Overlooked & Underrated:
Updated: Jan 14, 2019
The Forgotten Chapters of Rock & Metal …
Part I - Hard Rock/Glam Metal
What we have here are ten hard-rock/glam-metal albums that were overlooked and/or underrated at the time of their original release, and despite the fact that they are all gems of the genre! Obviously, we’re pretty much just scratching the surface here, but it’s a start. Rather that just presenting the readers with the music only, I’ve decided to compile some facts about these bands and the by-gone times when these ten albums were released. Most of these albums were never reissued on physical media, nor all are available on the popular streaming platforms. As I’ve mentioned elsewhere in these virtual pages, the hard-rock/glam-metal has been at the core of my love for rock and metal music ever since my early teen years, always bringing back great memories of good times or even heartache, a throwback to a less complicated era. Alrighty … back to the subject on hand. By 1990, glam metal has reached a new level of refinement. The polished productions had something to do with that, but it was also the greater level of songwriting and top notch musicianship, in most cases. As a fact, bands like Bon Jovi, Cinderella, Ratt, Skid Row and Guns N’ Roses which were already chart toppers, selling millions of albums and getting constant MTV and FM radio airplay, definitely helped usher in new talent. It really wasn’t unusual to view music videos showcasing glam metal acts, during any time of the day (and night) on MTV, among other music specialized channels. Commercial FM radio stations dedicated exclusively to rock and metal were everywhere. Arguably, the wave of glam metal and hard rock acts, lead to bands with harder edge to start receiving recognition and airplay. Judas Priest, Metallica, Megadeth, even Slayer, out of the sudden mixed well with White Lion, Def Leppard, Love/Hate and Aerosmith. Great times! By 1991 a wave of bands out of Seattle, playing what was coined as “grunge“, starting to make the mix as well: the likes of Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Alice In Chains or Soundgarden, were receiving airtime both on TV and radio. The record labels flocked to sign up these new grunge acts almost overnight, leaving their rock and metal rosters hanging to dry, by cutting financial support, controlling media airplay, and canceling ongoing tour dates, forthcoming tours and albums ready for release. Some bands took notice, and change stylistically: Skid Row went full on heavy metal on their 2nd album, “Slave to the Grind” (1991), Bon Jovi abandoned glam with the release of “Keep the Faith” in 1992, with few others following suite, but with the vast majority fading away. Def Leppard relaying on their fanbase continued to release glam metal: “Adrenalize” (1992). There is no argument that “cheese” was part of some of the acts and albums of the early 90s, but the decline of hard-rock/glam-metal is to be blamed on the record industry. Derogatory terms such as “hair metal” or “hair band” described the past by the mid 1990s … unfortunate terms that were embraced by the public and media, and which continue to be used to this day. Most of the following ten albums saw the light of day during this decline period, a very dim light if anything, and many remained overlooked, and with one thing in common: being grossly underrated. Beside the ten albums/bands (that follow), many other names remain to be addressed: Beau Nasty, Blackeyed Susan, Dillinger, Diving for Pearls, Flame, Don Patrol, Gunshy, Gypsy Rose, Jagged Edge UK, Julliet, Lancia, Lion, McQueen Street, Roko, Roxus, Saints & Sinners, Sea Hags, Sons of Angels, SouthGang, Tindrum, Trouble Tribe, Vain, Wild Horses, Wildside … etc. Perhaps, sometime in the near future. In the meantime, enjoy the music!
HEAVEN’S EDGE Heaven’s Edge” 1990, Columbia The brainchild of guitarist Reggie Wu and singer Mark Evans, Heaven’s Edge formed in Philadelphia in 1987. After formation the band spent a couple of years on the east coast rock club circuit and recorded a five songs demo tape, which caught the attention of fans and the rock press. Not coincidently, all five songs on their demo ending up on their 1990 self-titled debut release, after the band was signed by Columbia Records. Produced by the legendary Neil Kernon, the material ranged from power rockers like “Play Dirty” and “Bad Reputation“, to poppier songs like “Find Another Way”, the slow, heavy blues of “Is that All You Want?” and the thrashy “Can’t Catch Me”. A video was also shot for the fast rock ‘n’ roll tune “Skin to Skin”, one of the album’s best tracks, but perhaps not the most MTV and radio friendly, as far as the lyrics are concerned. The song was also released as a single. While the band was filming what was to become the music video for “Find Another Way”, the label pulled their financial support, leaving the band with no other choice but to look for another label. After signing a development deal with Capitol Records, the band worked on material for a sophomore release. However, times had changed, with grunge ruling MTV and radio, Capitol Records decided not to pick up Heaven’s Edge, and the band broke up shortly after. In 1998 the band reentered the studio to finally record their 2nd album, “Some Other Place – Some Other Time” initially released in Europe and Japan, and one year later in the US. To this day, Heaven’s Edge continues to participates in metal festivals and specialty cruises, with occasional gigs around their home town.
