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Metal/Prog Metal CD Reviews

Twisted Sister

Club Daze Vol. 1

Review by Travis Jensen

In the early days of the origins of metal music, names like Black Sabbath, Alice Cooper, Kiss, Iron Butterfly, Deep Purple and Judas Priest were just a few bands that defined what we have been influenced heavily by today. As the seventies gave birth to genres such as glam, punk and the dreaded disco era, many groups came about to help to define the modern music scene, which in many ways was the foundation of these genres we know today.  You may not know it, but Twisted Sister has been around way before their national appearance in 1984 when they hit mega-stardom with their third album, Stay Hungry, on mainstream radio fueled by MTV.  Twisted Sister formed in New Jersey in 1972, which is where our story starts. They were influenced by the popular glam bands of the time which consisted of The New York Dolls, David Bowie and Mott The Hoople to name a few as they toured the New York, Long Island and New Jersey turf. It wasn’t until 1976, however, that Dee Snider joined the group and became the undisputed frontman, face and spokesperson of the band throughout the rest of its well-known history. Snider went on to write all of the songs and form the image known by millions of fans as a flamboyant shock-rocker with his “drag meets Conan” stage wardrobe. Club Daze Vol. 1 documents the studio sessions between those years from the beginning of the bands inception, to 1982 when they released their first studio album, Under The Blade, which coincidentally was on the bands own label, Twisted Sister Records.

As the image of the band developed over the early years, the 1970’s did as well, which brought forth several different musical directions, which made it hard to pin down what Twisted Sister was inevitably to be, based on the music they recorded. They weren’t completely glam, yet they weren’t really punk, and they weren’t very heavy, but they also didn’t have any power-ballads, as did many bands of that era such as Boston, Styx and REO Speedwagon. I would say that they had a style all their own which could only coin them as none other than “Twisted Sister metal.”

Although the early years saw a few changes in the line-up of the band, Dee Snider, Jay Jay French, Eddie Ojeda, Mark Mendoza and A.J. Pero went on to become the driving force of the most popular four albums, most featured during the height of their popularity at the earlier part of the video age in the mid 1980’s. Club Daze Vol. 1 is a compilation of songs. Something that many bands of this era who are still clinging to “reunion tours” cannot say is that this is still the original line-up, after 30 plus years.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2011  Volume 1 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Come Back

The opening riff is just as powerful as anything you would expect from Twisted Sister. One of the things that astounds me about this song is that it doesn’t have to rely on overdubbed, overproduced, over synced studio frills to make it spectacular; the music speaks for itself, where the guitars have a deep, heavy rhythm that is complimented by Dee Snyder’s voice which has a riveting scratch that carries the song along very well through the choruses and versatile verses.

Pay The Price

Having been an aspiring bass player at one time, I really appreciate the intro to this song. The heavy bass line  grows with the drums which triumphantly lead into the opening vocal line. I must say that this particular song reminds me of the vocal range of the great Paul Rodgers in the early days of Bad Company. The guitar solo here really helps to put an exclamation point on the pinnacle of the song, which breaks it up evenly so that it doesn’t become too repetitive.

Rock N Roll Saviors

I like the speed and upbeat tempo that starts this one, which leads into a rhythmic spoken-word rap set to the pace that has always worked well for Snider in upcoming lyrical tongue-twisters. Although the title may seem like some type of anthem, the song itself has a raw edge to it that doesn’t make it cheesy in any way. You listen to the lyrics, of course, and it dates itself as it speaks of the death of disco, which was a threat for a brief time as some music critics spoke of the death of rock & roll…how wrong they were!

High Steppin

What makes this one different from the others is the blues riff that makes it more of an up-beat tune that portrays somewhat of a whimsical, danceable song. However, the vocals and guitar definitely take it into a direction of what aspiring metal was at those days; a style that broke the mold of power-ballad bands that set the pace of the music scene. Although the title of the song and swinging tempo calls for something typical, Snider again proves himself as keeping true to what makes his voice unique.

