Essential Series - 2019 Unsung Albums Vol 1

DaveTDaveT Buenos Aires, Argentina
edited March 28 in Essential Series

Background

When you start thinking about forgotten albums, the options might seem endless. One possible scope would be those albums by well-known bands that are deemed underrated, obscured by more popular releases or disowned by the bands despite their undeniable quality.

KISS' 'Unmasked' and 'Music From The Elder', AC/DC's 'High Voltage', Black Sabbath's 'Seventh Star', top sellers with negative press reception, or commercial failures. The likes of Starship's 'Knee Deep In The Hoopla' and Motley Crue's 1994 ST, respectively, and even 'Queen II'; all fall into this category for the various reasons stated above.

Another alternative is to go for hidden gems that are widely recognized among connoisseurs (but not by public at large) as great releases, while you can also cherry pick with a little bit of malice those albums that only you rate high based on your subjectivity and personal experience without any further research or basis or just driven by how much you like the cover or how rare the recording is.

An example for the first part of the previous sentence would be Signal's 'Loud & Clear', and I leave it up to you the case of 'guilty pleasures', which off the top of my head would be Peter Frampton's South American only 1980 release 'Rise Up' and Baltimora's 'Living In The Background' (the one with the 'Tarzan Boy' single) for me.

Of the many available, my approach was to simply select from my personal collection those albums that are rarely mentioned in conversations or whose reviews are scarce but that I've been listening to for a long time and that still to this day mean good music and a fun listen for me. Hence, they have stood the test of time. Here they are, in chronological release order.

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The Albums

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Marchello - 1989 - Destiny

Singer/guitarist Gene Marchello sounds like Steve Perry with Rik Emmett's vocal inflections while his guitar work at times resembles the Vinnie Vincent Invasion in an album that would have fit into Mike Varney's Shrapnel Records roster, such is the amount of shredding here. As OTT as a Journey in heavy metal mode might sound, the album succeeds with its European Pop Metal flavor a la TNT or Treat.

Interesting Facts: Gene's father, Peppi Marchello (The Good Rats) produced the album and wrote most of the songs. The official video of the song 'First Love' features actress Gina Gershon. Ozzy Osbourne wanted Gene Marchello as his guitarist in the late 80's.

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Marchello - What If


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Tarzen - 1989 Madrid/Es Una Selva Ahi Fuera

Tarzen's 1985 debut was a dynamic slab of melodic hard rock. For their sophomore, the band adopted an AOR mood in the style of Shy, Airrace and Van Halen circa '5150' with a few Hi-Tech leanings as well. The results were tasteful as in 'Immediate Obedience', 'Mother Night', 'Glad All Over' and the breathtaking title track, a power ballad with hints of Queen like pomp.

Interesting Facts: unreleased on CD to date, the album was issued as 'Es Una Selva Ahi Fuera' (Spanish for: 'It's A Jungle Out There') in Argentina and Mexico, with three songs re-recorded with original Spanish lyrics. The renamed new recording of 'Glad All Over' became the title track instead of 'Madrid'.

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Tarzen - Madrid


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Law And Order - 1989 Guilty Of Innocence

Few bands showed original features within the highly populated US hard rock scene of the late 80's. Combining elements of Aerosmith, Lynyrd Skynyrd and Led Zeppelin, New Yorkers Law And Order (no, not the TV series) were certainly one. The winning cards were the songs and the clear vocals of one Shane. A strong retro-feel even for 1989 tinged the sound and melodies of rockers 'Dawg', 'Love Reality' and the boogie rampage of 'Whiskey', as well acoustic numbers 'I Think It's Gonna Rain Today' and 'In The Shelter'.

Interesting Facts: according to the singer, the band played the famous Brooklyn's L'Amour club over 100 times and supported Guns 'N' Roses and Pearl Jam on selected dates. They also had a scheduled March 1990 tour with Mother Love Bone which was cancelled at the last minute when singer Andrew Wood died of an overdose.

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Law And Order - Dawg


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London - 1990 Playa Del Rock

London rocked harder that most of their L.A. contemporaries of the Glam Metal scene; and this Rock Beach, their third studio album (some versions were released under the D'Priest moniker), is the living proof on record.

With a rich history that included future members of Motley Crue, W.A.S.P., Guns N' Roses and Cinderella, Mexican-born singer Nadir D'Priest (who owns a deeper voice than your average singer of the style, almost like The Cult's Ian Astbury on steroids) was the only one who sang in all their albums.

From fiery rockers to quality ballads and neat covers, this fresh, powerful and palpitating batch of songs goes highly recommended.

Interesting Facts: London was prominently featured on the 1988 movie 'The Decline Of Western Civilization II: The Metal Years'. Drummer Alan Krigger played for Giuffria and Ike & Tina Turner.

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London - Miss You


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Kane Roberts - 1991 Saints And Sinners

The sophomore solo release by the strongman guitarist is a collection of catchy American hard rock tunes that involved songwriting credits by Desmond Child, Diane Warren, Jon Bon Jovi and Richie Sambora among others. Very much in the style of Winger, his mentor Alice Cooper and a rocking Bon Jovi, the production and mix by Sir Arthur Payson and Michael Wagener respectively is another asset here.

