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The Rock Pit - Hard rock, Metal and Blues Interviews, news & reviews from Australia and around the world
Rock N Roll Rebels And The Sunset Strip – Review

Release Date: April 10th 2015

Eonian Records hits the bullseye here uncovering the bands from the famed Sunset Strip Rock scene that we missed out on back in the day. It's a story of lost dreams and bad breaks that deserves to be told. Listening to 'Rock 'N' Roll Rebels & the Sunset Strip' you’ll be amazed by the sheer quality of these unearthed tracks and the huge potential of the bands that could have ruled the airwaves. You'll be stunned and saddened in equal measure, but most of all you'll just want more...


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Like any scene anywhere in the world the sad fact is that so many talented bands and musicians will never make it big. Sometimes, as a listener you may never even ever hear your favourite band. For every Guns 'n' Roses there is a Bang Tango and for every Bang Tango there is a Babylon A.D. and for every Babylon A.D... there are so many other bands that could have... just maybe... just with the right breaks at the right time... and this release is part of that story. Maybe in the cold light of day this is the real story? Of course not every band on a collection like this will immediately grab you, and that is really not the point. This is a collection that shows you that some bands just had the chops, some bands had the songs, some bands had the talent, but not everyone gets heard and not everyone had a label come calling.

In a way the Sunset Strip scene of the mid to late eighties and early nineties was the pinnacle of what a lot of us still look upon as a Golden age for Hard Rock, Sleaze Rock, Cock Rock, Dirty Rock and Roll, but it was also the epicentre for Glam Metal, Melodic Hard Rock and so many others what we now think of as sub-genres. There were after all, so many places to play and seven nights a week to play them. Sadly a lot of places they played are gone now, and every time I have visited L.A. over the last decade or so, so many more have disappeared just like the majority of bands that played there. Even some of the bands that packed the venues back in the day fell by the wayside, like London, that famed band that saw many of its alumni go onto greatness as far as sales and fame were concerned at least. Here in four discs Eonian Records delve into that scene and in doing so show us what might have been.

Rattlesnake Shake who kick off the four disc set released a seven track album on Eonian back in 2012 and here add two tracks with a harder Poison-like flavour on two previously unreleased tracks. Both 'Shootin Daggers' and 'Get Around' are as good as that better known sound-alike band has done in decades. That I guess is the real story here. 'Alice Be Tokelas' may just have suffered from one of the worst band name decisions on the Strip (though of course there are many to choose from) but association with that easily internet-searchable historical figure or Peter Sellers movie (though the name is misspelled to add a druggie vibe) must surely in retrospect have been a huge regret judging by their slightly stoned and blues-infused Hard Rock offerings here. In all honesty both 'In the Morning' and 'This is Now' show an enormous amount of promise if a little off-message from the hedonistic Hard Rock sound of the Strip in those days. There's some great guitar in both compositions and more thought than most, coming across as they do a little like Geffen signings Salty Dog (a massive Rockpit favourite). They are certainly one of our favourites here.

The Wild are perhaps more of what you might consider other Strip contenders might have sounded like with a real swagger and edge, and it's one of the problems with revisiting the past in this way - all you hear are the sonic comparisons without the context and without 'being in the time'. 'Get Down 2 Night' (not Nite) has a funky edge but the feel of a Poison outtake, with similar cliches but 'Some Girls' really does make you wonder why this band didn't catch a break. 'LongGone' have a residual Halen-vibe but with a funky edge that somewhat recalls early Bang Tango with less prominent bass - would I invest? Well yes on the basis of 'Higher' and the even more immediate summery 'Sticky Situation' and funky 'Be In You' that channels more than a little Aerosmith vocally. This compilation is already more than interesting. 'Hans Naughty' another band that you feel the name played a part in their problems actually did get a release on an independent label I heard in the eighties, and their very Van Halen-esque sound makes you think of others that did this so well like Roxy Blue (who we also loved). 'Fallen Nature' has all the right atmospherics to have made them contenders and so it's a little odd that they only offer a single track here.

