Cherry Red Records [Release date 27.02.20]
The Atlantic Years were indeed Ratt’s best years. This boxset is a compelling, 5 CD picture of a Glam Rock band constantly on the rise, before the breakup and the fall.
There’s a dozen bonus tracks spread across the package, making it an even more attractive proposition.
The band’s fluid line up settled into hard and fast shape in 1983, with Stephen Pearcy, Warren DeMartini, Robbin Crosby, Bobby Blotzer and Juan Croucier recording the the 1984 debut, “Out Of The Cellar”. Despite the fact that rivals, Motley Crue had cultivated a more appealing, bad boy image, Ratt’s debut outsold Crue’s “Shout At The Devil” by the thousand. It was built extensively around the sound of US Rock and Metal giants, Van Halen and Aerosmith, and furnished the band with one major Top Forty incursion, that of ‘Round And Round’. This pop metal monster became the band’s calling card, pushing the album toward triple platinum sales, helped along by much MTV exposure to other popular album tracks like ‘Wanted Man’ and ‘I’m Insane’.
‘Invasion Of Your Privacy’ was the follow up, destined to be the album that turned the band into coast to coast household names, durable products of the Glamrock generation.
It’s liberally peppered with multiple collaborations, harnessing a purple patch of creativity. First single, ‘Lay It Down’, undeniably heavy and sneakily anthemic, spread across FM Radio like a forest fire, and broke the Billboard Top Forty with ease. Second single, the sinewy ‘You’re In Love’ didn’t fare quite so well, but is probably more the song you would point at if asked to define the Ratt sound.
On this album, as always, great songwriting converts formula – driving riffs, fiery solos, sexually charged lyrics and sharp hooks – into unique versions of a recognisable rock’n'roll art form. And Ratt were one of the few bands who made it out of Sunset Strip notoriety, with a credible claim to have done it on the strength of their music.
The songs on 3rd album “Dancing Undercover” (1986) took a little longer to unlock than their predecessors, but very few of them strike a false note. Although plenty of the group’s signature pop metal sounds are present and correct, they form the backdrop to an unexpected bunch of weighty choruses – ‘Body Talk’ and ‘Slip of The Lip’ being the standouts – that once again saw them enjoy heavy rotation on MTV.
But new bands were arriving – like Cinderella and Poison – jostling for position and looking to elbow Ratt and others to oneside. “Dancing Undercover”s sales suffered as a result.
“Reach For The Sky” (1988) was Ratt’s fourth album. It sold over a million. So, unarguably, the band’s music retained a commercial lustre. Yet, at the time and since, the music press blew hot and cold, and the album has carried this uncomfortable ambivalence for 30 years.
It was and still is a puzzle. No one was expecting fresh, distinctive textures or a midlife switch to post feminist maledom. This was “Bandana Rock”, the staple diet of the macho sexist culture of the time.
‘Way Cool jr’ is a giant of a glam rock track, condensing big band brass, funky blues licks, a hard rock groove and a perceptive lyric into an anthem for a generation. Beau Hill had again produced, and helps whip up ‘No Surprise’ into a sharp, polished and tunefully harmonised, if malign condemnation of the straight world. The music was growing up, but there was an uneveness, an inconsistency to the songwriting on the album, and it didn’t quite match the commercial success of previous releases.
In an effort to recover the band’s multi platinum track record, the label brought in established hit writer and producer, Desmond Child, for album no 5, “Detonator” (1990). Child had worked his magic on Bon Jovi, Alice Cooper and Aerosmith albums, penning numerous hits and heart stopping hooks for them and many others.
But without Hill’s distinctive audio imprint – a love of the live sound, carrying power and excitement from the studio floor to the mixing desk, the album just didn’t seem like Ratt. That said, ‘All Or Nothing’ and ‘Loving You’s A Dirty Job’ are standout melodic rock songs, worthy of the Ratt name.
Review by Brian McGowan
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