Essential Series - 2017 US Hard Rock Vol 1

DaveTDaveT Buenos Aires, Argentina
edited February 11 in Essential Series

ARTICLE: The Essential Series - US Hard Rock (Volume 1), by Dtabachn
YEAR: 2017



Being a child in the 70s and a teen in the 80s, my first musical recollections are tied to melodic crooners, big bands and orchestras (my father's record collection), Latin pop and disco.

Discovering Led Zeppelin, AC/DC, Queen and finally Kiss in 1980 put me on the right path regarding musical tastes.

Back then, music was not so strictly divided into 'buckets' or categories as it is today, and this is going to be my approach regarding the selection. And I stress 'selection' over 'best of'.

Some of these albums either influenced or can be considered as part of other styles or sub-styles, hence the inclusion of a 'File Under' reference. Still, they are hard rock in essence.

The list is in chronological order, as all selections are timeless classics. And there are not ten, but eleven albums (It's up to you which one is the 'bonus track').

My goal is to share what I experienced (no pun intended) and what I still feel are classics within the broad field of US Hard Rock.

The guidelines are: impact, quality, how influential albums were/are and of course personal tastes such as (not so) guilty pleasures, lol.

As simple as those early times when you discovered albums that struck a chord with you were.

The Albums


The Jimi Hendrix Experience - 1967 Are You Experienced
The album that forever changed the story of electric guitar and influenced contemporary guitar gods Clapton, Beck and Page (the holy trilogy of British rock guitarists).

James Marshall 'Jimi' Hendrix recorded this debut with his power trio in England. His incendiary skills and sounds are still to be deciphered after 50 years. On top of that, his humble, simple but emotional singing still sends shivers down the spine of people around the world. A landmark recording still being discovered by many nowadays.

Interesting fact: Hendrix was born Johnny Allen Hendrix in 1942. His father Al - who was fighting in WWII when Jimi was born, renamed him James Marshall Hendrix in 1946.

Other recommended albums: Band of Gypsys, Hendrix In The West (best Johnny B. Goode version ever recorded).

File Under: Guitar Gods.

Alice Cooper - 1971 Love It To Death
A fantastic nightmare. The first true hard rock album by Mr. Vincent Fournier when Alice Cooper was still a band and not a cartoonish one-man effort. Bob Ezrin's involvement surely helped the band. And 'I'm Eighteen' is the ultimate teenage rebellion anthem.

Interesting fact: Anthrax recorded a version of 'I'm Eighteen' included in 1984's 'Fistful of Metal'.

Other recommended albums: Billion Dollar Babies.

File Under: Glam, Shock Rock.

Kiss - 1975 Alive!
The best possible introduction to American Hard Rock. The album that achieved all that was intended for Kiss' first three studio albums with flying colors. Kiss was substantially more than just Ringling Bros. and this is their true musical legacy.

Interesting fact: Eddie Kramer chose to produce Alive! over Boston's debut album. He said he had 'nothing to add' to Tom Scholz's tapes.

Other recommended albums: Kiss, Destroyer.

File Under: KISS, Superheroes.

Angel - 1975 Angel
Frank Dimino's silky yet powerful pipes, Punky Meadows' Strat riffs and Greg Giuffria's dreamy and atmospheric keyboards rode this winged horse called Angel. And the music actually sounded like composed, arranged and played by hard rock angels.

Interesting fact: Angel's logo is an ambigram. It reads the same upside down as when viewed normally. The Aerosmith alternative logo designed by John Langdon (created to be a gift from Dan Brown to Stephen Tyler) is an ambigram as well.

Other recommended albums: Helluva Band (Pomp), Sinful (AOR).

File Under: Pomp Rock, AOR.

Aerosmith - 1976 Rocks
According to some people, 1975's 'Toys In The Attic' is Aerosmith's best album. To me, 'Rocks' is their definitive and most consistent recording. The album that massively influenced the whole West Coast movement (from Ratt, Motley Crue and Guns 'n' Roses up to Metallica and Testament). Featuring brilliant songwriting, awe-inspiring Tyler's cat-like screams in its prime and stunning guitar harmonies.

Interesting fact: thrashers Testament covered 'Nobody's Fault', arguably Aerosmith heaviest song ever. Jackyl, L.A. Guns and Vince Neil also recorded it.

Other recommended albums: Toys In The Attic.

File Under: Rhythm And Blues Hard Rock, Blues Hard Rock.

Ted Nugent - 1977 Cat Scratch Fever
Chuck Berry and black R&B Hard Rock translation. If you think Uncle Ted is just a 'politically incorrect big mouth', bear in mind that he also created a new rock and roll vocabulary: 'twangability' 'gonzo' and 'whackmaster' as examples. And he backed his words with his songwriting and guitar skills. Kudos to Derek St. Holmes -back with the band after one album - for his contribution.

Interesting fact: Nitro, Motorhead and Pantera (among others) covered 'Cat Scratch Fever'.

Other recommended albums: Ted Nugent.

File Under: Chuck Berry, Detroit.

Van Halen - 1978 Van Halen
If 'Are You Experienced' set the world on fire, the first Van Halen album blew the survivors' minds. It's like Eddie's fighting the fretboard and defeating it, especially during 'Eruption'. David Lee Roth might not be the most gifted vocalist but he has a style all his own as witnessed by 'Ice Cream Man'. Michael Anthony's heavenly high harmonies and Alex Van Halen's boxing-like drumming are also good features. No fillers, all killers on the first truly West Coast hard rock scene's classic.

