Black 'n Blue (Majestic Rock) 1984
Strong Will Rock" (4:08)
Considered by many to be a classic of heavy metal. Remembered by many as 'just another hair band.' However, early Black 'n Blue are far above your average hair band. Remember that Black 'n Blue made their debut on the same Metal Blade compilation as Metallica. Black 'n Blue were heavy metal, with a ton of attitude, considerable publicity and even video play on that new music station, MTV. They even had the pretty-boy image. We all thought that Black 'n Blue were destined for greatness. They had a sound that rivaled the big acts of the day, having more groove than Ratt and more soul that Quiet Riot. The band's debut was chock full of testosterone driven anthems from the single "Hold On To 18", to the excellent cover of Sweet's "Action", to the rocking "I'm the King". All in all, Black 'n Blue's debut was a very solid metal platter. Unfortunately, while they sold well, they didn't become as big as the aforementioned bands.
1. Rockin' On Heaven's Door (3:29)
Black 'N Blue began life as a heavy metal band with some glam leanings. I was introduced to them from a song titled "Chains Around Heaven" on the first Metal Massacre album. This song and their debut record were fairly heavy, though still containing some of the ultra-catchy LA glam metal leanings. "Without Love" was their follow-up to that album and while still containing the catchiness of the first album, the production strips the band of the raw edge that they had on the Metal Massacre and on their debut. This is no doubt due to producer Bruce Fairbain. Apparently the slick production on this album was so impressive to the Bon Jovi camp that they brought him in to produce "Slippery When Wet".
The best songs on "Without Love" are the harder rocking songs such as "We Got The Fire", "Swing Time" and "Stop The Lightning", which happens to be one of the best songs on the album, despite the questionable use of keyboards in the chorus. This track easily could have been included on the band's debut. "Rockin' On Heaven's Door" is a fun, hard rock anthem as well. Black 'n Blue throw a couple of slower tunes out this time around with the ballad "Miss Mystery" and the bluesy "Two Wrongs. Miss Mystery".
Jaime St. James comes off as a very likable, his voice falling in line with what was going on with most of the LA bands at the time. The guitar tag team of Tommy Thayer and Jeff Warner is still in place and though the crunch of their rhythm guitars are downplayed on this album, the solo work is still outstanding.
"Without Love" is a decent follow-up album marred only by an all-too-clean production. Despite this it's still a fun and enjoyable record.
1. Nasty Nasty (4:29)
Third album for Los Angeles, CA based Black 'n Blue. "Nasty Nasty" is mostly produced by Kiss bassist Gene Simmons who gives Black 'n Blue a fairly raw production, rather than over polishing and robbing the band of their raw rock 'n roll sound. One song, "I'll Be There For You", was written and produced by Bad English/Journey keyboardist Jonathan Cain. It is easily the worst song on the album; cheesy, keyboard drenched AOR schlock without an ounce of personality. The rest of the album is straight-forward heavy rock and roll with solid hooks, some nice guitar work and Jamie St. James signature vocals. The best songs are the up-beat rockers such as "Kiss of Death","12 O'Clock High" and the title track.
Black 'n Blue - In Heat (Geffen) 1988
1. "Rock On"
Black 'n Blue is a band I never familiarized myself with other than hearing the occassional song here and there and their track on the first Metal Massacre CD. Many people have suggested I get their stuff. This is the first CD that I have been able to check out from beginning to end. From what I have been told, their first two albums are 'heavier'. This CD is pretty "poppy" sounding with a ton of radio ready rock and a few anthems. "Suspicious" almost has a dancable beat. That being said this CD isn't bad as I do enjoy this style of music. " The Snake" is one of the harder rockin' songs and also one of my favorites off this CD. " Get Wise to the Rise" has a pretty infectious sound as well. Some of this stuff reminds me of mid-80's Kiss, which may be partially due to the fact that Gene Simmons produced this album. (Of course guitarist Tommy Thayer eventually went on to work for Simmons and later even joined Kiss.) I will have to try to get some of their earlier material.
1. Monkey (3:54)
Black 'N Blue apparently never actually disbanded, but rather were on a long hiatus. However, "Hell Yeah" is their "reunion" studio record, outside of a one-off show that was recorded and released in the 1990's. The band initially reunited in 2003 to record this album, but it wasn't finally released until 2011. "Hell Yeah!" does not feature guitarist Tommy Thayer who has been off playing the part of Ace Frehley with Kiss. Shawn Sonnenschein was the new lead guitarist to be featured on the album in Thayer's place.
The album opens with a balls-to-the-wall heavy rocker titled "Monkey." Had the band's debut or "Without Love" featured a song with this much sweat and muscle I can't imagine they would have been ignored. Meaty guitar licks driven by a steady rhythm section and St. James' nasty vocals. This song goes back to the roots of Black 'n Blue's sound. "Target" likewise keeps up the momentum. This rock and roll song has a bit of a Kiss vibe to it. "Hail Hail" is a fun rock and roll anthem. It's a bit on the cheesy side, but who doesn't like a big old hunk of cheddar every now and then? "C'mon" is an upbeat rock and roll anthem as well. "Fools Bleed" is the obligatory ballad, however I like this particular ballad. The first half of "Hell Yeah" is solid.
The second half has some filler. "Jamie's Got The Beer" is a silly filler song which acts as an intro to "Angry Drunk Son of a Bitch". This song sounds like a not-so-nice ode to Jani Lane. "Trippin' 45" is a short acoustic instrumental. It's not bad per-say, but it just seems out of place. The album closes with another filler track, "A Tribute To Hawking". Frankly, this is a bad way to end the album. I'd rather they ended on a high note. That's not to say all of the second half is bad though. "Candy" is a sleazy rocker with a solid hook. The title track, which is buried twelve tracks into the album, is a solid hard rocker as well. Other than the few low-points that I mention there isn't much to dislike about this album for fans of catchy, melodic, heavy rock and roll. "Hell Yeah" even sports their best production to date. The riffs are heavy, the guitars out-front, the vocals right in the pocket and there are no keyboards robbing the band of their edge. "Hell Yeah" continues and even improves upon the Black 'N Blue legacy.