Thursday, March 23, 2017

Whatever Happened to ...?

Slade : Big Apple Blues

"Slade was never pretentious. It was just music to them. Pop, rock, was all the same to Slade. They wrote great songs. And, besides, I'd like to raid their wardrobe." - Noel Gallagher (Oasis)

Whatever happened indeed! By the time Slade released its heaviest and hardest rocking album on March 21, 1977, glam rock had all but vanished from the UK charts. Slade had returned from its year long attempt to conquer America with their tails between their legs. Their comeback album , Whatever Happened To Slade,  failed to chart upon its release but years later, it has earned a place of honor among Slade fans. The album was voted #1 of the top three Slade albums in the Slade Fan Club Poll of 1979.  More than a decade later members of Smashing Pumpkins and Nirvana would cite the album as influential.

Record Mirror's 3 star (out of 5)  review
If you ever spent an evening, way back in 1972, swaying along with the raunchiest, sweatiest, rudest band in the world, you'll have the same fond memories of Slade as I do. The boys don't seem to have changed that much in five years - Noddy still looks like like a leery, dirty old man, and Dave Hill still has that ridiculous hairdo. This is their comeback album - the one that'll make them or break them. It features their last single "Gypsy Roadhog" which didn't get too far in the charts and most of the other tracks are in the same vein - solid, rocking numbers, just not quite distinctive as "Cum On Feel the Noize" or "Coz I Luv You" did. Part of the problem is that they seem to be trying too hard - laying everything on, instead of sticking with simplicity.  

 The result is that it sounds, heavy, cluttered, even a bit old fashioned. Noddy's voice still sounds great whilst Dave turns in some pretty nifty guitar, but there's just too much of everything. In the old days, the lyrics weren't too important to Slade, but now they're writing songs with meaning, like "Big Apple Blues", a song about New York where Noddy sings "city walls standing tall, if you fall no one hears you call" but finishes up with "the apple ain't bad, it's just bruised and I'm glad that it's there at all". Or, on "Dogs of Vengeance" - "come to my castle and I will unfold some exquisite passion so grand, some torment, the best in the land." (Slade get into sado-masochism?) All very well, but I still prefer the real good old nudge and wink ditties like "It Ain't Love but It Ain't Bad" - "some of them one night stands, ooh ooh, that I've had, keeping me happy all the time I'm on my own, keeping me satisfied when I'm away from home." At the moment Slade seem to be stuck between two fences, no longer making singles guaranteed to make the charts but not quite making it album-wise either. Still, their forte is really playing live, and I won't ever write them off until I've seen if they can still do it up there on stage.

Sound Magazine's review :

Remember those days when punk rockers were affable urchins who would no more have thought of vomiting obscenities into the nation’s living room than they would of leaving for a show with a spare pack of strings? Well those days are back. Back in the highly acceptable form of Slade.’ This is what the biog says and what a load of crap! If Slade are, or ever were a punk rock then John Denver is the next Messiah and Karen Carpenter was stand in for Linda Lovelace in ‘Deep Throat’. And as for the obscenity bit, I vaguely remember a story about Slade in the early days, when they were banned from a series of dates because they used ‘blue humour’ in their act. OK, so they once had bog brush hair do and attempted to project a skinhead image, but it didn’t some off, so what’s the point of a re-take on a campaign that’s failed? Anyway, this is a bloody good album. Whatever Happened to Slade? Well as far as I can make out, the band were always on form when they worked within the most basic of formats. Rock and Roll! Rock should be approached with a Neanderthal feel about it and these guys were one of the prime producers of commercially viable cranium crushing music. The singles were dumb but clever, almost manic in approach yet highly entertaining. The band have obviously been brushing up on their homework, since their self-imposed exile to the US of A. This album is high energy on a primeval scale. It’s got all the ball bustin’ riffs you’ll find nestling comfortably alongside yer ZZ Tops and Nugents. The tracks, run into each other, and it’s got the same suicide pace of the Aerosmith ‘Rocks’ album. Even though some of the chord changes are so old they’re almost heading for retirement, none of it sounds blatantly derivative.

 Basically, it’s all down to the fact that Noddy Holder is a fine rock and roll singer. When it comes to boogie, this guys vocal chords are lethal. So powerful it’s as if he’s got a compressor implanted in his tonsils. The rest of the band aren’t dodo’s either. The drum and bass union of Don Powell and Jim Lea respectively, has an effect similar to a jack rabbit using your head as a practice pad. And I like Dave Hill’s geetar, ‘cause he knows his limitations and doesn’t overstep the mark. Eleven tracks in all, I haven’t listened to the album enough to evaluate how long the initial impact will last. But it’s packed with strong tunes, lotsa potential singles and the lyrical content is more interesting. I never knew that their single ‘Gypsy Roadhog’ was about Rich Man’s marching powder. The production is slightly flat, lacks the necessary sparkle. Basic and effective, producer and manager Chas Chandler has managed to capture and convey the live spirit of the band, but the overall sound lacks that trebly bite that people like Jack Douglas (Aerosmith/Patti Smith) manages to obtain. Slade always remind me of the Beatles at simplistic, gut level. Cold Turkey Trekkin’. I mean, if the fab four have ever decided to go gonzoid heavy metal, then this is what they might have sounded like. Play it when your neighbours are getting on your case, it’ll knock their Sunday dinner clean off the table. Play it when your party starts getting laid back and people are asking for ‘Don’t Cry for Me Argentina’. If you liked ‘Get Down and Get With It’ and the first album, pin back your lugholes, no! staple them to the side of your head, now turn it up! Turn it up! Turn it up!

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