Tesla were big during the glory days of hair metal but they never really were from that genre, despite being labeled as such. Their music has more in common with Led Zeppelin than anything that came out of L.A. in the 80's. Tesla was formed in Sacramento, CA, in 1985, out of an earlier, locally popular group called City Kidd which dated back to 1982. Tesla's lineup featured vocalist Jeff Keith, guitarists Frank Hannon and Tommy Skeoch, bassist Brian Wheat, and drummer Troy Luccketta. The band named itself after the eccentric inventor Nikola Tesla, who pioneered the radio but was given only belated credit for doing so. Tesla debut album, Mechanical Resonance (1986) produced a hit in "Modern Day Cowboy," and reached the Top 40 on the album charts, helping the disc to sell platinum. However, it was the follow-up, 1989's The Great Radio Controversy, that truly broke the band. The first single, "Heaven's Trail (No Way Out)," was a huge hit for the band. "Love Song" hit the Top Ten and pushed The Great Radio Controversy into the Top 20 and double-platinum sales figures. "The Way It Is," was also something of a hit. Their follow-up was a surprising acoustic jam that predated the "unplugged" rage of the 90's. This album also hit the Top Ten thanks in part to "Signs," the bands cover of the hippie outrage anthem by the Five Man Electrical Band. Not only did "Five Man Acoustical Jam" reach the Top 20 and go platinum, but it also helped directly inspire MTV's Unplugged series. Their next album "Psychotic Supper" was a return to the heavy rock of their first two and also sold extremely well, eventually going double platinum. Due to the crappy grunge explosion of the 90's however, their next album "Bust A Nut" was considered a commercial flop as radio was no longer supporting good time rock 'n roll and metal. (800,000 copies is a commercial flop?) Tommy Skeoch had been battling an addiction to tranquilizers and his problems worsened to the point where he was asked to leave the band in 1995. Tesla attempted to continue as a quartet for a time, but the chemistry had been irreparably altered, and they broke up in 1996. Most of the bandmembers began playing with smaller outfits, none of which moved beyond a local level. When Skeoch's health improved, the band staged a small-scale reunion in 2000, which quickly became full-fledged. In the fall of 2001, the group released a two-disc live album, Replugged Live, which documented their reunion tour.
Tesla - Mechanical Resonance (Geffen) 1986
1. "EZ Come EZ Go"
This is an incredible rock n roll album. The funny thing is, I saw Tesla on this tour and was not impressed for some reason. (I believe they were opeing for Kiss at the War Memorial in Rochester, NY.) I can't even remember why now. To bad I didn't hear the album before I saw them, because this CD rules! As one review I read stated, Tesla are "Straight forward kick-ass rock music." Listening now, almost 16 years later, this CD still sounds good. Unlike some metal from the 80's that sounds dated, "Mechanical Resonance" stands the test of time rather well. Solid dual guitar playing layered with raw, gritty, yet melodic vocals. Several "hits" came out of this debut. "Modern Day Cowboy" is still a staple of rock radio almost two decades later.
Tesla - Great Radio Controversy (Geffen) 1989
1. "Hang Tough"
The more Tesla I hear, the more perplexed I become over why these guys were labeled as hair metal. I mean, this is not even remotely similar in style to Warrant, Poison, or even Twisted Sister, all of whom are without a doubt "80's hair metal." Tesla has a grittier, bluesier, 1970's hard rock edge to their music with a big 1980's production and a few anthemic, arena-ready choruses mixed in and the use of some acoustic instrumentation here and there. The twin-guitar attack of Frank Hannon and Tommy Skeoch emulates that of some of the great 70's bands like Thin Lizzy and Aerosmith.
Tesla - Five Man Acoustical Jam (Geffen) 1990
1. "Comin' Atcha Live/Truckin'"
Tesla's "Five Man Acoustical Jam" is exactly what the title says, an acoustic jam. The band runs through a bunch of Tesla favorites as well as some of their own favorite classic rock songs from the likes of CCR, the Stones, the Beatles and the Grateful Dead, among others. "Signs" actually became a hit for the band. Fifteen years late and this song is still in regular rotation on the local rock stations. The cover of the Beatles "We Can Work It Out" is impressive as well. The band seems to be having a good time on stage. Thankfully all the goofin' around was left in, making for a more fun listen. Obviously Tesla doesn't take themselves too seriously, yet at the same time show that they are just as good unplugged as they are with electric guitars.
