Welcome to a new weekly post that I will call Metal Mondays, where I will rank the albums of a certain artist in the metal and hard rock genre from worst to best. As I am a list and ranking person, I am unable to have a simple discussion on what a band’s good albums are, as well as their not-so-good ones. I must rank them in some sort of order, or I will not be able to participate! This also makes for a fun debate, don’t you think?
NOTE: I will rank full length STUDIO ALBUMS only. There will be no live records, greatest hits, or EP’s here.
This week we will discuss Motley Crue, the bad boys of rock and roll. These guys made a major impact during the 1980s hair metal movement. Though the nineties and 2000’s rendered them somewhat irrelevant, they have enjoyed a bit of a renascence with the release of The Dirt movie, a film based on bassist Nikki Sixx’s book of the same name. I will say that as a kid, Motley was my favorite band and my first ever concert was the band on the Dr. Feelgood tour. After that night, I was hooked on the Crue and the live concert experience in general.
There are some decent songs on this offering, but more filler than anything. This album is the only Motley Crue release not to feature drummer Tommy Lee, who had left the band the prior year. In his place is former Ozzy Osbourne skins man Randy Castillo.
Best Song: Hell on High Heels
Best Deep Cut: Fake
This record signaled vocalist Vince Neil’s return to the group following his five-year absence. In fact, replacement vocalist John Corabi began the recording sessions for the album. Generation Swine featured many of the industrial sounds that were hip in the genre at the time. Some decent songs, but overall, not a great record at all.
Best Song: Afraid
Best Deep Cut: Generation Swine
This was the disappointing follow up to two masterpieces. It also began a hair metal trend of the power ballad, with the smash hit, Home Sweet Home. Despite this, and the hit cover of Brownsville Stations’, Smokin’ in the Boy’s Room, Theater of Pain showed a band deep in the throes of drug and alcohol abuse, with many songs I consider filler. In addition, with the two aforementioned big hits, this is the point that the band was losing its underground feel and going mainstream, not necessarily a bad thing, however, if you read on, you will see what attracted me to the band in the first place.
Best Song: Home Sweet Home
Best Deep Cut: City Boy Blues
A surprisingly strong album at this point in the band’s career, SOLA was plagued by poor promotion and what appeared to be simple laziness on Motley’s part. Apparently intent on being a nostalgia act, the band failed to cash in on an opportunity to have an actual hit record. While the raucous title track was a solid choice as the lead single, follow up selections were questionable. The ballad, The Animal in Me could have been a perfect follow up single, however, has been largely unheard by most people.
Best Song: The Animal in Me
Best Deep Cut: The Animal in Me
Wild Side, the title track, and Dancin’ on Glass get this album off to a rollicking start, and deep cuts, All in the Name Of and You’re All I Need are strong offerings, however, there is a substantial amount of filler here, as well. For me, I cannot get past, Nona, and the cover of Jailhouse Rock. This tour for this album was cut short due to concerns someone in the band would die if kept on the road.
Best Song: Wild Side
Best Deep Cut: Dancin’ on Glass
The first offering from a cleaned-up Crue, with Bob Rock at the buttons. This was the band’s first #1 album, complete with five smash singles, including the title track, Kickstart My Heart, and Same Ol’ Situation. Sonically, the record is a masterpiece, and inspired Metallica to work with Rock on their upcoming self-titled fifth album.
Dr. Feelgood was Motley Crue at its creative peak and signaled the beginning of the end for the band on top of the hard rock world. Following a successful tour to promote the album, internal strife and the changing rock scene toward grunge led to the band’s demise. Singer Vince Neil would leave the group in 1992.
On a more upbeat note, my first ever concert was Motley Crue on the Dr. Feelgood tour in 1990. That experience hooked me on live rock concerts.
Best Song: Don’t Go Away Mad (Just Go Away)
Best Deep Cut: Slice of Your Pie
This was the first Motley album sans Neil, featuring John Corabi on lead vocals. Corabi’s vocal range and strong rhythm guitar skills technically made the Crue a better band, however, not a more successful one. Fans could not get past the fact that Neil was out of the mix, and the transition of the average rock fan’s taste toward Nirvana, Pearl Jam, and Soundgarden didn’t help matters either. Commercially, Motley Crue, the album flopped.
Musically, the self-titled record was a brilliant curveball. The band experimented with a harder edge, made possible by the talents Corabi brought to the table. No longer did Sixx need to write songs that fit Neil’s vocal range. The result was a collection of hard rock, blues, with a little psychedelic thrown in. If you haven’t given this album a listen, go for it!
Best Song: Misunderstood
Best Deep Cut: Til Death Do Us Part
Masterpiece! This was Motley Crue with a larger recording budget and the same hunger they brought with them when recording their debut (more on that album coming up). In fact, for decades, I would have put this record at number one on this list. Alas, it’s the instrumental, God Bless the Children of the Beast, and the cover of the Beatle’s, Helter Skelter, that push it down to the runner up position. I must admit, I hit the “SKIP” button when those two tracks come on.
As for the rest of the album, WOW! There are classics everywhere, from the title cut, the brilliant Looks That Kill, single Too Young to Fall in Love, plus the amazing deep cuts, Bastard, Red Hot, Knock ‘Em Dead Kid, and Ten Seconds to Love. The band, to an 11-year-old kid in 1983, sounded dangerous, while still maintaining that raw sound that more commercially successful bands can afford to get away from. My point here is that there is really something special about this band when it sounds raw.
Anyway, I need to get off this album before I flip it back to number one!
Best Song: Looks That Kill, but there are plenty of challengers!
Best Deep Cut: Knock ‘Em Dead Kid
The debut. The album where Nikki Sixx put his vision of what a rock band should look, sound, and feel like forward to the people. Stunning visuals that attract the kids? Check. Pretty boy frontman to lure the ladies? Check. Wild and crazy antics, tales of booze, drugs, and womanizing to bring in the dudes? Plenty.
As I get older, I gravitate to this record when I feel like listening to Motley Crue. I can close my eyes and feel the hunger to climb out of the gutters to stardom. These four guys were destined for greatness and in this album, you can feel their desire for doing whatever it took to make it happen.
Too Fast For Love starts out with my all-time favorite Crue song, Live Wire. While many bands have been known to promote their best song out of the gate, Motley was able to back it up, not only on this album alone, but throughout the next decade. Some albums were much stronger than others, however, there were always enough hits to get them through.
I love the punkish, almost new wave feel that the band combines with their main calling card of hard rock. Come on and Dance, Public Enemy #1, the beautifully haunting, Merry Go Round, and Take Me to the Top close out a robust side one.
Meanwhile, side two is no slouch, containing the underrated, Starry Eyes, the punky title cut, and the ballad turned rocker, On with the Show. It’s a short and precise record that makes the listener of this new group take notice and anticipate what could possibly come next.
Best Song: Live Wire
Best Deep Cut: Merry Go Round