'Imagine World Peace' (really you don't have to) is my first throwaway here mainly because of the vocals on 'Something I Miss' which fall somewhere between Bang Tango and Love/Hate with too much Lizzy Borden (three bands I particularly love incidentally). Not that I don't like what I hear, just that a little like Love/Hate they are if anything too out of the mainstream. You can see why they never made it at the time though when every label was looking for Crue or Poison clones, though in retrospect they sound great. 'Bad Blood' certainly have swagger and in 'Sip' could be Bang Tango. While on their other offering 'Sweet Addiction' could almost out Idol Billy Idol! This is sweet stuff! Managed at the time by Gene Simmons it seems all that promise fell apart as a result of deaf ears and as the band themselves attest in the sleeve notes 'drug issues'. 'Cyclone Sound' oddly sounds like the culmination of all the Strip offered without completely blowing you away. There's some great guitar, catchy tunes and enough attitude to make you think they should have been contenders, but maybe not that real killer song to hook a tired exec after a hard day at the office.

'Hap Hazard' who close out disc one certainly had a long shelf-life from 1983-1995 and look in the promo photo just like Quiet Riot, but have a sound that draws upon earlier bands like Kiss and the UK's UFO mixed with Motley Crue. There's a party vibe to 'Sorry' that you can't help think should have stuck. At anything at the close of the first disc there's a real feel that there must have been room for almost all of these bands. Disc Two starts with a couple of offerings from Charlotte which were recorded at the start of the nineties where times were certainly harder for Strip bands, and fewer were signed, as the cash-cows were in place and though the dreaded Grunge revolution was still around the corner a change was in the air. 'Little Devils' has far more of a retro groove than most songs so far recalling the seventies greats rather than the eighties revolution. Not quite as derivative as bands like 'Kingdome Come', but in that vein. These days that and 'Krackerman' just sound damned cool. Definitely a band I'd love to hear more of.

As a contrast, and perhaps as much by the spelling of their name 'Lypswitch' as anything else, (it's the 'y' that gives it away) the band is pure Poison albeit with a funky edge. Now if you like that sound - go for it; but these couple of songs may be one step too derivative for some. 'Bad Bones' (1989-92) on the other hand with the ballad 'My Love Is For Real' and the rockier 'Give Good Love' sound more like Salty Dog meets Cinderella. There's more going on here that really did deserve a listen. Enticer started from a more metal base before embracing the Strip scene and as a result sound like a mash of Priest and Ratt (or 'Shout-era' Crue and Dokken perhaps is a better analogy). It's pretty pleasing from the representations here but not earth-shattering. Scratch sound groovier but with a melodic edge and win you over based on pleasing gang vocals and Crue-like swagger. Tracks like 'Merry Go Round' and 'Smack Dab' aren’t the most original tracks here but aren't the worst either and far worse bands were signed between 1990 and 1992 when they held sway.

Hardly Dangerous on the other hand do offer and edge and not least as an all-girl band - there's more swagger and soul here than anything so far. Echoes of Rhythm and Blues (not todays RNB) add a sweetness, and the vocals are soulful enough to grab your attention even if the compositions are a little formulaic they are certainly and band I'd be keen to hear more of. There's a little of Humble Pie about them that you can't he feel would have out them at odds with their contemporaries. 'Sam Mann' and 'Thee Apes', you have to feel were trading on a name but as 'Sam Mann' let alone 'Thee Apes' means nothing to us now it seems as anachronistic as the light Funk Rock that 'Feel My Body' gives. 'Nasty Woman' which presumably dates from years later though, adds far more promise with a Van Halen kick.

