Blue Oyster Cult – Spectres
Their commercial breakthrough was the album before, “Agents of Fortune”, so it’s no surprise that BoC stuck with the same formula, like Jovi did with “New Jersey” after “Slippery When Wet” or Metallica with “Master Of Puppets” and “Justice For All” after “Ride The Lightning”.
I think for most, Blue Oyster Cult are known for three songs, which their Spotify account confirms. “Don’t Fear The Reaper” at 272 million streams, “Burnin For You” at 77 million streams and “Godzilla” at 37 million streams. And of course, Metallica brought “Astronomy” into the public conversation.
And “Spectres” opens up with “Godzilla”, a monster riff that shuffles and rumbles along like the monster it’s named after.
“Golden Age of Leather” has a crap intro but it’s a pretty good song overall with tempo changes that seem like they don’t even happen. And along with album closer “Nosferatu”, these two songs are like the progressive tracks.
“Death Valley Nights” stands out and is a favourite and “Fireworks” sounds like a re-write of “Don’t Fear The Reaper” and I’m all in, with some nice harmonies.
“R. U. Ready to Rock?” is “American Woman” and “Mississippi Queen” all rolled into one to kick off side 2. “Going Through the Motions” is co-written by Eric Bloom and ex Mott the Hoople member Ian Hunter. It’s got hand claps and it’s like Sweet.
“I Love the Night” has an hypnotic clean tone arpeggio riff. It’s my favourite from the album, a love song to a female vampire when vampires actually scared us and “Nosferatu” continues the vampire theme, with its Mellotron riffs and it reminds me of trippy 70’s art rock.
Riot – Rock City
The first Riot album, with the band unleashing a metal sound that would be seen as the “traditional” sound many years later.
Think of Sweet’s heavier songs, along with Led Zeppelin’s heavier songs and with a little ZZ Top and UFO chucked in for good measure. Judas Priest had this traditional sound on “Killing Machine”.
It’s a shame their covers never matched the awesome covers from other bands of the era, like Maiden, Priest, ZZ Top and so on.
It’s a two punch knockout with “Desperation” and “Warrior”.
As soon as the intro riff starts for “Desperation” I’m thinking of Metallica and their early riffs around “Kill Em All”. But once the verses kick in, its standard hard rock.
Then the riff starts for “Warrior” and I’m not sure who influenced who, Judas Priest or Riot.
And the chorus is so catchy. A future power metal movement is built on this.
When “Rock City” kicks off, the riff is another blues romp.
And there isn’t a bad song on the album.
When people talk about great debut albums, Riot is very rarely in the conversation, but they should be.
That’s Riot on the debut.
Quartz – Quartz
The album is not on Spotify, but YouTube has it.
Quartz are a British heavy metal band.
They came onto my radar when I was doing some research on the past of Geoff Nicholls. For those who don’t know, Nicholls was involved with Black Sabbath and is unofficially credited as the person who came up with the bass groove on “Heaven And Hell”.
They got a deal with Jet Records in the mid 70’s as Bandy Legs and supported Sabbath and AC/DC. In 1977, they changed their name to Quartz and released their self-titled debut album.
This album is produced by Tony Iommi. It wasn’t mentioned on the record because of contractual obligations but it was the worst kept secret. Iommi even mentions them in his “Iron Man” bio. A young Chris Tsangarides is the Engineer. Ozzy even sang on the song “Circles” but Iommi removed Ozzy’s contributions from the final mix and then the song was cut from the album. Brian May even offered to do a Queen type re-mix of the song which didn’t pan out to good.
The band is Mick Taylor on vocals, Geoff Nicholls on guitar and keyboards, Dek Arnold on bass, Mike Hopkins on guitar and Mal Cope on drums.
Writers for various magazines have credited this album as one of the earliest NWOBHM releases even though the phrase NWOBHM came in 1979, via journalist Geoff Barton and Sounds magazine.
“Mainline Riders” kicks it off and it sounds like this track is the inspiration for the songs “Heaven and Hell” and “Holy Diver”.
If you need proof that even our heroes are influenced, then look no further than this song. Tony Iommi was clearly influenced by this.
After reading how Jet Records operated, I would be surprised if Nicholls got any song writing credits or payments for his contributions.
Because Jet Records were in a bad state financially and Quartz suddenly found themselves without a deal.
By 1979, Geoff Nicholls left to join Black Sabbath. He contributed keyboards and song writing to that band from 1980s “Heaven and Hell” to 2004.
“Sugar Rain” is different, more ELO orientated. This one and the next track “Street Fighting Lady” are progressive rock and metal masterpieces. The flute even makes the appearance like Jethro Tull. And I’ve read that Iommi is the flute master.
And the riff to kick off “Street Fighting Lady” is brilliant, bringing back memories of “Woman From Tokyo”. “Hustler” has this hard rock Bee Gees vibe in the verse, which I dig, with layered emotive harmony guitar lines and an angry metal like Chorus.
Four songs in and the guitar work from Hopkins and Nicholls is stellar.
