Friday, March 06, 2009

Lesser of two evils

Putting bad albums to good use.

Sometimes they come back. Actually in the last decade or so many 80's bands have come back whether we wanted them to or not. Actually the bands in question today had some high points or a point back in the 1980's. Ratt were actually one of the more consistent hard rock bands of that decade. They were never truly great or groundbreaking, but every album from 1983-1990 was at least good or better. The band broke up in the early 90's after line-up changes, lack of albums sales and other factors finally took their toll on the band. King Kobra were a different story of sorts. They were founded by veteran drummer Carmine Appice (Cactus, Vanilla Fudge and many others) and originally featured guitarist Earl Slick. However some changes were made and the band did manage to land on a major label. They released a fine, but overlooked debut "Ready to strike" in 1985. Then followed it up the next year with "Thrill of a lifetime" which unfortunately saw the band heading in a more AOR direction. The band then fell on rough times as they got booted from their label and then several line-up changes ensued including basssist Johnny Rod going to WASP and other members left to form the Bullet Boys. The band came back with a very different line-up on the 1988 release King Kobra 3 which was a hit and miss affair at best. After that they decided to call it a day as band members went off to other projects.


Time passed, the stars lined up a certain way and these old geezers needed money so they came back. Ratt would return with three original members as they went to a single guitar approach and they brought in former Vince Neil bassist Robbie Crane to round out the line-up. King Kobra includes Appice, some limited playing by former member Mick Sweda and several new members plus some guests.

Here we go.


Photobucket

King Kobra-Hollywood Trash

vs.


Photobucket

Ratt-s/t

Vocalist

I actually had to skip this section and come back because I knew it would be tough. Kelly Keeling (Baton Rouge, Blue Murder) is up for King Kobra. He has always had a good voice as far he has range and can handle different styles, but he lacks distinction and the ability to really display emotion in his voice. He goes through the motions fine, but nothing stands out and he is only as good as the song he sings. Pearcy was known even in the 80's for not having the strongest voice in the world to say the least. If anything it's even a little thinner on this album. However, he has a distinct sound and that makes a difference. His voice is very much a part of who Ratt were. So a an off day for Pearcy is better than an on day for Keeling.

Point to Ratt

Guitarist

Warren DeMartini is up for Ratt taking on Kelly Keeling, Mick Sweda, Steve Fister and guest C.C. Deville. First up King Kobra deserve to be docked for bringing in Deville even though it's in a limited guest roll. I mean if you need his help then you really should not be making an album in the first place. Despite the fact that Sweda has been a competent guitarist in his other bands, most of the work for King Kobra is generic at best and underdone and dull at worst. They sound more like some run of the mill band noodling around in the basement or like the kind of poodle-haired bar band that probably existed back around 1989 in every little town. DeMartini was always Ratt's best player. He is none too spectacular this time around, but there are a few sharp hooks on occasion.

Point to Ratt


Rhythm section

For Ratt it's drummer Bobby Blotzer and bassist Robbie Crane going against Carmine Appice on drums and Kelly Keeling wearing his third hat as bass player. Bobby Blotzer has always been the definition of run of the mill as far as hard rock drummers go. What you can expect from a guy whose nickname is "the blotz"? He is however helped out by some decent production. Robbie Crane is probably just as good as former Ratt bassist Juan Crocier and I really can't hear that either guy made that much of a contribution. On the King Kobra side Kelly Keeling can be heard on occasion and not a bad tone from his bass either. Carmine Appice is no doubt an above average drummer. Yet on a few songs the drum sound is thin and clunky like he is playing down the hall from where the microphones were. Then for most of the album the sound is worked out and he does well enough. There are several parts he handles with ease that I am sure Blotzer could not play at all.

Point to King Kobra


Originality/production

The first thing I think about when I got to this column on originality was the fact that this is the second self-titled album for Ratt as their first EP was also self-titled. However that fact should not reflect on their music. Ratt could have picked up where they left off in the early 90's and it might have worked. Instead they tried to become more serious. They didn't have the writing ability for that to work. instead they lost the best aspect of Ratt which was that they were a fun band when they were on. This is just tedious. King Kobra is even worse though. This is bland, faceless hard rock with a few weak attempts to be slightly modern. The production for Ratt is okay, slightly light yet alright. The production on King Kobra varies like the songs were done at different times. Some are adequate and other times it's so thin that they sound more like rough demos.

Point to Ratt



Who rocks more?

Oh, it's time to take a deep breath and try to figure this out. This category is like figuring out the Rubik's cube. That is if the Rubik's cube involved piles of lame music that made me cringe when I heard it. Okay, maybe it's not that much like the Rubik's Cube except it is tough to figure out. Neither band really rocks, that's obvious. Both tried too hard to do something different than they did in their past and both failed. However Ratt stayed closer to their roots and they did have one really good song on this album which is one more than King Kobra had.

Point to Ratt




Despite putting out the worst album of their career Ratt still take this one 4-1. Reunion albums tend to fail more often than they succeed. Many bands seem to fall into the trap of "oh, we need to be hip to the current trends". So many times you get some old geezers trying to sound modern and they fall on their faces because it's not natural and it's probably not what long time fans want. In this case, despite struggling Ratt do sound a little like their old selves. However this isn't much about King Kobra that links this album to their previous releases. They could have called it "Carmine and the mustaches" or "Hasbeens and neverweres" or whatever and it meant as much as calling themselves King Kobra. Appice had the right to use the name, but it's really just the band in name only. To their credit the King Kobra disc does include two bonus tracks which are demos from the 80's and they are the best songs on the album, but I didn't feel it was fair to include bonus tracks in this contest since they were from a different time and with different band line-ups.


***Be back soon with another one of these.

Labels: , ,

3 Comments:

Blogger Jim said...

OFF TOPIC:
Metal -- http://its-jim.blogspot.com/2009/01/bookest-comest-soonest.html

10:01 AM  
OpenID themetalfiles said...

i prefer the ratt album. i don't need to hear another king cobra album to know i'd hate it. and what's with their huge whitesnake ripoff on the cover?

3:35 PM  
Blogger Rhodeislandrock said...

There really isn't much of a choice here but I have to go Ratt. More of a bluesier sounding album if I remember correctly. This was supposed to be the big comeback after signing with Portrait and the '80s coming back.....I actually liked COLLAGE (1997) better even if it was just a bunch of B-sides, at least it was classic Ratt.

11:20 PM  

Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home