MANIC EDEN “Manic Eden” 1994, Victor Former Whitesnake members Adrian Vandenberg, Rudy Sarzo, and Tommy Aldridge elected to form a new band together, following David Coverdale’s decision to place Whitesnake on indefinite hiatus in the early 1990s. The initially recruited vocalist, James Christian of House of Lords was fired after a short time and replaced by former Little Caesar vocalist Ron Young. The self-titled album was released on March 24th 1994, exclusively for the European and Asian markets. With clearly palpable Whitesnake influences, the blues-rock effort maintains a great level of dynamism, tastefully accented with lyrical, acoustic guitar driven ballads. Other unmistakable influences are The Jimi Hendrix Experience and Steve Ray Vaughn. Musically, an overall perfect fit for Ron Young’s gritty vocal tone. Unfortunately, the self-tiled material was the only album by the band, which split shortly after the release.
DARE “Blood from Stone” 1991, A&M Dare was formed in 1985 by former Thin Lizzy keyboard player Darren Wharton after Phil Lynott had dissolved the band, and have released ten albums to date, nine studio and one live. An eleventh album will be released in 2019. The band’s debut album, “Out of the Silence“, was recorded at Joni Mitchell’s private studio in Beverly Hills, and released in 1988 on A&M Records. The follow-up album “Blood from Stone” was released in 1991. With a much harder edge than the previous release, the second album was produced in Los Angeles by renowned Keith Olsen. Wharton has since commented that while “(..) very proud of that album, (..) we should have stuck to our guns musically and not try and jump on the heavy metal’ band wagon.” Arguably. In my opinion, “Blood from Stone” offers a perfect balance between hard rock (“We Don’t Need a Reason”) and glam metal (“Real Love“). Dare had minor success in Europe, but album sales flagged and the band was dropped from their label after the second album, and despite “Blood from Stone” reaching #48 in the UK album charts. It would be 1998 before a third album was released.
SHARK ISLAND “Law of the Order” 1989, Epic Formed as Sharks in 1979 by lead singer Richard Black and guitarist Spencer Sercombe, the band built status on the Los Angeles club circuit of the 1980s, releasing demos, singles and an independent album (“Altar Ego”, 1982). In 1985 the band changes its name to Shark Island, and another independent release, “S’cool Buss” follows in 1986.They were able to secure a record development deal with A&M Records but with no promise of being permanently signed to an official record contract. After some other lineup changes a contract was signed with Epic Records in 1989 and “Law of the Order”, the band’s official “debut” came to fruition. The official single of the album, “Paris Calling” had an elaborate music video, receiving some MTV airtime. The polished production packed enough potential hits to take the band to the top of the glam metal genre. Unfortunately, the band’s label had different proprieties. Disappointing album sales of the album and no promotion from Epic, found the band slowly vanishing from the scene with most of its members joining other projects. Attempts to reunite the band were made. Noteworthy are also the band’s contributions: “Father Time” and “Dangerous” to the 1989 Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure, and “My City” to the 1991 Point Break official soundtracks.
SLIK TOXIK “Doin’ the Nasty” 1992, EMI Hailing from Toronto, in Canada’s Ontario province, in 1988, Slik Toxik went thru some lineup adjustments and demo recordings before singing up with Capitol Records (EMI) in 1991, issuing their debut EP, “Smooth And Deadly”, the same year. The full-length debut, “Doin’ the Nasty”, following closely in the spring of 1992. With The album reaching #61 in Canada and receiving a gold certification, “Helluvatime”, “By the Fireside”, “White Lies, Black Truth”, and “Sweet Asylum” were released as singles and they all had accompanying music videos. After touring North America with Faster Pussycat, Yngwie Malmsteen, and Black Sabbath, the band received a few prestigious Canadian music awards and nominations, and built an enthusiastic grassroots following. With hard rock going to profound changes, where many successful and promising hard rock and glam metal bands were abandoned in favor of the newer music trends, found Slik Toxik leaving EMI just before the recording and release of their sophomore effort in 1994. Relaying almost exclusively on their wide fan base, the band released “Irrelevant” under the distribution from A&M Records. Despite all the efforts, the album was not well received by the grunge-obsessed general public. It did garner some critical acclaim, but that was not enough to keep the band going.
T.S.O.L. “Hit and Run” 1987, Enigma T.S.O.L. short for True Sounds of Liberty, is a punk rock band formed in 1978 in Long Beach, CA. After a couple of lineup changes, in 1984 the band strayed from their initial hardcore punk style, delving into a more gothic rock sound (“Change Today?”, 1984), hard rock (“Revenge”, 1986), and finally glam metal with the release of “Hit and Run” in 1987. In support the band toured with Red Hot Chili Peppers and Guns N’ Roses, whose platinum-selling debut album “Appetite for Destruction“, released ten days after “Hit and Run”. The opening spot on their tour dates, and drummer Steven Adler wearing a T.S.O.L. T-shirt in the music video for “Sweet Child o’ Mine”, somewhat increased attention in the band. Musically, “Hit and Run” would fit in comfortably with The Cult’s “Electric”, released earlier in 1987. The band’s shift to glam metal alienated their fans in vast numbers, and Enigma Records found their attempt to break into the heavy rock mainstream, difficult to market. As a result the band and label parted ways, lineup changes occurred and legal matters surfaced. By early 90s the band returned to their hardcore punk roots.
