Racer X

Street Lethal Racer X - Street Lethal (Roadrunner Records) 1986

1. Frenzy (1:45)
2. Street Lethal (3:41)
3. Into the Night (3:34)
4. Blowin' Up the Radio (3:10)
5. Hotter Than Fire (3:02)
6. On the Loose (3:07)
7. Loud and Clear (3:43)
8. Y.R.O. [instrumental] (3:13)
9. Dangerous Love (3:13)
10. Getaway (3:10)
11. Rock It (3:58)

Racer X are 1980's style shred metal. I've read some ridiculous reviews on-line over the years that labels "Street Lethal" as "glam rock" and "80's hard rock". This was heavy metal, circa 1986. Guitarist Paul Gilbert is an absolute shredder displaying incredible chops, technique and speed. "Street Lethal" was recorded when Paul was still a teenager, yet his skills is easily up to par with other shredders on the scene like David T. Chastain, Jason Becker and Marty Friedman. Actually, "Street Lethal" actually has a lot in common with Cacophony and CJSS. "Speed Metal Symphony." Much like Cacophony or CJSS, the riffs are heavy, the solos are fast and the songs are fist pumping memorable. Paul Gilbert's leads will most certainly make most fan's jaws hit the ground. Though Gilbert most certainly grabs the spotlight, this is not an album full of guitar solos or instrumental fluff. In fact, the songs here are quite memorable. Jeff Martin's clean vocals recall guys like Rob Rock and even David Coverdale. Together with bassist John Alderete and drummer Harry Gschoesse, these guys create a classic heavy metal album that should be in any collection along side bands like The Rods, Riot, Chastain, Cacophony, etc.

I should also mention that I have read a few reviews on-line in recent years that classify "Street Lethal" as "glam rock", "hair metal" and "typical hard rock". None of these descriptions are even remotely true. Unfortunately some modern fans of metal feel that any band that has clean vocals, have hooks or don't incorporate super fast tempos are "glam rock or "just hard rock". These people are wrong and obviously don't know much about the history of heavy metal.

Racer X - Second Heat (Shrapnel) 1987

1. Sacrifice (4:03)
2. Gone Too Far (2:55)
3. Scarified (2:40)
4. Sunlit Nights (3:36)
5. Hammer Away (3:45)
6. Heart of a Lion (4:04)
7. Motor Man (3:46)
8. Moonage Daydream (3:31)
9. Living the Hard Way (3:34)
10. Lady Killer (4:02)

"Second Heat" has goat to be Racer X's magnum opus. The album is the perfect mixture of jaw dropping technique and commercial accessibility. Songs like "Living the Hard Way" and especially "Heart of a Lion" could easily have been huge hits in 1986. The fact that they were not just shows it takes far more than good songs and talent to get a hit single. "Heart of a Lion" is fantastic. It is absolutely one of my favorites songs on the album. Penned by Judas Priest, the song was only ever recorded as a demo by the English metal legends. Racer X's version was the first officially released recording of the song that I am aware of and it is simply spectacular. Jeff Mason pulls out his best Halford impression and does it perfectly. "Moonlight Daydream" is a David Bowie song, though the band owns the song as if it were their own. Other songs, such as the screaming opener "Sacrfice, "Hammer Away" and "Lady Killer" are pure, blistering metal magic, showcasing the guitar skills of Bruce Bouilet and Paul Glibert and the fluent bass work of John Alderete. Future Judas Priest and Fight drummer Scott Travis shows why he is the king of double bass throughout the CD. Yes, Racer X are one of those bands known for their technical abilities and skill, but on "Second Heat" the songwriting and hooks are as important as the musicianship.

Tech Difficulties Racer X - Technical Difficulties (Shrapnel) 1999

1.    Phallic Tractor [instrumental] (:56)
2.    Fire Of Rock (4:56)
3.    Snakebite (4:23)
4.    Technical Difficulties [instrumental] (4:20)
5.    Miss Mistreater (4:31)
6.    Bolt In My Heart (4:10)
7.    17th Moon (4:06)
8.    Waiting (4:29)
9.    Poison Eyes     04:17)
10.  B.R.O. [instrumental] (1:20)
11.  God Of The Sun (5:15)
12.  Give It To Me (3:15)
13.  The Executioner's Song (4:09)

The year was 1999. The world was about to explode in a complete and total computer mania in only a few short months. As such, Racer X decided it was time to unleash their finest metal platter to date, and that's exactly what "Technical Difficulties" is. Racer X had actually split up in 1989 because the members had all moved on to other projects.  Paul Gilbert joined forces with Billy Sheehan (Talas/David Lee Roth) to form the popular hard rock supergroup Mr. Big and drummer Scott Travis joined forces with Judas Priest and later Fight. However, they got back together in 1997 and eventually recorded this monster album that has a little of everything for everyone.

