So here’s an interesting – and unusual – idea. Why don’t someone just go out on a melodic hard rock trek and collect every unsigned demo band that has ever played the Sunset Strip, Hollywood, CA? Said and done, American record label Eönian Records did just that and to make things just a bit smoother, here’s a quick press release, copied and pasted right as it said on their home page:
Eonian Records is very excited to present the single largest collection of West Hollywood’s Sunset Strip bands ever assembled entitled Rock ‘n’ Roll Rebels & the Sunset Strip. Rock ‘n’ Roll Rebels & the Sunset Strip were the third and final wave of Sunset Strip bands, the most competitive market for rock ‘n’ roll that had ever existed. During this era, the Sunset Strip had become a living, breathing entity of extreme depth and breadth of musicality, self-indulgence, and living in the intrepidly fast and dangerous lane. Band members were judging T-shirt contests at Gazzarri’s, hanging out upstairs in the loft at the Rainbow doing blow, downing tequila shots before a show upstairs in the Red Room at the Whisky, chilling with friends at the front bar of the Troubadour, and dropping by the Roxy to see who was playing and what was going to be shaking that evening. This was West Hollywood’s one and only, the Sunset Strip. Taz, Rattlesnake Shake, Blackboard Jungle, Imagine World Peace, The Wild, Dallas Dollz, Shake City, Hans Naughty, Paradise were just a small handful of bands that played part of the greatest rock ‘n’ roll scene that ever was. They are the last generation of rock bands that ruled the Los Angeles music scene! Rock ‘n’ Roll Rebels & the Sunset Strip – Volume I features 36 bands from the 1980s and early 1990s Los Angeles rock scene and is a four-disc collection with 72 digitally re-mastered, original studio recordings. Only a small handful of these recordings were ever made available, as most were meant primarily for the ears of recording industry giants in an effort to be signed. Volume I also features a 60-page color booklet with a close up look at each band, over 100 original archived photos, and the 13-page “Rock ‘n’ Roll Rebels: Sunset Strip Certified” narrated by JohnnyX of The Wild and Adam Gifford of Paradise, both well-known bands on the Sunset Strip.
So there’s a quick introduction for you. Now, I’m a guy who was raised on Sweet and Kiss in the 70’s – the other influential rock bands such as Deep Purple, Thin Lizzy, Black Sabbath, Aerosmith, Rainbow and ZZ Top came later for me – so the fact that I became a huge fan of the melodic rock of the late 80’s / early 90’s (I refuse to use the term hair metal! There is no, have never been and never will be a musical style called that, so enuff already!) isn’t exactly a shocker. When grunge waltzed in and killed everything fun and melodic, I was almost devastated. But to be honest, when the last of the glam / melodic rock bands were signed around 1992 / 1993, I saw videos with bands like Roxy Blue, Southgang, The Bang Gang and Tainted Angel and then even I was bored. Everyone sounded the same, looked the same and if grunge hadn’t come along, something else would have taken over because the popmetal trend had eaten itself. Something had to be done and grunge did it. Besides, bands such as Winger, Warrant and Dokken made their best records in the middle of the grunge era so grunge wasn’t all bad. But today, when we write 2015, melodic hard rock has risen once again and many of the bands considered new, like Crazy Lixx, Dynazty and Crashdiet felt like breath of fresh air when they came around in the mid 2000’s. After grunge and nu-metal, things had to turn around again and glam, sleaze and AOR saw their chances to come back kicking and screaming. That’s why 2015 is the perfect year to release a mastodon CD project like this. When it comes to the quality, I sure had my doubts and suspicions of how many of the bands would sound. I still have a strong memory of the whole melodic hard rock trend and just by looking at some of the names listed, it wasn’t hard to imagine how they would sound. But we’re getting ahead of ourselves here. Let’s dig deep and namedrop every single band and song on this 4 CD set. yes, folks, this review will be as mastodon as the CD package itself. Hope you have the patient to come along for my ride. Here we go, then:
RATTLESNAKE SHAKE: (6/10) – First track “Shootin’ Daggers” is really good. It’s a kick-ass rocker that could have gotten the band somewhere. Lots better than many of the signed bands around this time. But even though it has some potential, “Get Around” isn’t that great. A standard rocker that really doesn’t go anywhere and I lose interest half way through the song.
ALICE B TOLEKAS: (7/10) – “In The Morning” is a really cool song that sounds like a more metal version of Blind Melon. If this was their video back in the day, I probably would have bought the album. The same with “This Is Now”, an acoustic based hard rock groover. It’s not as original as the first track, but still very good. I have the feeling this band could have made it, had they come out a few years earlier. Big potential!