“Devil’s Brew” has an “American Woman” influenced riff, but once the synths come in, it’s a different beast, more like hard rock and a bit progressive. Then the verse kicks in and it feels like a Sweet song with a hard driving Chorus that feels like it came Meatloaf’s “Bat Out Of Hell” album.
“Smokie” is a medieval classical acoustic song. “Around and Around” kicks off with a palm muted riff and some nice harmony guitars.
“Pleasure Seekers” and “Little Old Lady” close off the album and I wonder if this album was the missing link to my ears between “Never Say Die” and “Heaven And Hell” from Black Sabbath.
Two albums came out in the same year, “Firefly” and “Innocent Victim” with new vocalist, John Lawton.
The excellent “The Hanging Tree” kicks off the “Firefly” album. “Do You Know” is a loud rocker with a riff that is so fun to play. “Rollin On” is an excellent cut that reminds me of Bad Company and “Sympathy” clearly influenced Europe and their “Wings Of Tomorrow” album. Think of the song “Stormwind”.
“Innocent Victim” did good business in Germany, Australia (especially the single “Free Me”) and New Zealand, however in the U.S market, it disappointed. Actually both albums did terrible in the North American market.
The feel good bass groove of “Keep On Ridin’” kicks off the “Innocent Victim” album. It’s more like a Bad Company song than a Uriah Heep song, but I’ve always been a fan of artists incorporating sounds and feels of what is popular. “Flyin’ High” kicks off with a harmony guitar intro that would rival any Thin Lizzy intro.
I’m all in when “Free ‘N’ Easy” kicks off, it’s basically a speed metal song. I could imagine a young Mustaine or Hetfield listening to those verse riffs, thinking, imagine if I took that and played it even faster. While the next track “Illusion” is hypnotic and more subdued.
Then “Free Me” starts and it’s got that C-Am-F-G style chord progression. I don’t think I’ve ever heard a song with that progression that wasn’t catchy. And of course, it charted really well in Australia and New Zealand.
Then “The Dance” starts and that lead to kick it off is brilliant, while the guitar plays a jazzy staccato style riff in the verse.
And then “Choices” starts and what is it with this band and their god damn excellent intros that keep hooking me in. Lee Kerslake owns this song on the drums and Mick Box solos tastefully, while Ken Hensley lays down a wall of synths.
Eric Clapton – Slowhand
How good is this album?
Triple Platinum in the U.S and nothing in the Australian market, but Clapton was always in the Guitar Mags I used to buy, so it was only a matter of time before he became an influence.
“Cocaine” kicks it off before it moves to one of Clapton’s most emotive leads in “Wonderful Tonight”. This is Clapton’s second song to Pattie Boyd. The first one is the famous “Layla” when she was married to George Harrison, and when she divorced Harrison, she became Clapton’s muse.
“Lay Down Sally” is one of those blues songs that has a snare shuffle as it rolls along, something that Dire Straits did a fair bit off. “Next Time You See Her” is like a Bad Company song, merging folk and rock.
Then “The Core” starts and that funky bluesy riff has me picking up the guitar.
Colosseum II – Wardance
I’ve already done a post for this album in my Record Vault posts.
In case you are not aware, Gary Moore is on guitars and vocals, Don Airey is on all things piano related, John Mole is on drums and John Hiseman on drums. It’s basically all instrumental except for one forgettable vocal track.
My favourites are “Wardance” which is one of those gladiatorial tunes, ready to inspire you to gear up and go to war.
“Inquisition” is like an Al DiMeola track and I love it. Gary Moore really shreds on this on both electric and acoustic. And at 6 minutes long, I wasn’t bored.
And the closer.
“Last Exit”. The guitar solo from Gary Moore is one of my favourites of his.
Colosseum II – Electric Savage
Album number 2, which came out earlier in the year. Not sure how acceptable the album cover would be today, a semi nude dark skinned lady with fluro lights shining on her body, especially on her breasts and the words “Electric Savage”.
Check out “The Scorch” which has a pulsing bass from John Mole and Don Airey shredding away for the first 2 minutes and then its Moore’s time. The drumming from John Hiseman is busy, more jazz improv but it all works. At the end of the 6 minutes I’m still blown away that this is Gary Moore.
“Lament” has this doom feel with bells, a slow bass and a drum beat so simple. But when Gary Moore starts playing it sounds like an Irish folk ballad. Its moving and heartfelt.
“Am I” is my favourite. The way it starts, with that bass groove and those quite drums, with Moore and Airey playing these little two note melodic arpeggios over it. It’s perfect, its haunting and its memorable. Then Moore lets lose. Bringing in some Mixolydian Blues into the mix.
The closer “Intergalactic Strut” is one of those hard rock jazz fusion gems. Just listen to it and you will know what I mean. And remember, its Gary Moore playing like this, a mixture of art rock, progressive rock and whatever else he had in his arsenal.
Well that’s a wrap for Part 7. We move back to 2000 for Part 8.