Tesla - Psychotic Supper (Geffen) 1991
1. "Change in the
"Psychotic Supper" is a solid hard rock album with cool hooks, strong and passionate vocals, a solid rhythm section and excellent guitar playing. All the ingredients of a superb rock 'n roll record. Unlike the hairbands that Tesla were lumped in with, this band seems to take their craft seriously and their songs are not just happy, party anthems. (Not that there is anything wrong with that.) "Psychotic Supper" does have some elements of heavy metal, but there are equal amounts of classic rock n' roll, funk, and even some elements of the more pop variety. Whatever you call it, it's just rock 'n roll. "Call It What You Want" actually addreses this issue of labeling music. "Edison's Medicine" is one killer song and the main reason I wanted this disc. I am also quite fond of the Steve Clark eulogy "Song and Emotion" which recalls the glory days of Def Leppard. Overall, just a solid platter that makes me want to go back a revisit more of Tesla's catalogue.
Tesla - Bust a Nut (Geffen) 1994
1. "The Gate/Invited"
I had seen Tesla some years ago. At the time I was mostly concerned with speed metal, thrash and all things heavy and brutal. Because of that, I suppose, I was not impressed with Tesla. Some years late I stumbled upon a copy of this disc and decided to give them another listen. For some reason, at that time, I still didn't care for them. Perhaps "Bust A Nut" wasn't the best disc to introduce myself to the band with. Since I have become a fan of most of the band's earlier works, I decided to give this disc yet another listen. I'm really not sure what it was I didn't like about them earlier because this is actually a pretty darn good hard rock platter. Somehow Tesla manage to take the best parts of Def Leppard's pop metal sound and mix them with equal parts Aerosmith and Led Zeppelin to create something that is quite enjoyable without sounding fake or overly poppy. Favorites "Solution", "Shine Away", "Try So Hard" and "Wonderful World". "Games People Play" is a cover. The song was originally done in 1969 by a rock singer/guitarist named Joe South.
Tesla - Replugged Live (Sanctuary Records) 2001
1. Cumin' Atcha Live (6:58)
2. EZ Come EZ Go (3:44)
3. Hang Tough (4:49)
4. Gettin' Better (3:56)
5. The Way It Is (6:17)
6. Song and Emotion (6:35)
7. Changes (5:06)
8. Call It What You Want (4:33)
9. Lazy Days, Crazy Nights (4:27)
10. We're No Good Together (5:54)
11. Heaven's Trail (No Way Out) (5:28)
12. Mama's Fool (7:02)
13. Freedom Slaves (7:39)
14. Signs" (4:09)
15. Little Suzi (4:08)
16. What You Give (7:07)
17. Summer's Day" (3:01)
18. Love Song (6:57)
19. Edison's Medicine (5:13)
20. Modern Day Cowboy (6:26)
Tesla officially broke up in 1996, but in 2001 the Sacramento rockers reconvened and toured extensively, performing their hits and fan favorites. "Replugged Live" delivers exactly what anyone would expect from Tesla. The album is packed with high-intensity, blues-influenced hard rock. Though they often are lumped in with bands like Poison and Bon Jovi, Tesla were much more than the typical hair band. They wore their 1970's heavy metal and hard rock influences on their sleeves.
I've seen Tesla live several times and they always put on a spectacular live show. "Replugged Live" is a testimony to that fact. As with any live album it's nearly impossible to tell how much the album has been doctored, but as far as I can tell, they band just chose the best songs from performances and put them together in this 2-CD collection.
The sound quality is superb and nearly as good as a studio album, which is actually slightly disappointing to me. I'm a fan of live albums. In the 1970's, Deep Purple, Aerosmith, Ted Nugent, etc. released some of the finest live albums ever to be recorded. There was a looseness and a raw feel to those albums that added to the overall vibe of the live recording. That is really absent here. The songs are so tight and the recording so clean that these songs could have been recorded in a studio with crowd noise added. I usually describe it as an energy or atmosphere that cannot be captured in a studio. While "Replugged" does have some energy, it's not quite as prevalent here. It's not just a problem with Tesla. I've seen Tesla and know they are great live. It seems to be the case with most modern live albums in the digital age. The atmosphere is lost. It's something I have a hard time explaining, but I know when I hear it. Listen to the vibe of Ted Nugent's "Double Live Gonzo", Peter Frampton's "Comes Alive" or The Who's "Live At Leeds". They bleed energy. Despite my complaint, I still find "Replugged Live" to be a good listen. The song selection is superb and reads better than any greatest hits collection could. The musicianship is superb and features lots of smokin' axe work. As well, Jeff Keith's screechy Steven Tyler-esque voice sounds as good as it ever has.