Interesting fact: Engineer Don Landee placed Eddie's guitar tracks on one channel in the mix while the other channel is filled with a delayed reverb of his guitar.

Other recommended albums: 1984, 5150.

File Under: Guitar Gods, West Coast Hard Rock.

Cheap Trick - 1978 At Budokan
Intended to be a 1978 Japan-only release -and finally released in 1979 in the USA - this album is fun, fun and more fun. Unless you are dead, it'll bring a smile to your face. How many rock bands can combine pop sensibilities, Beatles-like melodies and loud guitars in one single package? These live versions top their studio counterparts. And let's not forget how influential Cheap Trick was/is on diverse bands such as Motley Crue, Guns N' Roses, The Ramones, Pearl Jam, Nirvana, Stone Temple Pilots, Smashing Pumpkins and Green Day.

Interesting fact: Tom Petersson conceived a twelve-string bass in 1973. Hamer built the first known twelver for Tom in 1977.

Other recommended albums: Cheap Trick, Heaven Tonight.

File Under: Power Pop.

Blackfoot - 1979 Strikes
Got screaming loud distorted guitars, mighty vocals, deafening drums and guttural low end? Then it's hard rock, the southern rock melancholic sensibilities being a bonus. This band proudly showed their native-American roots as witnessed by their stage looks and the drum arrangement in 'I Got A Line On You'. The album displays variety, scorching original compositions like 'Road Fever', spot on covers, and the ultimate road anthem: 'Highway Song'.

Interesting fact: Singer/guitarist Rick Medlocke lost a lung as a consequence of a childhood illness. Warrant and Dolly Parton covered 'Train, Train' for 1990's 'Cherry Pie' and 1999's 'The Grass Is Blue', respectively.

Other recommended albums: Tomcattin', Marauder.

File Under: Southern Rock.

Riot - 1981 Fire Down Under
This cult gem should be credited, IMHO, for being the sole exponent of a movement called the 'New Wave Of American Heavy Metal'. Its influence within the realm of the US Power Metal (USPM) scene - that produced notable releases mainly between 1983 and 1988 - is almost immeasurable. Furthermore, Riot is arguably the most resilient band in the American hard rock annals.

Interesting fact: producer Steve Loeb made Guy Speranza sing laying on his back with the lights out and also had him running using a hand-held mic to hear Speranza out of breath in order to convey a sense of urgency to 'Swords And Tequila'.

Other recommended albums: Thundersteel, Narita, The Privilege Of Power.

File Under: Riot V, USPM, 'NWOAHM'.

Quiet Riot - 1983 Metal Health
It's not just a matter of impact, 'Metal Health' was the first metal album to ever top the Billboard's Hot 200 Albums chart, but this is a good album indeed. The cover of Slade's 'Cum On Feel The Noize' was the big hit, but 'Bang Your Head (Metal Health)' is Quiet Riot's best song. And let's not forget 'Run for Cover', 'Thunderbird' and 'Slick Black Cadillac'. And a little-discussed fact is that this album's success unveiled the good things that were happening in the LA clubs/West Coast scene within the so-called 'Hair/Glam Metal movement.

Interesting fact: Quiet Riot's members hated the producer's idea of recording Slade's 'Cum On Feel The Noize' and tried to screw it up. The track - featuring Frankie Banali's legendary drum pattern, had never been rehearsed and was recorded in just one take.

Other recommended albums: Quiet Riot II.

File Under: West Coast Hard Rock, Billboard's Top 200 #1 Albums.

In Summary

In the mid 70s, when US shores were haunted by Disco, there was still a good deal of hard rock being produced there.

Not many bands, but enough and strong enough to ensure the genre's survival and the birth of a new breed that dominated the musical scene throughout the golden 80's.

Hopefully, we will be revisiting more classic albums by the likes of MC5, Montrose, Blue Oyster Cult, Starz and other goodies in a future volume.

All written content on this website belongs to copyright. Duplication elsewhere on the Internet is strictly prohibited, unless specific permission is granted.


  • Options
    I feel Montrose's debut belongs in any list such as this. Don't get me wrong, this is a superb listing of classic albums, but that album destroyed every U.S. hard rock band in 1973 and set the stage for everything that followed.
  • Options
    DaveTDaveT Buenos Aires, Argentina
    Agree, Alun. Montrose's debut paved the way for Van Halen sonically and as an influence for Eddie as well. And that's only for starters on how influential it was.

    Hopefully, I can come up with a second volume that'll include that album as stated in the last paragraph.
  • Options
    I actually missed the mention of it at the end, so you're definitely correct. It's just amazing how that album changed the US hard rock scene around overnight. Bands like Grand Funk and Bloodrock were extinct immediately.
  • Options
    Yep, Montrose's debut LP was the kiss of death for the heavy blues rock of the early 70s - and not before time. US bands like Grand Funk stunk the room out with their dated as hell hard rock that was stuck in the heavy dope scene of the late 60s. Bands like Montrose, Kiss and the New York Dolls blew them off the stage with their condensed hard rock that laid it down no bullshit.
  • Options
    Nice list - the most of which I still have or have had in my collection, definitely agree about Rocks - certainly Aerosmith's pinnacle for me.
Sign In or Register to comment.