Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Slade – Slade Alive!

During their glam-rock hey-day, Slade were among the best of the bunch, with a wild image and terrific tunes. This fantastic live album was released just as they were starting their string of hits and as they were moving from their ill-conceived skinhead look to their lucrative glam style.

While this doesn’t include any major hits, this is still a high-energy blast of wild rock’n’roll and shows that these cats had the audience in the palms of their hands right from the start and could create a crazed atmosphere.

Opening with a Ten Years After cover, “Hear Me Calling”, they get the foot-stomping and hand-clapping going immediately. The band was obviously crowd favorites long before becoming chart-toppers. They goof a bit during a quieter section and then blast back in with an immense amount of power and abandon and the whole crowd is shouting along with them by the end! This show must have been an incredible experience!

The original “In Like a Shot From My Gun” is next and showcases Noddy in all his screaming glory! Power chords slam from these cats and again, the audience is right there with them. Another super mover!

A change of pace ensues with a cover of John Sebastian’s “Darling Be Home Soon”. This starts as a quite pretty take on this folk tune, complete with lovely harmonies. This lasts for a couple of verses and then they explode with shrieking leads from Hill and extraordinarily loud power chords before quieting down long enough for Noddy to belch into the mic before completing the last verse and then building up for a shouted last chorus. Utterly, madly beautiful!

Back with their own material as Jim Lea’s bass thuds the intro to “Know Who You Are”, which appeared on both their first LP (as an instrumental titled “Genesis”) and their 2nd record (this time much improved with lyrics). This shows their mastery of rhythm (courtesy of madman drummer Don Powell and Lea) and dynamics which takes a simple tune and makes it a monster!

They have the audacity to call “Keep on Rocking” an original and I suppose it is as much as any 50’s rock’n’roll tune is anyone’s original. Slade always had a love of early r’n’r and this is basically “Sweet Little Rock’n’Roller” with a few lyric changes – probably so they could get a little publishing royalty money from this cover-heavy release! Good fun but nothing really interesting.

The song that did break them is included, a Little Richard tour de force, “Get Down and Get With It”, which becomes pure Slade! This is a perfect vehicle for Noddy’s voice, in particular. Terrific high-energy crazee-ness that pulls the crowd in yet again!

They close the album with a madhouse cover of Steppenwolf’s “Born To Be Wild”. This is fast and furious and must have left the people gasping for breath and yelling for more! The ending is pure and lovely chaos!

I was hoping that this two-CD set had more from this time period (or close to it) because I know that more exists, but unfortunately this is not the case. The rest of the songs are from the late 70’s and 1980. They show that the band was still a powerhouse, but does not show them at their prime and the best songs are rushed to the point of losing their recognition. If you didn’t know how good they could be you’d probably be impressed, but I would love to hear more from their Slayed! era, for example.

There is a booklet included with amazing photos of the band in their skinhead days (Dave Hill with a shaved head is a sight to behold!) and lots of info. A good buy overall (thanks again, Melanie!) but I hope that someday more vintage Slade will be released!