Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Steppenwolf - For Ladies Only

It might seem odd that this is one of my favorite Steppenwolf records, but I do think that this concept album, based on feminism and romance (Kay was very close to his mother and dedicated to his wife, who he met well before he became famous), is one of their most consistent. This was their current record when I was in high school, so I probably bought it as it came out, rather than later researching older releases.

The opening title track is a multi-part tune, but keeps the listener’s attention through the changes and continues to have interesting sections and a fine melody throughout. I really think that this matches any of their other material. “I’m Asking” (co-written by drummer Jerry Edmunton, who I’m guessing also sang it, as John certainly did not) is a strong, pop song, fairly reminiscent of the better Top Forty songs of the day, though this did not chart at all. Kay’s “Shackles and Chains” is also a bit poppier than normal for the group, with touches of both blues and country (and a funky keyboard solo – Goldy McJohn steps out a lot more than before on this album), making a fine offering.

Mars Bonfire returns as a songwriter on several songs on this release, including the nice ballad “Tenderness” and co-writing the up-beat rocker “The Night Time’s For You”. One of my faves from this record, though, is drummer Edmonton’s “Jaded Strumpet”, a homage to a working lady and a fabulous r’n’r number with cool slide guitar work and sung by Jerry. “Sparkle Eyes” is a mid-tempo rock/pop number composed by Kay and new bassist George Biondo with a number of variations throughout and then McJohn and new guitarist Kent Henry put together a cool, moody, jazzy instrumental “Black Pit”.

One of the highlights is certainly Bonfire’s “Ride With Me”, the single which only reached #52 despite being an energetic slice of biker swagger that is as good as just about any of their other singles. Mars could definitely write a great tune when he put his mind to it!

Instead of ending on a high note, they finish with a fairly sappy ballad by Biondo called “In Hopes of a Garden” and no, it is no better than that title. At least it’s short!

This was their last album before disbanding for the first time. There were several reunions of some sort and Kay still has the Steppenwolf name, but they were never to regain their former glory. Still, they can rest assured that they lef ton a high note!

(I'm currently reading the John Kay autobiography - more on that when I finish - and funnily enough, he thinks that 7 was their last great album - and he thinks it is one of their best - and he dimisses this one almost completely. Personally, I think this one is much more memorable, but that just goes to show that the artist can't predict the audience's reaction. He also thinks that Goldy wasn't pulling his weight here and I think that he is stepping out more than ever on this record - I believe that had to do with personal issues of the time rather than reality.)