“Nobody give me trouble, cause they know I got it made”
HMO salutes Dusty Hill who has passed away aged 72. The first album I spun today to celebrate his life was my favourite ZZ Top album Degüello. And I’m Bad, I’m Nationwide is one of my very favourite ZZ Top tunes. It’s the kind of cruising, carefree rock they did so well. Stonesy chords, gutsy guitar and the coolest lyrics: “a bluesman in the back and a beautician at the wheel”. And best of all, Dusty powering the song to a close with a bottom end of monstrously filthy proportions. He was the baddest and waaay more than merely nationwide. A phenomenal bassist, singer and songwriter with a classic career of over 50 years and the owner of one of music’s most famous beards, Dusty was absolutely global.
Samson’s 1979 debut was one of the first albums to come from the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal. But the hasty Londoners weren’t quite studio ready yet and Survivors was a half-decent effort at best. Bassist Chris Aylmer and vocalist Bruce Bruce are pictured on the cover but weren’t actually in the band when Survivors was recorded so guitarist Paul Samson handled vocals and Gillan’s John McCoy added some heavy help: playing bass as well as co-writing and producing. And the album is at its strongest when it picks up some of that gonzo Gillan-esque edge. It’s Not As Easy As It Seems, Big Brother, Koz and Six Foot Under are all boisterous highlights. But the rest of the album is dated and forgettable and Samson and McCoy both fall short in their vocal and production roles. Still, for all its faults, it has an ordinary Joe charm that captures the spirit of the emerging movement. Later, with Aylmer and Bruce onboard, Samson would power up and hit the NWOBHM head on. With biceps of steel.
(Buyer note: Most reissues add alternative versions with improved sound and Bruce Bruce on vocals. Essential!)
If you’re a fan of Ritchie Blackmore you get used to band members coming and going. But for fans of Rainbow, the departure of Ronnie James Dio in 1978 was a tough pill to swallow. The mighty castle metal of the Dio years was replaced with the AOR hit Since You’ve Been Gone and the proto-Miami Vice vision of new vocalist Graham Bonnet.
But don’t pull your drawbridge up just yet. 1979’s Down To Earth is one of Rainbow’s best albums. Since You’ve Been Gone might be too slick for some, but it’s a classic rock track: deceptively sophisticated and impeccably delivered with a Blackmore guitar solo made out of sheer joy. And if the new frontman was more James Dean than James Dio, his powerful and versatile lungs allow the band to get raunchier and bluesier, bringing to mind revered Deep Purple albums like Machine Head and Burn. The driving All Night Long has brilliant Smoke On The Water style riffs and Love’s No Friend is a superbly moody sequel to Mistreated. Better still, the grandiose proto-power metal of the previous Rainbow remains in the thumping Eyes Of The World and the medieval tinges of Makin’ Love. The closest the album comes to filler is the generic No Time To Lose but even that adds some welcome up-tempo energy, as does the lively closing track Lost In Hollywood.
Inevitably, the coming and going continued with the departure of both Bonnet and drummer Cozy Powell. Which means Down To Earth becomes a transitional album in the Rainbow catalogue: steering the band from Ye Olde Rainbow to the slicker Joe Lynn Turner era. But with shades of both styles and a timeless hue of Deep Purple too, it’s a stone-cold classic in its own right. Could I be wrong? No.
Blue Öyster Cult had hit it big with 1976’s Agents Of Fortune but they were starting to sound like they were going through the motions by the time of 1979’s Mirrors. The slick Tom Werman production and generic songwriting displays little of the band’s usual esoteric adventurousness. The pastiche Moon Crazy should never have seen the light of day and the title-track has some woeful lyrics: “Pretty girls have a love affair/with their eyes and their shining hair”. The AOR approach mostly results in decent but forgettable tracks like Lonely Teardrops but does at least manage to offer up one Cult classic in the wistfully pretty single In Thee. The album is on stronger footing when the band finally starts to sound like the BÖC of old on The Vigil and I Am The Storm, a great cosmic pairing that livens up the second half. Definitely a lesser effort compared to its predecessors but Mirrors has just enough going for it to be worth a look.
Def Leppard roared onto the UK metal scene with this self-titled EP. Hard to imagine now, but the squillion-selling stars of Hysteria fame had to release this on their own label Bludgeon Riffola after paying for the recording with borrowed money and recording it with borrowed drummer, Frank Noon. It was the kind of DIY move that became a big factor in the growing New Wave of British Heavy Metal and The Def Leppard EP put the Sheffield band right at the forefront of the movement. Before the term NWOBHM had even been coined!
Released in January 1979 the EP features early versions of Ride Into The Sun, Getcha Rocks Off and The Overture: all songs that would be re-recorded later, with varying results. A later Hysteria-era remake of Ride Into The Sun improved on the original’s clunky vocals but that bouncy riff is still killer here and it’s fun to hear Lep in such naïve form. Getcha Rocks Off and The Overture would appear again on the band’s debut album On Through The Night but these are the definitive takes with their lively hot-of-the-press feel. The Overture in particular is a highlight, top epic-metal cobblers that puts the album version in the shade.
None of this is going to blow you away but it’s a fun, interesting listen and must-have for Lep fans. It’s been released in various vinyl editions that might set you back now but it has just been made available digitally for the first time EVER so there has never been a better time to getcha rocks off with this excellent piece of metal history.