Big Gun
Do you like a drum intro? If so, then this is the one for you. There is also a fast pace vocal style that seems to carry from the previous track. However, what I like about this song is that each instrument speaks for itself; the bass guitar is very prominent throughout the song. The drums strongly reinforce this, and the guitar carries a huge bottom end pace and articulate solos.
TV Wife

What first attracted me to this song initially was the title, of course. As I listened to it, it was actually entertaining to listen to because of the story behind it, which is quite comedic as it describes what could be loosely described as typical Americana which is spoiled lazy. Musically, it isn’t one of my favorites on the album, mainly because of the chorus which seems to be redundant after the second time around; perhaps if it were a little shorter in length, it would have more impact and not become tiresome.

Can’t Stand Still

This track starts in an entirely different way, with Snider and a sparse picking of electric guitar. It then jumps into a rockin-blues riff with the rest of the band that reinforces the faster tempos from previous tracks. For a band that came from such diverse backgrounds, it amazes me that this type of song is done so well, yet remains unique in the blues style which has been around for so long.

Follow Me

This cut starts with such an expressive musical talent by Dee Snider. The band is also in high gear as well, especially through the main riff and flowing vocal power that carry the song through a solid tempo from beginning to end. The subtle guitar solos in various spots reinforce those vocals and changes in the pre-chorus are a nice compliment to such a deep-groove melody.

I’ll Never Grow Up Now

The main difference with this track from the rest is that Snider has raised his voice an octave or two from some of the first several songs. Although the tune itself is somewhat elementary, the diversity comes through which makes it a welcome change musically, as it gets back to the rock and roll roots from which the band originally came. There seems to be a kind of playful punk vibe to this one, which makes it an easy song to listen to; what I mean is that you don’t have to think too hard to figure out what is said in the lyrics and the chorus is a catchy rhythm that stays in your head.

Lady’s Boy

This song expresses the bands’ sex appeal; not only with the crafty title, but the way Snider sings it, as well, playing off the “Mae West” bedroom demeanor or sly fox, perhaps. Elvis Presley did this with his song “Fever” with huge success. Although this didn’t share that same success, the charismatic tone definitely ranks with it as far as its ability to raise certain senses of lust.

Leader Of The Pack

This is the cover song made popular in the 1960’s by The Shangri-La’s . As many bands before and after Twisted Sister, cover songs are something that can be used to show some type of diversity, and sometimes they wind up launching into mainstream music charts. Although this song was made more popular from their Come Out And Play album, I don’t think that this was the right choice for them, mostly because they were huge with metal music and the anti-establishment songs. I remember seeing this video for the first time on MTV when I was in high school, and really appreciating it for the comedic element with Bobcat Goldthwait, and Dee Snyder looking majestic in white leathers and riding around on an old Harley Panhead with the rest of the Twisted Sister Motorcycle Club. However, when it is on a cassette tape (as in those days) I remember hitting the fast forward button.

Under The Blade

I love the intro of the guitar riff, which has a choppy, phaser effect to it, and Snyder’s voice coming in to add more of a mystic, almost evil quality to it. As the song continues, it is reinforced with the kick drums and monster bass lines that make it a true metal tune, and probably my favorite song on the entire album. This song just rocks from beginning to end and demonstrates that true Twisted Sister metal that I spoke about in the beginning of my review.

Shoot ‘Em Down
The last song on the LP; of course it is hard to top the song before it in my opinion, so maybe not the right track for the last impression on the disc because of the lack of energy that Under The Blade does. However, I do like the song for the playful riffs, but it seems like an afterthought just to fill the space of one more song to lengthen the album. Perhaps its placement was done to break up the monotony of the “bluesy” dance-type songs as heard in several of the tracks in the middle of the album. Nonetheless, I think if it were a little heavier, or tuned down to a lower key, it could have had a different impact.
 
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