Tesla - 20th Century Masters-The Millennium Collection: Best of Tesla (Geffen) 2001
1. "Modern Day Cowboy"
A gift from a friend that happened to come at the same time I suddenly took a big interest in Tesla's music. I don't usually care for these grab bag compilations, but this one is actually quite enjoyable. Perhaps it's because I am not burned out on the radio hits, since I pretty much never listen to the radio. That be true, I still recognized most of these tracks immediately, which just goes to show how many hits this band had. Solid, heavy rock 'n roll with strong pop hooks and gritty, bluesy vocals that complete the sound. Out of the bunch, however, "Edison's Medicine" still stands out as one of my favorites.
Tesla - Into the Now (Sanctuary) 2004
1. "Into the Now"
Tesla - Reel to Reel (Ryko) 2007
Sweet! I love these types of 'tribute' albums. I know some people have a problem with them, and I also know they seem to be the rage right now. Poison, LA Guns, Def Leppard, and several others have recently released cover albums as well. However, I don't care about trends or what other people like or dislike. The fact is, I've always enjoyed when band I enjoy cover other band's songs and "Reel to Reel" is no exception. Tesla digs deeply into the classic rock archives and covers fairly well known tracks by such bands as Deep Purple, James Gang, The Guess Who, Thin Lizzy, Led Zeppelin, the Beatles, Robin Trower, the Temptations, UFO, Uriah Heep, Derek & the Dominos, Rolling Stones and Traffic. Jeff Keith gives the vocal performances of his life on Zeppelin's "Thank You" and especially Deep Purple's "Space Truckin'". I am sure Ian Gillan himself would be impressed. My favorite track is the classy Thin Lizzy selection, "Bad Reputation". This is one of my favorite Thin Lizzy tracks, so it's a great song to begin with, but Tesla do a more than capable job of covering it. Another great inclusion was UFO's "Rock Bottom". Tesla pull out a fantastic rendition. I saw Tesla on the tour for this album a few days after purchasing this CD and they opened up the show with it. Frank Hannon simply annihilated. It was the highlight of the show for me. The cover of Robin Trower's "Day of the Eagle" gives Frank Hannon and new guitarists Dave Rude a chance to strut their stuff. They also pulled off a great version of this live. Rude is young but has a great stage presence. He was most certainly born in the wrong era, looking like a young Jimmy Page on stage. "Ball of Confusion" is the most disjointed song here. It's not a bad cover, but I much prefer the cover Anthrax did some years ago. Overall, however, I feel that this entire collection is a solid listen. At no time did I want to skip a track. I was surprised, knowing that Frank Hannon is a huge fan of Jimi Hendrix, that no Hendrix tracks were chose.
A second disc with classics by Aerosmith, ZZ Top, Black Sabbath, Alice Cooper and Montrose was also recorded. One of the highlights of this disc is he eleven minute Peter Frampton track "Do You Feel Like We Do", complete with talk box and Hannon on vocals. This was another highlight of their live show from this tour. One of the songs I was looking forward to hearing the most was Aerosmith's "Seasons of Wither". This is a classy choice in an Aerosmith cover. Thankfully, for the most part, Tesla don't go with the usual fare but choose fan favorites, instead of just the radio hits. Unfortunately this second disc can only be obtained by purchasing a ticket to one of their concerts, which leaves those who cannot go to the show out. This is actually my biggest gripe about this album. The cheap cardboard packaging comes with a place for a second disc, but it is left out with a note that says, "The second disc referred to as "Reel 2" inside this package to fill the empty hub is included with purchase of a concert ticket to a Tesla headline concert." I have read on-line that disc two may be for sale on the band's web site following the tour. Hope this is true for those that cannot make it to see the tour.
Best Buy adds a 'third' disc to the set. The exclusive Best Buy bonus disc includes "War Pigs" from the Real To Reel sessions and three studio unplugged tracks including "Modern Day Cowboy," "Paradise," and "Shine Away" from the last sessions with original guitarist Tommy Skeoch. All these tracks are to be eventually featured in an upcoming box set.
My copy was autographed by Frank Hannon and Dave Rude when they did a guitar clinic in Albuquerque at the Music-Go-Round store the day before Tesla performed here at the Kiva Auditorium on June 17, 2007.
Tesla - Forever More (Telsa Electric Company) 2008