MARCHELLO “Destiny” 1989, CBS Music runs deep with the New York natives Marchello. Fronted by guitarist/vocalist extraordinaire, Gene Marchello, the AOR/melodic hard-rock outfit (with an edge) was the brainchild of Gene’s father, Peppi Marchello (1945-2013). Peppi (an accomplished musician since the 60s) throughout the 80s continued to write and produce recordings with his son Gene, a very flamboyant guitarist and a top notch vocalist (at Steve Perry level in range and style). Gene’s band Marchello, released its debut album, “Destiny” in 1989, well produced (by Peppi – who also co-wrote the material) mix of pop influenced metal with many standup numbers, stylistically closer to the European scene (TNT, Treat). A music video, staring actress Gina Gershon, was filmed for the song “First Love” receiving minor airplay on MTV’s Headbanger’s Ball. Due to the drastic change in the music climate, in the early 90s, the band didn’t receive label support to release newly recorded material. In 2012 an album was released in Germany with some of that music.
KISS OF THE GYPSY “Kiss of the Gypsy” 1991, Atlantic Formed by talented vocalist/guitarist Tony Mitchell in Fleetwood, Lancashire (UK) in 1990, Kiss of the Gypsy released its eponymous debut album in 1992, to positive reviews. Their 1991 debut single, “Whatever It Takes” was Single of the Week on release in Kerrang! magazine and reached number 4 in the UK Rock Charts. The blues rockers only lasted three years, one album and three singles after being signed to Atlantic Records USA in 1991. Despite that at the end of 1992 the band began working on their sophomore effort, the album was never released due to lack of support from their label at the time, East West UK. Kiss of the Gypsy disbanded in 1993. Tony Mitchell continues to this day to perform and release new music under the moniker XGypsy.
TATTOO RODEO “Rode Hard – Put Away Wet” 1991, Atlantic After dissolving their hard-rock/AOR band, White Sister (1980-1989), vocalist/bassist Dennis Churchill-Dries, lead guitarist Rick Chadock, and drummer Richard Wright, with Michael Lord on keyboards, launched Tattoo Rodeo in Burbank, CA in 1990. A couple of months later bassist Robert Berg was brought on board. The band specialized in highly infectious and melodic song structures, characterized by an impassioned vocal delivery. Picked up by Atlantic Records, they debuted “Rode Hard – Put Away Wet” to positive media reception. Aiming at the same market as Tesla and Bon Jovi, the thirteen blues-rock anthems had both guts and style. The band released a second album in 1995, “Skin”, before splitting up.
WAR BABIES “War Babies” 1991, Columbia War Babies formed in Seattle, WA, in 1998, and was fronted by ex-TKO vocalist Brad Sinsel. Their debut, and only album, the 1991 self-titled release, a hard rock album incorporating some grunge elements, produced three singles: “Hang Me Up”, “Cry Yourself to Sleep”, and “Blue Tomorrow” (a song dedicated to Andrew Wood from Mother Love Bone, who overdosed two years earlier). Among elsewhere, Los Angeles FM rock radio, such as KNAC (105.5) and Pirate Radio Underground (100.3) featured War Babies on their broadcast, regularly. Additionally, the song “In the Wind” was featured in the 1992 film Buffy the Vampire Slayer, but was not included in the official soundtrack release. The band broke up in 1993.
Post Scriptum: Honestly, in 1992 I was under the impression that grunge was a temporary fame, a rebellious response to the rock and metal world. Perhaps able to coexist. By the end of that year, it became clear that the depressed and pessimistic alternative to fun and having fun, worry free music, was set to take over the music world as I knew it. Practically overnight we went from the bright lights of glam to the dimly opaque of grunge. I tend to listen to good music, regardless of genre and enjoyed some of the early grunge releases, but the removal of real rock and metal from the mainstream made me angry and bitter. For years I refused to listen to anything remotely near grunge, including the now dust collecting albums already in my collection. Not only the glam metal side of hard rock was discarded, but also the entire spectrum of rock and metal that it helped ushering in, became mainstream obsolete. Great music was still being recorded. More specifically, the extreme genres were rising to greater popularity in the underground. By mid 1990s it was pretty much over. The Sunset Strip felt sterile: no bands, no rockers, no groupies … no fun. The once known as houses of worship, rock clubs were still there … but the names on their billboards appeared written in pencil … gone were the spotlight, the glamour of leather and steel. Rock and metal were back into the underground.
© 2018 by Emil Chiru