The album opens with a short, punchy instrumental with a goofy title that acts as an into the appropriately titled "Fire of Rock". This is a full throttle rocker with a mean hook and some tasty guitar licks.  Jeff Martin's powerhouse vocals bring the song to life. "Snakebite" actually picks up the tempo and intensity a bit more. This song has a bit of a Van Halen groove to it and also has a big hook to the chorus. This song easily could have a been a hit had it been released during the heyday of heavy metal and given the proper label backing. Once again Paul Gilbert tears up the fretboard with a frenzied guitar solo. "Miss Mistreater" is a heavy, mid-paced American power metal romp with another smoking' guitar solo. Really, the entire album follows in similar manner, with each song being as good as the next. Heavy riffs, blazing solos, pounding drums and powerhouse vocals. This is American heavy metal "Technical Difficulties" also features two instrumentals, with the title track being the longest of the two. The song gives a change for all three musicians to strutt their stuff a little, including bassist John Alderate.  Racer X may have split up for several years, but your wouldn't know it by this reunion album. This is a guitar heavy album that is packed full of great songs.

Superheroes Racer X - Superheroes (Mascot Records) 2000

1. Superheroes (4:39)
2. Let the Spirit Fly (3:46)
3. Godzilla (4:50)
4. Dead Man's Shoes (4:07)
5. King of the Monsters [instrumental] (4:50)
6. Mad at the World (4:00)
7. Evil Joe (3:59)
8. That Hormone Thing (4:37)
9. Viking Kong [instrumental] (5:03)
10. Time Before the Sun (7:15)

"Superheroes" is the fourth studio album from Racer X and continues in a similar mode to "Technical Difficulties". As might be expected from Paul Gilbert & Co., there is plenty of intricate playing and fiery solos, but the songwriting never suffers for the technical skills.
Priest drummer Scott Travis does more than an adequate job behind the kit. He doesn't offer anything overly flashy, but everything is well thought out and well executed. The album opens with a speedy song that easily could have been recorded for Judas Priest's "Painkiller". Once again as he did on "Heart of a Lion" some years ago, vocalist Jeff Martin pulls out his best Halford voice and sound absolutely fantastic. "Let the Spirit Fly" is a more mid-paced heavy metal romp that easily would have fit on the band's "Second Heat" album. One song that really blew me away was the band's interpretation of Blue Öyster Cult's "Godzilla". They took a lot of liberties with the song, starting it off as a super heavy doom riff before settling into a more mid-paced, heavy cover. It' a great song to begin with, but I think that Racer X really added their own charisma to the song. "Dead Man's Shoes" is another straight forward heavy metal number with some very empassionate vocals. Actually, I would have swore that Rob Rock was singing on this song as well as "Mad At the World". As a matter of fact, I went to the liner notes looking to see if they brought him in as a guest vocalist, but they did not. Martin just has such a wide range that he is able to pull of the high Halford-type vocals as well as the mid-range power metal type vocals.

The two instrumentals on here are absolutely amazing. "King of the Monsters" is an uptempo instru-metal number which gives the entire band a chance to strut their stuff. "Viking Kong" is more stylistic of the two instrumentals, with Gilbert pulling out some classically influenced guitar passages. The album ends with "Time Before the Sun", a progressive rock song with a slight Eastern flavor, a lot of melody and more spectacular vocals. The only song that really falls short is the silly "Evil Joe", which is a joke track based on a prank phone call made by a friend of Paul Gilbert. As a whole, "Superheroes" is an outstanding album. This is a guitar shred album, but it is also packed quality songwriting and hooks. It's not ultra intricate or complicated. "Superheroes" is just solid heavy metal.

Getting Heavier Racer X - Getting Heavier (Shrapnel) 2003

1. "Dr. X" (5:31)
2. "Lucifer's Hammer" (3:43)
3. "Golden God" (4:23)
4. "Bucket of Rocks" (4:26)
5. "Go-GG-Go" (4:19)
6. "Heaven in '74" (3:25)
7. "Everything's Everything" (3:46)
8. "Empty Man" (4:56)
9. "The Siren's Eye" (6:22)
10. "Ghost Dance" (5:03)
11. "Endless" (5:24)
12. "Catapult to Extinction" [instrumental] (4:58)

Having been into the metal scene extensively for decades now, you would think I would have heard something by this legendary band before 2003. However, "Getting Heavier" is my first exposure to Racer X and I must say I am impressed. I know that guitarist Paul Gilbert is a shredder as I was somewhat familiar with his guitar playing with Mr. Big. Also, I have been a long time fan of drummer Scott Travis from his work with Priest and Fight. "Getting Heavier" actually sounds like a combination of these two bands. While this CD is certainly heavy, it's not quite as aggressive as Judas Priest, although no where near as mellow or as flashy as Mr. Big. So I would say they fall somewhere in between the two, but falling a little more on the side of the metallic, denim and leather Priest than anything resembling pop. The guitar and drum work on this disc are outstanding, as are the pipes of Jeff Martin, who has one of those classic metal voices. At times he reminds me of Rob Rock. Should also mention that there is a bit of a blues thing going on here and there. "Ghost Dance" has a big Robin Trower influence in it. Well, Racer X are another band to add to the want list. So many good bands, so little time and money!

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