THE WILD: (5/10) – “Get Down 2 Night” is a true groover with a big Rolling Stones vibe and I also think of Rival Sons, so this can only be a good thing. But “Some Girls” is nothing special, an ordinary sleaze rocker that goes in one ear and out the other. Besides, the lyrics to both songs are way too cliché for comfort. Also, the songs feel unfinished and the musicians lacks experience.
GONGGONG: (6/10) – “Higher” is a really good song – think early 90’s melodic hard rock like Warrant or Slaughter and “Sticky Situation” is a really, catchy rocker that makes me think of Steel Panther without the x-rated humour. If they had come around a few years earlier and hired a Tom Werman – type producer, they could have had a chance.
HANS NAUGHTY: (5/10) – Ok, first of all, with a stupid band name like that, world domination is impossible. But unfortunately, the first song isn’t much better than the name. “Fallen Nature” sounds like a second-rate mix of Shotgun Messiah and Southgang. But the second one, “Be With You” is pretty good – catchy, well-played with a happy feel all over it.
IMAGINE WORLD PEACE: (4/10) – Another stupid name. But with this lot, I really can’t find any song worthwhile. The whole sound sounds like a mix of Mötley Crüe, Pretty Boy Floyd and Cats In Boots – nothing wrong with those acts, but hey you need some identity as well. “Something I Miss” sounds like a bad sounding, new beginners demo and the song is nothing special and “Sometimes” goes in a million different directions at the same time – schizophrenic, to say the least. I hear both Alice Cooper, Cats In Boots and Saigon Kick in the song. All would be well if the song had a direction. And if it was good.
BAD BLOOD: (4/10) – I don’t think I would buy an album with a band called Bad Blood. Why? Well, it’s a pretty crappy name. And the way they sound – like an ordinary demo band – the songs wouldn’t convince me to either. “Slip” doesn’t go anywhere and it really needs some more work and “Sweet Addiction” sounds like a second-rate Shark Island. Hope they didn’t quit their daytime jobs…
CYCLONE SOUND: (4/10) – I totally love that name – awesome! But unfortunately, this lots is not very good. The over all sound sounds like a more metal version of Slaughter and both their songs “City Monsters” and “All Systems” are not that much to write home about. Competent, well-played, but oh so impersonal. I really don’t give a shit about originality as long as the songs kills, but this just too bland.
HAP HAZARD: (7/10) – It’s really nice that the first CD ends with something cool. This band hasn’t reinvented the wheel by any means, they’re really just as unoriginal as the rest of the bands here, but they do have a couple of really catchy and fun tunes. “Sorry” is plain hard rock ‘n’ roll with a great groove and even though “Under Fire” isn’t as good as the first song, it’s a really cool rocker. Also, their singer reminds me of Marq Torien (Bulletboys) and I loved the two first Bulletboys albums. Yes, there’s a chance I would have bought their CD.
CHARLOTTE: (8/10) – The second CD starts in the best possible way. Charlotte’s two tracks are both brilliant and the band has a style of their own, albeit in the vein of the melodic hard rock that was popular in the early 90’s. “Little Devils” is a great tune with a pretty original style and a killer guitar sound. “Krackerman” is a catchy rocker and a great tune all the way through. Judging by these two tracks, Charlotte are a much better band than most of those who got signed around this time. I would have bought this album for sure.
LYPSWITCH: (3/10) – But we’re back on Earth again as soon as band # 2 shows up. First track “Sexx On the Sun” (please…) is huge cliché and a boring standard rock song and the same goes for “She’s So Psychedelic”. Total middle-of-the-road pop metal. The band sounds like a mix between a second-rate Mötley Crüe and Pretty Boy Floyd (who are second-rate to begin with…) with a Joel Ellis (Cats In Boots) clone on the mike.
BAD BONES: (4/10) – Another bad name on a bad band. Well, they might not be bad, but they’re not good either. “My Love Is For Real” is a standard power ballad that I have heard a million times before, only better. “Give Good Love” is a standard melodic hard rocker and guess what? I have heard this a million times before, only better.
ENTICIER: (4/10) – By now I’m starting to lose interest a bit. What started out so good has turned plain dull. This band is nothing special at all and the songs are just second-rate hard rock. “Daddy’s Little Girl” passes by unnoticed and “One Way Ticket” sounds like a poppier version of Ratt. A second-rate Ratt, that is.
SCRATCH: (4/10) – What an original name! But it suits them well because the music is just about as interesting as the name. “Merry Go Round” is just a big yawn. Every riff, every melody and every drum fill has been done to death. “Smack Dub” is better, much better actually, but unfortunately, the song is too forgettable.