Interesting Facts: the ballad 'Does Anybody Really Fall In Love Anymore?' had already been recorded by Cher in 1989. Roberts' version reached the American Top Forty at #38 in 1991.

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Kane Roberts - Twisted


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Warren Haynes - 1993 Tales Of Ordinary Madness

The former Allman Brothers Band guitarist pleasantly surprised with this first solo release that, besides his enormous guitar skills, introduced him as a storyteller through eleven songs with a blend of Classic Rock, Southern Rock, Blues and nods to Lynyrd Skynyrd and Free.

Pay special attention to the incendiary 'Fire In The Kitchen' and the outstanding ballad 'I'll Be The One'. Haynes turned up to be an expressive singer with Paul Rodgers overtones and the classy production made it every bit as listenable today as it was in 1993.

Interesting Facts: the album was released on Megaforce Records, a label dedicated to Metal artists almost exclusively.

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Warren Haynes - I'll Be The One


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Raging Slab - 1993 Dynamite Monster Boogie Concert

Described as 'Lynyrd Skynyrd meets Metallica' back in 1989, the Slabs were highly praised by Ed King at the time of this release for keeping Skynyrd's spirit alive in an album that rocked hard and updated Southern Rock for the 90's audiences. In a way, they paid more true respect to the southern spirit than the then-current incarnation of Lynyrd Skynyrd with fantastic and assorted songs, banjos, top slide-playing by the great, late Elyse Steinman, and a no bullshit attitude.

Interesting Facts: Led Zeppelin's John Paul Jones contributed with string arrangements for the song 'Lynne'.

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Raging Slab - Anywhere But Here


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Lillian Axe - 1993 Psychoschizophrenia

From the opening vertigo of 'Crucified' up to the serpentine title track and through the poignant 'The Needle And Your Pain' and the gorgeous acoustic ballad 'The Day I Met You', this is a brilliant Progressive Hard Rock album that was unfortunately lumped into the derogatory cluster of Hair Metal by (a few) critics and buying public alike just to unfairly dismiss it. With the right amount of modern edge, it has aged remarkably well. Steve Blaze operates in many a passage at Nuno Bettencourt's level while Ron Taylor's melodies and the drumming are superb.

Interesting Facts: the opening arpeggios of Green Day's 'Wake Me Up When September Ends' sound just like those on 'The Day I Met You'.

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Lillian Axe - Those Who Prey


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Heavy Metal Kids - 2003 Hit The Right Button

Who would have thought the HMK would make a comeback after a quarter of a century's absence, let alone one of this caliber? An amazing amalgam of Hard Rock, Power Pop, Classic Rock and Punk with an unusual level of energy if you compare it to other returning classic acts, still keeping a vintage flavor yet slightly updated to suit contemporary audiences. Danny Peyronel delivers in his new role as frontman, while the melodies flow seamlessly through the powerful songs and the more reflective ones as well. Arguably the Kids best album, at least for those who cared to listen.

Interesting Facts: 'Girl Of My Dreams', written by Ronnie Thomas, was a Top 40 hit for Bram Tchaikovsky in 1979. The album was reissued in 2010 as 'Hit The Right Button Plus' with 4 live bonus tracks.

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Heavy Metal Kids - Blow It All Away


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From The Inside - 2004 From The Inside

Danny Vaughn fronted this project after being approached by Frontiers Records to record an album with a mix of covers and original songs. He does cover LeAnn Rimes, Little River Band, Amanda Marshall and Swedish artist Martin Stenmarck (who has already been reviewed here at GDM).

However, besides the great version of Rimes' 'Damn', the best ones are two originals Danny wrote: the road-song 'Blessing In Disguise' and the absolutely stunning 'Is Anybody Watching Me?', one of the best AOR songs ever to these ears. Superb guitar driven melodic rock here and Vaughn really shines throughout.

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From The Inside - Is Anybody Watching Me?


In Summary

There you go, the first installment of the usually overrated category of underrated albums (pun intended). I hope it will spark interest among readers for further research.

It comes as no surprise that the majority are from the late 80's and early 90's as the flood of releases at that point in time arguably buried certain gems; as well as a trio of releases from 1993, when almost everything was buried by and flooded with Grunge (pun intended bis). The two more recent releases from the 2000's made the top of my 2000-2009 decade list, which remains an unpublished draft so far.

Left out of this volume but equally considered in high regard are albums by Teaze, Steelhouse Lane, Keel, Hanoi Rocks and their frontman Michael Monroe, Savatage, Union (Kulick/Corabi), Liege Lord and Stuart Smith's Heaven And Earth; to name just a few but enough to fill another chapter.

And the next planned volume will be about live albums brought up only once in a blue moon by the likes of Thundertrain, Michael Stanley Band, David Cassidy and The Good Rats amongst others. Any thoughts, suggestions and feedback on the subject are more than welcome.


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