JAGUAR Power Games (Dissonance Productions)
Jaguar were one of the fastest and most underrated bands in the NWoBHM (New Wave of British Heavy Metal) movement, and along with Raven would have a huge impact on the forthcoming speed metal and thrash movements, including Metallica. This is a reissue of their 1983 debut, with a couple of bonus tracks to boot.
Formed in Bristol in 1979, a number of line-up changes and demos led to signing to Newcastle based label Neat. Led by guitarist Garry Pepperd, the band here also features vocalist Paul Merrell, drummer Chris and bassist Jeff Cox.
Jaguar were oft seen as part of the Second Wave of the NWoBHM, and this highly influential album is now much sought after on LP.
Start as you mean to go on, and opener ‘Dutch Connection’ does just that; crash bang wallop and the track is frantic and frenetic, with a decent riff too. The next track follows too with a strong riff and faster guitar. Most of the big thrash bands couldn’t keep up with this. It’s not until ‘Master Game’ that we get a melodic intro; a strong mid paced track that could nod to Iron Maiden.
If you like cohesive metal played at blistering crash and burn pace, this is one for you; well packaged and with three bonus tracks, it’s well worth anyone’s money. ****
Review by Ed Stone
GIRLSCHOOL Demolition/Hit And Run/Screaming Blue Murder
Amongst a plethora of classic metal being reissued by this label, these three albums have been much issued previously (and oft with more bonus tracks than here), but in these cases they are well worth a listen and in the unlikely event you don’t have them, now’s a great chance.
With their roots in the school band Painted Lady, Girlschool formed in the late 70s and were a firm part (and favourite) of the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal. They are also the longest running all girl band. Their collaboration with Motorhead is well documented, sharing a manager and label (Bronze) from 1979 to the mid 80s, as well as the hit track ‘Please Don’t Touch’ from the St Valentine’s Day Massacre collaboration. And while their brand of metal oft had a punk tinge, there was always a glam metal element there too. There’s many a time Girlschool toured with Motorhead – the bands seemed to go hand in hand.
The original line up here, on their first two albums, featured rhythm guitarist/vocalist Kim McAuliffe, lead guitarist/vocalist Kelly Johnson, bassist/vocalist Enid Williams and drummer Denise Dufort.
The debut Demolition, originally issued in 1980, typified the band’s punkish metal roots and proved successful. The trademark song ‘Emergency’ (covered by Motorhead) is a standout, and the cover of Gun’s ‘Race With The Devil’ was a hit and remains a live favourite to this day. The lead guitar work stands out, Kelly Johnson much underrated, and it’s the vocal harmonies in the choruses that made the girls’ music uplifting. ***1/2
Hit and Run, issued the following year, is Girlschool’s biggest seller and takes the music of the debut a stage further, notably more cohesive, competent and professional. ‘C’mon Let’s Go’ is one of the best and catchiest metal songs about – the perfect single for the band. ‘Yeah Right’ stands out, and the cover of ZZ Top’s ‘Tush’ (a cover the band played before their record label days) is a real rocker. ****
With Killjoys bassist Gil Weston coming in, 1982’s Screaming Blue Murder was (for me) the best album by far, but is sadly overlooked by the band now. No bonuses on this release but it is worth getting for the title track and ‘Don’t Call It Love’, the latter a commercial but excellent rocker and a simple but effective guitar solo. The glam matched the punk on this release, but although a bit more melodic in places it is by far the most enjoyable and consistent listen. ****
Review by Ed Stone
SAMSON – Survivors/Shock Tactics/Live at Reading 1981
Guitarist Paul Samson, who sadly died in 2002, was at the forefront of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal, his first two singles Mr Rock’n’Roll and Telephone (both featuring bassist Chris Aylmer and drummer Clive Burr) were released in 1978 and are widely considered the first releases of the genre. Working as a trio with bassist John McCoy in the mid 70s, Paul had a love of the blues, notably Jimi Hendrix and ZZ Top, and he would cover both throughout his career.
The 1979 debut, Survivors, is a wonderful bluesy hard rock album highlighting Samson’s excellent guitar work. For contractual reasons Chris Aylmer didn’t play on the album, but John McCoy did (by then a ‘name’ with Gillan, and already familiar with the material), credited as a guest, as was pianist Colin Towns, a bandmate of John’s.
And just as the album was due for release, Bruce Bruce (aka Paul Bruce Dickinson) had joined so was airbrushed onto the sleeve. ‘It’s Not As Easy At It Seems’ has a great riff, and stand out track ‘Big Brother’ has some fantastic guitar work – I’ve always loved this track. There are some slower bluesier moments too, and drummer Thunderstick (ex Iron Maiden) provides a solid rhythm too. ***1/2
Skip forward to 1981 and Shock Tactics, the second and last full studio album with Bruce Dickinson. Not as common as the previous year’s Head On, due to record label problems, it is by far the best album of the era. The cover of Russ Ballard’s ‘Riding With The Angels’ is a classic, it was a minor hit for the band and a live favourite too, and tracks like ‘Earth Mother’, ‘Bright Lights’ and ‘Grime Crime’ spotlight Paul’s guitar as much as Bruce’s excellent vocals that would be off to front Iron Maiden with a year. And like the debut, a must-listen. Really. ****
Live At Reading ’81, originally released on Raw Fruit in 1990, was a classic performance. Although touted as the moment Bruce was discovered by Iron Maiden, it only finalised the decision as Samson and Iron Maiden had already crossed paths in the studio and Bruce was already on the radar. By then the masked Thunderstick and his cage was gone, the drum stool temporarily filled by Mel Gaynor who in 1982 joined Simple Minds.
The tracks here are more powerful, passionate and extended, Paul’s guitar work really rocking and Bruce’s vocals earning him the Air Raid Siren moniker. More live work from this era does exist and on this evidence really needs an official release. ****
The packaging rocks, as does the music, and while the albums have already been issued a number of times, you can’t ever argue with the music.
Review by Ed Stone
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