Saturday, October 24, 2015

Crate Digging: Axe Attack Vol II

Man, these British K-tel compilations just blow the crap out of the tepid K-tel albums that were available in the States.  Instead of the run of the mill, pass for heavy metal, comps K-tel released over here (where bands like Fleetwood Mac counted as Heavy rock), the British versions really knew how to put some stuff together.  Start off with a few "standards" like Rush and Scorpions, then toss in some decidedly British metal bands that were making noise at the time, like Samson, Iron Maiden, and Def Leppard, and we got ourselves a killer comp that really gives a flavor of where metal was going in 1981.  Some classic bands and some rough upstarts making waves at the fading edge of the NWOBHM.

Some may ask why bother adding compilation albums to your collection, and one facebook post I saw came up with the perfect answer: "because your turntable doesn't have a random button or a playlist."

And that's what you get here.  About an hour of quality heavy metal/hard rock.  Just put it on and let it play as the vinyl spins you through the gamut of 1981 sounds.

So, let's look at the playlist.   Kicking off with Rainbow "Since you've been gone"  we're off to a good start.  Not the best Rainbow song ever (written by Russ Ballard, not Ritchie Blackmore -- so it's really more pop hard rock than metal) it's still a competent song from a legendary band,  And Ritchie still manages to shine as he cranks out a killer solo.  Motorhead take over from there with Ace of Spades.  Nothing much to say about that except, '"Hell Yes!"  Black Sabbath make an entry with "Die Young" a rather obscure album cut from the legendary "Heaven and Hell" with a killer later-era Sabbath riff, some amazing leads and RJD in fine form.   Samson steps in next with Bruce Bruce (ne . . Bruce Dickinson) still leading the band with his distinctive wail and a nice cut off their vastly under-rated "Shock Tactics" album, "Earth Mother."   Toss in some classic cuts from Michael Schenker "Armed and Ready, " Rush, "The Trees" and The Scorpions "The Zoo" and we've just had a tasty feast of heavy riffing.

Side two kicks off with a live version of Whitesnake's "Ain't no Love in the Heart of the City" which is simply a classic cut off the Moody/Mardsen era of this band.  Whitesnake were always more popular in the UK than in the US (at least until the hair metal days) so this is the sort of song that would never have made it on a US version of this sort of compilation.  Iron Maiden blast in next with "Murders in the Rue Morgue" followed by Def Leppard and "Rock Brigade."   A nice one-two punch of NWOBHM velocity, with two bands that were still almost completely unknown on US shores at that time, and a nice reminder just how amazing Dianno-era Maiden and On Through the Night-era Leppard were.  Ted Nugent lays an egg with "Flesh and Blood"(more on that later) then we delve into "Mutually Assured Destruction", a rather obscure, mid-tempo cut from former Deep Purple screamer, Gillan and the '80's version of his band.  Like most Gillan, it's a kind of hit and miss song, but still cool since it's not something that US ears would normally hear.  Blue Oyster Cult come crunching back with "Godzilla" to set the hard rock world right again, followed by UFO and "Mystery Train" before finishing with the metal Gods themselves, Judas Priest, and "United" off the British Steel album.  Not the best two songs from these legends to end the set, but still, any UFO and any Judas Priest is appreciated.

So, a nearly breathless compilation of killer legends and new kids, tearing up the metal world in 1981.

Some missteps?   Yeah, of course.  There always are with this type of project.  As I wrote, some of the song selections are a bit suspect (United is hardly the best, heaviest, or "axe attack-y"song from the British Steel album) and the Ted Nugent song is simply a mess.  A stark reminder that, as great as Nugent once was, by 1981 his expiration date had long passed.  Another nuisance is the editing that K-Tel did.  Some of these songs just seem brutally short.

But that's just quibbling.

I found this in the crates for $7 and it was well worth it.  Copies can be had on eBay and it's certainly worth digging for in your own crates.

And yes, I am on the look out for Vol I,


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