Saturday, March 12, 2011

Tora Tora-Before & After

FnA Records 2010

I really feel that Mark should be reviewing this "new" record of Tora Tora seeing as he is more familiar with their work. It's not that I don't know who Tora Tora is it is just that I missed out on them the first time around. I'm sure I probably heard them along my journey as a teenage metal fan. Seeing as I dated a girl with hair more teased up than the "boys" in Trixter chances are good this was a soundtrack to some teenage angst moment. From what I've read Tora Tora formed in 1985 in Memphis, TN and started out as a garage band. After winning a local Battle Of The Bands contest the group recorded the independent EP To Rock To Roll. The songs "Phantom Rider" and "Love's A Bitch" off the EP received extensive airplay on their local radio station Rock 98. A&M Records came knocking and they recorded their debut album Surprise Attack in 1989. The album peaked on Billboard's Top 200 at #47. Now I do have a vague memory of the single "Dancing With A Gypsy" as it was on the soundtrack for the film Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure (and it does kill me to admit to having seen the movie and having been given the soundtrack by a girl). In 1992 Wild America was released. The group's second album did hit the Billboard Charts but it peeked at #134. A third album titled Revolution Day was recorded in 1994 but due to problems with their label it was never released. The band would fold shortly thereafter. Fast forward to 2008 and the band members decided to start playing out. This would lead to Tora Tora signing with FnA Records the following year. What you have with Before & After is a "New" collection of "Old" recordings. Before & After is actually the third of FNA Record's new Tora Tora releases and it contains the following material: the first 5 tracks on the release are from the originally cassette-only (and extremely rare) release of To Rock To Roll. The sixth track is the original recorded version of "Walkin' Shoes" which would wind up on Surprise Attack .The remaining four tracks are demos that were written for the unreleased third album and never turned into A&M records. It seems as if I might be one of the few people in the world not to be completely familiar with the accessible hard rock that is Tora Tora. What have I been missing? "Wasted Love" might not have stood apart from the countless other hard rock acts of the time but "To Rock Is To Roll" offers enough punch that it could have been a good album cut. I would have loved to have heard these demo tracks polished up and remastered. "To Rock Is To Roll" would be killer with more of a crunch factor added. "Time On The Edge" is pretty standard ballad fair. "Phantom Rider" I guess was on their debut album and I liked this one. It reminded me at first spin of solo Jon Bon Jovi work. "Love's A Bitch" and "Walkin Shoes" are also both off the group's Surprise Attack disc. Both work but it was "Walkin Shoes" that hooked me. This is great swagger rock in an Aerosmith/Hanoi Rocks kind of way. I guess I'll be checking out Surprise Attack if this is any indication of the good old fashioned rock and roll the disc has a reputation for having. "Something's Got To Give" has some slick riffs and shows off their Memphis roots. "Blue Tomorrow" isn't bad it just does not do much to make itself stand out from the rest of the pack. I liked "Better To Have Loved Than Lost". It might not have been hit single material or anything. With a Cinderella swagger it does a little twisting here and there ends up as a C+ kind of ballad. "That's Not The Way Love's Supposed To Be" was the best of the bunch. A great little rock number it presents the case that Tora Tora should have been given more of a chance by me. It shouldn't have taken me all these years later to check out a band that was putting it all out there from the word go. This is a nice look at the band when they were just starting out to when they were just trying to hang on after success. Highly recommended for Tora Tora fans and all those who love American hard rock!


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