NWOBHM WEDNESDAY: JAGUAR
The story of Jaguar is short and bittersweet. Formed in 1979 they would come along at the just the right time to have an impact on the NWOBHM movement. The original line-up consisted of Ron Reiss (vocals), Garry Pepperd (guitar), Jeff Cox (bass, vocals) and Chris Lovell (drums). The group would build up a sizeable local following and recorded two demos. In 1981 the group signed on with Heavy Metal Records and released the single "Back Street Woman" which would go on to sell over 4,000 copies. Neat Records caught on to the buzz surrounding Jaguar and signed them. At some point during all of this vocalist Paul Merrell replaced Ron Reiss. With Merrel now leading the band the single "Axe Crazy" was released. It sold pretty well and the band hit the road again to build up more steam. "Power Games" was released in 1982 and showcased a bare bones, straight up NWOBHM sound and sold well. Jaguar were on their way. For whatever reason though the follow up album "This Time" (released in 1984) showed a dramatic change of direction. Sales were dismal and interest in the band faded. By the end of the year the band would fold. No doubt the band were done in by the move into more of an AOR sound. Sure their debut wasn't faster than light Raven style metal. It featured more of a mellow side than a lot of similar style albums. "This Time" though really turned off fan's. It wouldn't be until 1999 (and after the re-release of the band's first two albums) that the band would try to give it another go. Helped by a revival of interest in NWOBHM the group (now consisting of Pepperd, Jeff Cox, Nathan Cox on drums and vocalist Jamie Manton) started work on a new album. "Wake Me" would be released in 2000. Jeff Cox would be replaced by Darren Furze."Power Games - The Anthology" released in 2002 helped gain the band more exposure."Run Ragged" appeared in 2003 and in 2006 the band released two live albums. The first release was "Holland '82 followed by "Archive Alive Vol.1". Another best-off "Opening The Enclosure" was released in 2010. The band continues to play live although it remains to be seen whether or not new material will appear any time soon. "Power Games" really is a must hear for NWOBHM fan's. Despite the band's missteps following the album's release "Power Games" is a great rock record and a good overview of what was happening back in the day.
Metal Mark says-
I remember seeing a vinyl copy of "Power Games" sitting in the metal section of record store back in 1985. I looked at it quite a bit actually and considered purchasing it several times never did. I never heard much about them and never heard them back then although I thought I had (that story can be found here http://metalmark.blogspot.com/2008/05/jaguar-jag-wire.html ). Eventually a few years ago I saw an eBay seller offering "Power Games" for a couple of dollars so I took a shot and bought it. I was definitely satisfied with that purchase. It was solid, guitar lead NWOBHM not far off from Dianno-era Iron Maiden only a slight hard rock edge in it instead of just being pure metal. Not original, but very strong and I agree there was no reason believe this band wouldn't keep on in this musical direction and probably get even better. A few years ago I was anxious to get the re-issue of the follow-up "This time" despite hearing mostly negative things about it. In this case I probably should have listened to popular opinion. I am not sure whether the band just changed musical directions or listened to the radio too much. Whatever the reason "This time" was AOR and not very good AOR either. It was very average and worse to take considering how good "Power Games" had been. A number of other NWOBHM bands like Raven and Saxon tried going a more commercial route in the mid-80's and like with Jaguar fans wanted the heavier material. Like many other NWOBHM bands they have reformed and played some shows. Not a lot of great releases, but "Power Games" still stands up very well even today.