Closing out Disc Two 'Mad Reign' is an interesting band featuring vocalist Frank Starr – 'Rise' opens up with a bluesy guitar and crickets which bursts into rockier fare with a more traditional rock sound. It's a mile away from the band I first heard him in - Alien who sadly only produced the magnificent 'Cosmic Fantasy', his best known foray though was of course with The Four Horsemen before drugs and a tragic accident befell him. Mad Reign though sounds pretty damn cool and 'The First One's Free' also has some cool dirty guitar, and a spacey feel. 'The Mimes' on the other hand offer far funkier fare and sax to boot and both 'Crack Alley' and 'Kick, Kick' are well worth checking out. Disc three keeps up the good work, with Shake City really hitting the template for hair-sprayed rock and roll. There's a glorious, if generic real feel for what most would associate with the sound of the Strip to both 'Betty Blue' and 'She's Atomic' and with Tommy Thayer and the Warrant duo Jani Lane and Eric Turner co-writing material with them it's not surprising.

Blackboard Jungle that follow is actually one of the bands I had heard of back in the day. They again add a real feel for time and place with a sound that again maybe not be as diverse as some but really captures what people imagine the scene was like. Here they show their depth especially on the very immediate, if short, 'Paint You a Picture'. It’s 'Chicago' however that lays down that memorable groove and 'Shark Island' like cool. 'Paradise' tick all the right influences boxes, but you feel has so much more, selling out shows back in the day, they sound like a band that should have had that deal. 'Satisfaction' has the Glam element down so well, and 'I'm So In Love With You' is sweet Sunset Strip Hard Rock. The later incarnation of 'Hollywood Rose' that saw so many names through the ranks add a couple of great tracks to the mix and 'Taz' who follow end up being one of the real highlights from a career that covered the real glory years of the scene with a great sleazy sound. Daddy Ray is one of the more eclectic bands here and whilst 'Success' has the expected sound and swagger, 'Nag, Nag, Nag' has a real power to it driven by some incendiary guitars. Definitely a band I wish I'd head more of. Children again have that signature sleazy sound that you can't help fall for and both the groove-heavy 'Dance With Me' and 'Water Into Wine' certainly hit the spot. 'Shel Shoc' one the other hand has that more dirty blues influenced sound of Aerosmith and Hanoi, and while you can't also help notice some Poison-like phrasing it's dirtier music and un-missable.

Closing Disc three Dallas Dollz tick all the big names of eighties rock off as influences, but with hair this big and the use of the 'z' rather than 's', you know that there must be a huge amount of Sleazy Glam to their sound. Thankfully even though their recording isn't the best here they tick all the right style cliches - music to party to for sure. By the time you hit Disc Four you already know you have your money's worth but the quality really just doesn't let up leading off with 'Deaf, Dumb and Blonde' adding the wonderfully bluesy 'Heaven's Trail' and the gritty sleaze standard 'Down and Dirty'. 'Cold Shot' add some real Sunset Strip spirit with the classy Halen-esque 'Give Me What I Need' and 'Little Too Late'; whilst 'New Improved God' pours a little old-style Glammed-up real Rock 'n' Roll with a touch of darkness into the mix. If you want more then try Agent Zero's brand of Sleaze 'n' Roll - both rocker 'Bite Your Tongue' and the ballad 'Shadows' are top-notch. Then there's Aces and Eight's hard-edged Motley meets Dokken with a lot more groove take on things - another name to remember!

We round out the compilation in fine form too with Rough Justice epitomising the Sleazy best of the Sunset sound and Byte the Bullet proving that there was so much unheralded talent out there. Byte the Bullet went on to change their name to Southgang and get a deal and featured Butch Walker (going by the name Brad here) on guitar, their contribution is one of our favourites here. Closing out Spyder Blue has a funkier Metal edge that you can get lost in (another band we need to hear more of). Charlemagne have the final word and are all class with great harmonies, catchy songs with real crossover potential and of course some great guitar crunch.

What this collection proves is that a lot more was going on in the LA scene back in the glory days of Hair Metal than we knew about. As for the scene, it lasted longer and produced a lot more quality then the bands that MTV fed us. That is the beauty of this essential release: it opens your eyes to a whole other world and many of these bands sound like they could have been every bit as good as their more illustrious contemporaries given that illusive break that sadly for many never came.


Review by Mark Rockpit