Vixen - 1990 Rev It Up


ALBUM: Rev It Up
SERIAL: CDP-7-92923-2
YEAR: 1990


LINEUP: Janet Gardner - vocals * Jan Kuehnemund - guitar * Share Pedersen - bass * Roxy Petrucci - drums

Additional Musicians - Michael Alemania - keyboards

TRACK LISTING: 01 Rev It Up * 02 How Much Love * 03 Love Is A Killer * 04 Not A Minute Too Soon * 05 Streets In Paradise * 06 Hard 16 * 07 Bad Reputation * 08 Fallen Hero * 09 Only A Heartbeat Away * 10 It Wouldn't Be Love * 11 Wrecking Ball



The early history of Vixen is mentioned in the review of their debut album. They did strike gold with that album, selling over a million copies worldwide and having two singles receive decent airplay.

They toured with some of the big names in rock before starting on their second album. One big difference on this sophomore release is that the ladies in the band wrote or co-wrote all but one of the tunes, relying less on outside writers than on their debut.

Opinions are mixed as to whether this album measures up to the first one, but I think they come nowhere remotely near a sophomore slump with 'Rev It Up'. From the opening snare drum into to the title track, it is apparent that these gals came to rock.

The stellar production jumps out, the overall sound fuller and more polished than the debut album. I thought Gardner's voice sounded a bit thin on that debut (her vocals are not as strong overall as those of some of the other ladies we love), but she sounds great on this one.

And forget any questions about whether women can adequately play this type of music - these ladies were damn fine musicians. I'm sure they did not appreciate those who doubted their chops.

Guitar, bass, drums - all solid, with nothing sounding simplified in the least. I'm particularly impressed with Petrucci's drumming throughout the album - she demonstrates a perfect understanding of how to make the percussion parts enhance each song.

And for a band with no formal keyboard player, there is a lot of keys throughout the album, including very prominent piano parts in two tunes.

Everyone contributes to the backing vocals, which are excellent as well. All in all, this is a very consistent and cohesive album, strong both musically and lyrically.

The Songs

Vixen comes out of the gate strongly with the title track, a tune about overcoming obstacles along the way to success.

'How Much Love' is the first single, in the vein of the hits from the debut album. 'Love Is A Killer', the second single, slows things down for a powerful ballad with plenty of piano.

'Not A Minute Too Soon' was the third single and another strong cut. 'Streets In Paradise' changes pace lyrically to discuss how success isn't always as great as you expect.

'Hard 16' tells the tale of 16-year-old runaway Jenny - another stand-out tune. 'Bad Reputation' attacks the bad boy types - it would be interesting to know who might have inspired this one.

'Fallen Hero' is the last of the 'tough' songs, a cautionary story about the perils of gang violence. It's the type of song a lot of bands were doing in the late 80's/early 90's to get some 'street cred'. I didn't like most of those efforts, but this song has more than enough polish that it keeps the album flowing along - very well done.

This brings us to what I consider the best song Vixen has ever recorded - 'Only A Heartbeat Away'. I'm surprised it wasn't released as a single. This is a desert island tune for me, and one I bet most of you will love if you haven't heard it yet.

'It Wouldn't Be Love' is the only song written totally by an outside writer (the legendary Diane Warren). It's another song that would have made a great single.

The album ends with 'Wrecking Ball', which is a fun rocking way to wrap up this fine album and gives each band member a chance to cut loose.

In Summary

After the success of the debut album, expectations were high for this one. Alas, as is often the case, things didn't work out as planned, and the album didn't live up to the success of its predecessor. On one hand, I can understand why.

The musical landscape was changing towards more of a 'sleaze-rock' sound and attitude. While these ladies were definitely attractive, they didn't play up their sex appeal as much as some of their contemporaries (Lita Ford being a prime example).

And other than being an all-woman band, they didn't have any other gimmick, and they didn't break any new ground musically. I also think they were mis-marketed to an extent.

Their sound was not far from that of Heart, but they got lumped in with all the other hair-metal acts of that day. It was getting more difficult for any new artist of this genre to break through in this timeframe; and while they definitely had some great songs that appeal to folk like us, none of them had the kind of major chart success that can really make a career.

The band broke up in 1991 due to the standard management issues and musical differences. While they never quite made it to the All-Star level, they did have a nice but short-lived stay in the major leagues. And they definitely went out on a high note with this one.

While they did attempt a couple of comebacks from 1997 onward with various members, I consider this album to be their swan song - and what a song it is.

On a personal level, I didn't discover this album until 2006. I was vaguely familiar with some of the tunes from the debut, but I had never heard anything from this one.

When I first played it, I was hoping to find a few killer songs like the best ones from the debut. I was pleasantly surprised as each song built on the momentum of the prior song.

It has become one of those albums that I can play regardless of my mood - I never want to stop playing it.

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