HARDLY DANGEROUS (8/10) – What a relief! Finally something that kicks ass. Despite the ridiculous name, this female fronted band makes sure that the groove is alright and the melodies are catchy. “Sweeter Than Honey” is a great funky, raw and catchy rocker that reminds me of White Trash, only more rock. “Game Of Love” is raunchy, bluesy, rhythmic and fast and rocks with the best of them. Yes, I would buy this as well. Too bad they never got to make a record.
SAM MANN & THEE APES: (8/10) – Ok, first up. Who came up with this name? I mean, there’s no way in hell that a band will get anywhere with a name like that. Luckily enough, the music is way, way better. Their two songs, “Feel My Body” and “Nasty Woman”, both has an addictive groove and they have an identity of their own, a thing that isn’t that common among the bands on this album. They sport a big Van Halen influence and just like Van Halen, this is big rock. Catchy, groovy and raw with distinct melodies. I’d buy their album in a heartbeat.
MAD REIGN: (7/10): – Here’s another band with a big potential. They have a pretty own sound and the songs are really good. “Rise” is a heavy, sleazy and pretty catchy rocker and “The First One’s Free” is dark and heavy but rocks like crazy. With the right producer, this band could have gone far.
THE MIMES: (8/10) – CD 2 ends like it began – with a great band. First song “Crack Alley” sounds like Faster Pussycat on a blues diet. Yes, I know they also has a song with the same name. “Kick, Kick (Scratch And Fight)” is an awesome funky, kick-ass rocker with a brilliant chorus. It also contains a saxophone solo – and I love it. Saxophone is such an underrated rock instrument.
SHAKE CITY: (5/10) – Both songs, “Betty Blue” and “She’s Atomic” are ok rock songs, but sounds just like everything else that was released around this time. Nothing new under the sun and the band just sounds uninteresting.
BLACKBOARD JUNGLE: (8/10) – More melodic rock than sleaze / glam, this band has a personality of their own and they bring two high quality songs to the table. “Paint You A Picture” is a great melodic rock song, catchy as hell with big hit potential and “Chicago” is just as catchy, a pop metal tune based on acoustic guitars. Could have gone somewhere. Should have gone somewhere. Too bad the never got signed.
PARADISE: (5/10) – This was disappointing. See, even though there are much missing to their sound, I hear potential in this. A Bruce Fairbairn type of producer could have made wonders with this band. “Satisfaction Guaranteed” is the same old, same old and ordinary hard rock, but “I’m In Love With You” really has hit potential. There’s a major pop feel all over the tune.
HOLLYWOOD ROSE: (4/10) – Correct me if I’m wrong, but didn’t Axl Rose have a band before Guns N Roses called Hollywood Rose? This is a case of bad, bad, bad imagination, boys. The same goes for the music, I’m afraid. “”Sweet Little Angel” could have been whoever band in this genre that released an album in 1992 / 1993. “Come A Little Closer” is better and has a nice groove, but the song is too forgettable to have any chance.
TAZ: (4/10) – This lot sounds just like any other demo band from every other basement somewhere and their music is the “in one ear, out the other”, kind of music. “Day Of The Dog” and “Dogtown” are both sleazy, punky and glammy, but they’re also too ordinary and uninteresting.
DADDY RAY: (5/10) – I’m not even gonna get started about their name, I’m just gonna state that their two songs on here, “Success” – a noisy, glammy and somewhat punky rock song that never would have come close on being what the title suggests and “Nag Nag Nag”, a party rock ‘n’ roll track, sounds like unfinished demos and that they don’t really have that much to offer.
CHILDREN: (6/10) – “Dance With Me”! Bang, boom! Awesome groove and a hot-shot producer could have made this happen big time. Same with “Water Into Wine”. A great groove and a killer hook, makes for a pretty good song. They sound like a Cats In Boots light, so close but no cigar. And oh, you cannot name your band Children. Ever!
SHEL SHOC: (6/10) – Here’s a band that went to Poison / Pretty Boy Floyd school. That means that their songs are pop songs disguised as rock songs and that the members loves to play more than they do it well. But that doesn’t mean that they are all that bad. “Lotta Love” is a song made by Poison a million times, but I still think it’s ok. It’s catchy enough and I take this over Tuff any day. “Pull The trigger” rips off Kiss’ “Larger Than Life”, but it’s a pretty good song any way. I’m not sure how far this band would have gone in 1989, though.
DALLAS DOLLZ: (3/10) – And again – the name. I knew exactly how they would sound and the quality of their music just by looking at their name. Lord, just the z at the end makes me mad. And no, they don’t have the songs to make up for it either. “Dirty Mary” (really…) is one big cliché. Do I have to tell you it’s a sleaze rock song? “Doin’ Time” mixes Guns N Roses sleaze with NWOBHM (that’s New Wave Of British Heavy Metal, for you who didn’t know that) and early Metallica. Would have been great if it worked – but it don’t. Yes, they can play, but this is dull anyway.
