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Girlschool

Legacy

Review by Gary Hill

In the last issue of Music Street Journal I reviewed the latest Bang Your Head DVD and it featured Girlschool. I saw the band years ago and their performance on that DVD was every bit as potent as they were in their early years. So, it was with some serious expectations that I got this disc. Well, it’s not a disappointment by any means, but I wish it were a bit more consistent. The disc is a celebration of the 30th anniversary of the band and as such one would expect something truly sublime. Add in the fact that the disc is a tribute to long time Girlschool member Kelly Johnson (who passed away in 2007 after a long battle with cancer) and the bar is raised even higher.

The truth is, a lot of the CD lives up to those expectations. It’s just that some of the music here (a handful of the songs) is a little pedestrian in comparison. In other words this is a darned good album with some moments of sheer brilliance, but not quite the masterpiece I was hoping for. There are a number of notable guests here including several people who have been in Motorhead, a couple guys from Twisted Sister, Neil Murray (of Whitesnake, Black Sabbath, etc. fame) and Tony Iommi and Ronnie James Dio. I like this album a lot. I was just expecting to be completely blown away – and it didn’t quite make that.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2008  Volume 6 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Everything's The Same
Starting with feedback, this shifts to a punky rocker that has something in common with both Motorhead and Joan Jett. It’s a cool tune, but I’m not sure if it was the best choice to open things up.

From The Other Side
In some ways this doesn’t differ a lot from the last track, but the metal ante is upped here and this one just plain works better. The chugging middle section is a cool touch, too. Other items of interest on this are a cool vocal arrangement and some scorching lead guitar work.

I Spy (Girlschool mix)
This is heavier and yet somehow reminds me a bit of Hawkwind. It’s a cool track and I like it a lot. It’s continuing a trend of each song working a little better than the one that preceded it. It wouldn’t be out of the question to hear some Judas Priest on this, but in a total dichotomy you might also make out early Blondie.

Spend Spend Spend
The trend stops with this one. It’s not a bad track, and the chorus is catchy, but it’s a bit lackluster comparatively. It reminds me in a lot of ways of the disc’s opener. It includes a guest appearance by J. J. French from Twisted Sister who provides the guitar solo.

Whole New World
This is more like it. It’s crunchier and yet quite quirky. The chorus is infectious and yet this is far from overly accessible. It’s a cool track. The whole arrangement here is intriguing, but the vocal performance in particular is unique. The guitar solo on this purely screams. It’s one of my favorite cuts on the disc, and I think it might have made a better opener. Neil Murray (bass) (of Whitesnake, Black Sabbath and seemingly a million other bands) and Phil Campbell (guitar solo) of Motorhead fame guest on this.
Just Another Day
Here we get another slab of punky raw metal. The thing is, no matter how stripped down and basic they play it, it’s still catchy and potent. I wouldn’t think of this as a highlight of the disc, but it’s a good track. Phil Campbell also provides the guitar solo on this track.
Legend
Another favorite, this is a killer jam that really works well. The chorus has a lot of power and emotion and the track just really rocks! This might well be the best cut on show here. Neil Murray returns to play the bass here. It seems the lyrics are about Kelly Johnson and, if so, this is a great tribute.
Still Waters Run Deep
They give us another punky rocker here that still manages to soar with an accessible chorus despite its raw texture.
Metropolis
They cover Motorhead here and Fast Eddie Clark (who is best known for his work in Motorhead) adds his distinctive guitar skills to the track. They put in a cool version. The fast paced jam that closes this off is quite tasty.

Mess Around
The fast riff that makes up this track reminds me quite a bit of Motorhead. Eddie Ojeda of Twisted Sister gives us a guitar solo in his guest appearance.

Zeitgeist
We’re definitely in the midst of one of the stronger sections of the album. This is another cool raw metal track with a lot of punk in the midst. The Motorhead comparisons are valid at times on this one, too.

Don't Talk To Me
Well, Motorhead is definitely a common thread here and this time Lemmy makes his presence known. He provides the bass, his vocals and triangle – I would have really liked more cowbell, though. This scorcher is one of the highlights of the disc and is faster and more brutal than much of the material. As one might imagine this has a lot in common with Motorhead.

I Spy (Dio/Iommi mix)
Heaven and Hell (or Black Sabbath depending on your definition) are in the house on this, the first bonus track of the disc.  Ronnie James Dio sings on this and Tony Iommi provides the lead guitar. It’s a different version of the song we heard earlier on the disc. While I liked that first take a lot, this one seriously blows that one away.

London
This feels to me like The Pretenders do punky metal. It’s a good tune, but not a standout. It’s the first let down we’ve gotten since the disc really jumped up. It’s got its moments, but just doesn’t stand all that tall.
Emergency
I always thought this was a Motorhead song, because I was familiar with that band's take on the cut. Turns out this is originally written by Girlschool. It really shows how similar the sounds of the two groups can be. It's a killer tune and it makes for a jump back up and a great way to close things off.
 
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