Though he's known almost as much today for his right-wing political views, expert bowhunting, and reality-show participation, let's not forget that ol' Uncle Ted was at one point the screaming Motor City Madman whose primary focus in life was shredding. And like any other musician of longevity, his career has gone though changes.
The '80s and '90s were a transitional period for the Nuge, with the hard-rock epics of "Cat Scratch Fever," "Free-For-Fall," "Wango Tango" and "Stranglehold" behind him. Eagle Records has just reissued a total of six out-of-print releases, including Nugent ('82), Penetrator ('84), Little Miss Dangerous ('86), If You Can't Lick 'Em...Lick 'Em ('88), Spirit of the Wild ('95), and the later double live Full Bluntal Nugity ('01).
After the jump, Classic Rock Corner revisits the Nuge's Reagan years.
Ted's first release under this Atlantic contract is a solid hard-rock effort, buoyed by a crack backing band that includes Dave Kiswiney on bass, ex-Vanilla Fudge/Cactus skin thumper Carmine Appice and the underrated Derek St. Holmes on vocals. Tracks like "No, No, No," "Good and Ready," and the uptempo "Don't Push Me," are particularly noteworthy, as is the epic, heavy "Tailgunner" in which Nuge's guitar and St. Holmes' vocals do a wonderfully deadly dance.
Early sightings of Political Ted come on "Bound and Gagged" - which is not about S&M but the Iranian Hostage crisis. A few tracks are clunkers ("Fightin' Words," "Ebony"), but they don't detract from an overall ripping good time.
Two words that should never go together: "Nugent" and "synthesizer." Unfortunately, they do on this piece of schlock. Ted is clearly trying to compete with the hair-metal bands of the day, but it only results in limp, generic music in "Tied Up in Love," "Knockin' At Your Door," and "(Where Do You) Draw the Line" - the last of which sounds like bad Foreigner (which itself is an oxymoron). Even the stab at a power ballad, "Take Me Home," makes you want to stay away.
Partial blame goes to his choice of players - including Billy Squier's backing band - and new vocalist (and future Bad Company stand-in) Brian Howe. Two bright spots are a lusty tribute to large ladies, "Thunder Thighs," and the gritty "No Man's Land," but they don't save what is one of the weakest links in the Nuge's catalogue.
Little Miss Dangerous
A step up from Penetrator, Miss nonetheless still suffers from too much of a mid-'80s metal sheen on tracks like "High Heels in Motion," "Strangers" (a lost Y&T number?) a cover of "Little Red Book" and the mechanical-sounding "Angry Young Man." However, flashes of balls-out rock pop up now and then on "Savage Dancer," "Crazy Ladies" and the Nuge-sung-and-shredded on "Painkiller."
The title track made a brief splash on radio and MTV, and was featured on an episode of Miami Vice (on which the notoriously anti-drug Ted played a dealer).
If You Can't Lick 'Em...Lick 'Em
Uncle Ted finally returns to form on this disc, which features - depending on your view - one of either the sexiest or most misogynistic rock album covers ever. Guess which side I came down on as an 18-year-old Sound Warehouse clerk when it came out? Nugent rediscovers the cojones of his guitar as numbers like "Can't Live With 'Em," "Skintight" "The Harder They Come (The Harder I Get)" and the dirty riffage of "Bite the Hand."
However, unlike previous records, Ted takes the lead vocals on all tracks and, well, he's not exactly a great singer. His love crooning on "Spread Your Wings" and constipated vocals on "Separate the Men From the Boys, Please" are cringeworthy. If he had a vocalist on the level of St. Holmes for this effort, this would have been the best record out of the four.
All records $9.98, except Full Bluntal Nugity, which is $11.98. Ordering information here.