Hanoi Rocks – Two Steps From the Move (1984)

HanoiRocks_TwoSteps4.5 out of 5 Stars!

To me, when New York Dolls disbanded after only two albums, the band left a musical vacuum of “glam meets punk.” Thankfully, Finland’s Hanoi Rocks finally filled that vacuum when it appeared on the scene in the early ’80s. But unfortunately, Hanoi Rocks also got lumped in with all the other “hair bands” such as Poison, Cinderella, Ratt, and any other one of the zillions of groups that emerged with truckloads of Aqua Net in tow.

But Hanoi Rocks was so much more, especially since the group possessed that raw sound and punk attitude other “hair bands” sorely lacked. I loved them, and especially Two Steps From the Move, the band’s Bob Ezrin-produced fifth studio album, which showed the group at its rowdy, rollicking, and raucous peak, on the verge of worldwide fame, with the songwriting and performances never better.

A slamming cover of CCR’s “Up Around the Bend” opens up the album, probably the best version of the song I’ve ever heard recorded. And from there, things just get even better with the loud and rebellious “High School,” which leads into the punky and pouting “I Can’t Get It,” both tracks easily matching muscle with any of the band’s previous classics. “Underwater World,” “Futurama,” “Boulevard of Broken Dreams,” and “Boiler (Me Boiler ‘n’ Me)” all deliver pounding and killer riffs, some of Andy McCoy’s most inspired songwriting (with a little help on several tracks from Mott The Hoople’s Ian Hunter), while “Cutting Corners” and “Million Miles Away” both offer something a bit different, with Mike Monroe’s blazing sax included. Moreover, the band delivers a superior version of McCoy’s “Don’t You Ever Leave Me,” making mincemeat of the original (which appeared on the band’s debut album as “Don’t Never Leave Me”). Yes, Two Steps From the Move featured a collection of amazing tracks, a nearly perfect album from a band that finally seemed to have its act together and luck on its side.

But sadly, the ever-growing momentum ended shockingly and tragically when drummer Nicholas “Razzle” Dingley was killed in an automobile driven by Motley Crue’s Vince Neil, and Hanoi Rocks had to cancel the remainder of its first U.S. tour supporting the album and fell apart soon afterward. Although the band eventually reemerged in 2001 with a revised line-up to release three enjoyable albums in the following years, the “big moment” for Hanoi Rocks had passed, and this was the album that nearly catapulted the band to the top of the charts. Glam-Punk at its best!

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Hanoi Rocks – Back to Mystery City (1983)

HanoiRocks_MysteryCity4 out of 5 Stars!

Hanoi Rocks’s fourth studio album finally earned the Finnish band some much needed worldwide recognition, thanks to not only a collection of powerful and memorable tracks, but also the production magic from the team of Mott The Hoople alumni Overend Watts and Dale “Buffin” Griffin, who aided the band in perfecting its rather unique mix of glammy, trashy, and punky styles.

Moreover, the album even included Hoople’s Morgan Fisher as guest keyboardist, his piano tinkling away in the background on several tracks, which lent an almost Mott party atmosphere to the band’s New York Dolls form of sassy rebelliousness, so things were looking and sounding quite impressive, a giant step forward from the band’s previous albums where the production had often lacked and the tinsel had been missing.

As to the material, the songwriting had also taken a major uphill leap, with the band recording one of its most consistent sets and the musicians (vocalist Mike Monroe, guitarists Andy McCoy and Jan “Nasty Suicide” Stenfors, bassist Sam Yaffa, and drummer Razzle) performing their rockin’ and rollin’ hearts out. Indeed, Back to Mystery City includes some of the group’s catchiest material (and some future concert favorites), including “Malibu Beach Nightmare,” “Mental Beat,” “Sailing Down the Tears,” “Ice Cream Summer,” “Tooting Bec Wreck,” “Until I Get You,” and the fantastic title track that closes out the collection.

Now, with the blueprint for world domination being set into motion with this splendid platter, it was only the group’s following release, Two Steps From The Move, that would surpass the impact of this album and bring Hanoi Rocks to the very brink of hard-fought success and…

Damn it, senseless tragedy struck in the form of Mötley Crüe’s Vince Neil, who completely destroyed the band’s escalating momentum with his fatal drunk driving escapades.

So to those unfamiliar with this team of Finnish punky glamsters, Back to Mystery City would make a great starting point when delving into the band’s catalogue of material.

And to drummer Razzle…RIP.

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Jerusalem Slim – Jerusalem Slim (1992)

JerusalemSlim_14 out of 5 Stars!

Jerusalem Slim was a fun, short-lived band based in New York City featuring Mike Monroe and Sam Yaffa (Hanoi Rocks), Steve Stevens (Billy Idol/Atomic Playboys), and Ian McLagan (Faces) that released only a single album before vanishing.

As one might expect with this particular gang of musicians, the band played a style of music similar to (mostly) Hanoi Rocks. Yet with Stevens’s creative guitar prowess and sound effects on full display, with his solos and fills occasionally weird and mind-bending, the overall album is quite a bit heavier, with more polish and a brighter, rounder production quality than the aforementioned group ever had.

Nevertheless, vocalist Mike Monroe’s amusingly sassy, raucous, and punkish attitude is also here in abundance, and his wailing saxophone and harmonica pop up on occasion, so fans of Hanoi Rocks should certainly appreciate this obscure release as much as I do.

Punchy and energetic tunes such as “Teenage Nervous Breakdown,” “Lethal Underground,” “Rock ‘n’ Roll Degeneration,” “Attitude Adjustment,” “Criminal Instinct,” and “Scum Live On” go for the throat and simply never let go in a sleazy, rebellious onslaught.

In a perfect rock ‘n’ roll world, Jerusalem Slim would have lasted much longer and issued more material…much more, damn it!

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