Racer X - 1986 Street Lethal

edited August 2 in year-1986


ALBUM: Street Lethal
LABEL: Shrapnel
YEAR: 1986
CD REISSUE: 1988, Shrapnel, SH-1023CD * 1990, Roadrunner, RO 9705-2


LINEUP: Jeff Martin - vocals * Paul Gilbert - guitars * John Alderete - bass * Harry Gschoesser - drums

TRACK LISTING: 01 Frenzy * 02 Street Lethal * 03 Into The Night * 04 Blowin' Up The Radio * 05 Hotter Than Fire * 06 On The Loose * 07 Loud And Clear * 08 YRO * 09 Dangerous Love * 10 Getaway * 11 Rock It


Details are sketchy as to Racer X's exact origin but suffice to say the band was built around the then teenage guitar prodigy Gilbert (only 18 at the time) and his lightning fast fret work, who many saw as the next Eddie Van Halen.

Martin previously played with Surgical Steel, while Austrian born Gschoesser had been part of Nobros.

The California bred foursome signed to Mike Varney's Shrapnel label and promptly recorded their highly technical yet fiercely melodic debut. Many claimed there was too much emphasis on Gilbert's expertise, but in reality the songs were basic metal workouts with anthemic hooks, most tinkering with speed metal.

'Street Lethal' was a minor sensation among guitar fanatics, especially in Japan, whom among others viewed the album as a Gilbert solo project.

The Songs

Gilbert's talents are showcased immediately with a guitar solo intro, 'Frenzy', aptly titled with shades of Van Halen's 'Eruption' naturally. It leads into the title track and its near thrash onslaught, with an almost impossible wall of noise from Gilberts riffing and some mighty double bass drumming from Gschoesser.

A succession of brilliantly titled tracks follow, 'Into The Night', 'Blowin' Up The Radio', 'Hotter Than Fire', 'On The Loose' and 'Rock It' among others, titles which could be mistaken for an upscale AOR record!

'Into The Night' features what could be a commercial chorus but is pummelled by the likes of 'Blowin' Up The Radio', again very fast with another blinding solo from Gilbert, essentially the basis for the whole album.

'On The Loose' is the type of material Icon made their own in their 'Icon' years of 1984/85, big hooks with a heavy and rebellious edge.

Quite unstoppable is 'Loud And Clear' which could easily be mistaken for Keel's 'You're The Victim, I'm The Crime'. Martin's vocals even have Ron Keel's brash execution.

Gilbert gets to display his virtuosity again on the instrumental 'Y.R.O.', but Alderete gets in a few bass licks also.

'Dangerous Love' could almost have been radio bound with such an accessible hook, but Gilbert's work is too heavy, rendering that concept obsolete.

In Summary

In hindsight I think too many people have let the Gilbert factor get in the way of obscuring that this is an effective piece of commercial metal.

The fact that his guitar fills are non-stop doesn't get in the way of the melody and that the others all turn in first rate performances, resulting in a very heavy thirty five minutes.

Racer X needed some sort of variation and they obtained this with the addition of second guitarist Bruce Bouillet, which allowed 1987's 'Second Heat' a more toned down style, with more of a hard rock bent.

Scott Travis joined on drums, but unable to secure a major label deal Racer X split, with Gilbert joining Mr Big of course, while Martin joined Badlands and Travis Judas Priest.

The others evolved into The Scream with John Corabi, but we all know what happened there.

Racer X reformed minus Bouillet in 1999 and have recorded several albums since, the latest 2003's 'Getting Heavier', still adhering to the showmanship of 'Street Lethal', a piece of 80's magic.

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