’s cover of the classic “House of the Rising Sun,” which, to me, is far superior to the Animals’ version. Yes, this is “Garage Rock” at its sometimes-sloppy, occasionally rough, yet riotous finest.

Too bad Frijid Pink never gained the same lasting recognition as the other Michigan bands that emerged during the same era, since this album and the subsequent two releases—Defrosted (1970) and Earth Omen (1972)—are all nearly forgotten gems of Heavy Psych Rock.

Get The Album Now!