DEAF, DUMB & BLONDE: (7/10) – But c’mon already. What’s with all these stupid names? Did all these bands ask Dr Braindead for help when it came to naming their bands? But this gang actually had something going on here musically. “Heaven’s Trail” has got a bluesy grove and a great hook, but the chorus could be stronger. “Down And Dirty” might be a cliché lyrically, but I like it – it has THAT! Very catchy and very groovy. This band sure had potential.
COLD SHOT: (8/10) – This one’s a jawbreaker for sure. Nothing new under the sun, but “Give Me What I Need” rocks and man, it do rock hard. There’s so much attitude in that song they could put it in a bottle and sell it – and they’d probably make it rich! “Little Too Late” is a brilliant little party rocker with a killer groove and a massive chorus, catchy as it gets. Yes, I’d buy this and judging by these songs, they deserved to make it big.
NEW IMPROVED GOD: (7/10) – Now that’s what I call a great band name. And the music isn’t all that bad either. “Back Where You Belong” is a good time rock ‘n’ roll song with a big pop melody – great! “Dead Rock Stars” is great! Cool song that goes for a different beat. Somebody should have signed them.
AGENT ZERO: (4/10) – I like that name. Too bad I’m not that big on their songs. “Shadows” is an ordinary early 90’s rock song that sounds like every bland copy-cat band from that era and “Distant Memory” is a half ballad that clearly is aimed at the MTV audience. They probably thought this was their hit. It could have been, but I’m not convinced. Ordinary band.
ACES & EIGHTS: (4/10) – Next band with a really good name but not the songs to match. “Read My Lips” is a standard hard rock song, that is forgotten the second it’s over and “You Ain’t My Religion” is a decent, pretty catchy pop-rocker, but it really is a bagatelle. There’s nothing here that makes me want to check them out further.
ROUGH JUSTICE: (2/10) – LOVE the name. But unfortunately, this is really bad. “Cheap Disguise” is duller than dull, a standard sleazer and I lost interest after 30 seconds. “Good Ole Days” is just boring glam rock. This band sounds like a bunch of new beginners, untight, bad sound and not very good musicians at all.
BYTE THE BULLET: (5/10) – Byte? Well, well. This is not a bad band at all, they’re quite ok. “Let ’em Down Easy” has a good melody and the song is ok, but something is missing and it never reaches the goal. “Russian Roulette” is a pretty good song, but it was recorded by Southgang on their Tainted Angel (1991). BTB’s version also contains a rip-off of Mötley Crüe’s “Live Wire” both at the intro and at the ending. But a good producer might have made something cool out of them.
SPYDER BLUE: (6/10) – “Dummy Says” is actually a pretty cool song. It’s really a standard hard rocker without much identity, but the groove is killer and I can see this tune go down well live. “Love, Lies And Hate” is a really good song as well, think Love/Hate on a date with White Trash. The funky vibes makes the song stand out a bit. There’s potential here, no doubt about that.
CHARLEMAGNE: (8/10) – …and this whole journey ends on a good note, I’m happy to report. “You’re All I Need” might be a title a million bands have used before, but it is a damn good melodic rocker with a killer groove. “Who Needs Bad Girls” is their hit, a very catchy pop metal song. It really should have been a hit and this band should have been signed to a big label. Talk about saving the best for last.
As you may have noticed by now, the quality of many of the bands here aren’t exactly sky-high and even the bands that are good, still sounds very much like all the other melodic hard rock bands that was around then. But what it says the most is that the melodic rock / glam / sleaze thing had run its course, there was no way that scene could have survived. When bands copy bands that copied bands that copied bands, then something must be done – melodic hard rock and pop metal committed suicide, grunge didn’t kill that scene, it just pulled the plug of the life support machine. This scene had overstayed its welcome for long enough. But what about this box-set then? Well, the fact that it contains a whole lot of pretty bad bands is secondary, really, that’s not what this box-set is all about. No, the whole deal is to pay attention and acknowledge a scene loved by many, a scene that affected the whole music biz and a scene that sold more hard rock and metal albums than no other scene before and after it. For all of us who lived it, no matter if you were actually there or not, this four CD ride is a must. For us that loved the music, that loved look and attitude and for all of us who had the time of our lives then need to be reminded of that there was shitloads of bands bubbling under the surface when the scene died and they all deserve to be heard – good or bad. That’s why this box-set needs a high rating – the whole concept deserve it. And the guys behind this thing deserve it. Me, I can’t stop listening to it and I’m enjoying the hell out of it – and so should you. That said, here’s a link to Eönian records. Now, buy it!
Jon Wilmenius (8/10)