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.
On February 20, 2003, an eighties hard rock band, more than a decade past its commercial prime, soldiered into a small dive with only two of its original members to play for a crowd of about 400 people. For reasons unknown, due to the resulting finger pointing, said band set off a pyrotechnic blast to kick off their performance. 100 people died. My thoughts and condolences go out to the family and friends off all victims, including those who survived, but are forever affected by the events.
That band was Great White. Although the group on that tour and at The Station nightclub in West Warwick, Rhode Island was basically lead singer Jack Russell’s solo band (original guitarist Mark Kendall joined the band on the tour), the marquee promoted Great White. Therefore, the legacy of Great White will forever that tragic evening. While nowhere near as calamitous as a hundred people losing their lives, it is a little sad that this incredible bluesy rock and roll band will never be remembered for its lengthy and impressive musical catalog.
In its prime, Great White consisted of two incredibly talented musicians: lead singer Jack Russell and lead guitarist mark Kendall. Keyboardist/guitarist Michael Lardie, bassist Tony Montana, and drummer Audie Desbrow more than competently completed the line-up. Unleashed during the era of the hair band, Great White brought a little something different to the table by combining the undeniable hooks and hard riffing of the day with a bluesy swagger. In this aspect, Russell and Kendall worked brilliantly together. The band released 80’s classic singles such as Once Bitten Twice Shy, Rock Me, Lady Red Light, Save Your Love among others. However, the group put out innumerable deep cuts and proved their chops were more worthy than the fluff and cheese that was hitting the airwaves at the time, as is apparent with my number one choice in this ranking (see below).
This one is a little too mellow for my liking, featuring a plethora of acoustic guitar, as well as the E Street Band’s Clarence Clemons on the saxophone. While I cannot condemn the band for trying to expand their musical horizons, I just find this to be the least likely album I would put on to listen to Great White.
Best Song: Momma Don’t Stop
Best Deep Cut: Momma Don’t Stop
There’s a point in the middle of this album that I ask myself if I’m listening to a Foreigner record. I have nothing against Foreigner or any band of that mold, however, this Great White release doesn’t contain enough of the hard driving blues that I come to enjoy from the band. Couple that with the fact it is long-time singer Jack Russell’s swan song with the group, Rising comes off as disappointing. That said, Substitute, All or Nothin,’ and Danger Zone are good songs.
Best Song: Substitute
Best Deep Cut: Substitute
The most recent Great White album is also the second and final release with lead singer Terry Ilous. In my opinion, this record contains far less bite (see what I did there?) than the first Ilous offering, which is much further up in the countdown. That said, I’m Alright, Movin’ On, and Never Let You Down are the highlights.
Best Song: Never Let You Down
Best Deep Cut: Never Let You Down
This first full-length release from the band showed the rawness and hunger of young musicians who had yet to find their classic sound. This one is much heavier than one would anticipate from a Great White release. That said, there is some good material here. The diehards tend to defend this album and I cannot argue with them.
Best Song: Stick It
Best Deep Cut: Stick It
By now, Great White had punched in its formula of leading off the record with a blazer, following up with something up-tempo, and throwing in a ballad at track three. A healthy combination of the three would follow. This is an underrated release, with the highlights including, My World, Lil Mama, Ain’t No Way to Treat a Lady, and Miles Away.
Best Song: Ain’t No Way to Treat a Lady
Best Deep Cut: Ain’t No Way to Treat a Lady
See the explanation above. Tracks to pay attention to include the title cut, Here Goes My Head Again, and Just Yesterday. Meanwhile, close your eyes and listen to, Still Hungry and Standin’ on the Edge, and see if it doesn’t seem like it’s 1986 all over again.
Best Song: Back to the Rhythm
Best Deep Cut: Back to the Rhythm
Again, see the explanation above. This is one of my go-to Great White albums, combining even stronger material in the mold of the formula as previously outlined. Lead-off track and single, Rollin’ Stoned is your typical bluesy GW album starter, while Ain’t No Shame, Wooden Jesus, and the amazing Hey Mister are highlights.
Best Song: Rollin’ Stoned
Best Deep Cut: Hey Mister
There is quite a bit to digest with this album, mainly the fact that Great White had a new singer in Terry Ilous from XYZ fame in the early nineties. Containing a much raspier voice than Jack Russell, Ilous offered something a little bit different to the band’s barroom hard rock blues. Once you get past the different singer, the album works. Featuring more of the harder stuff and less ballads, Elation is a hit with me. (I’ve Got) Something for You, Feelin’ So Much Better, Love Train, and Heart of a Man gets the record off to a rollicking start before Hard to Say Goodbye slows things down, and in a good way. Shotgun Willie’s and Love is Enough highlight the second half.
Best Song: (I’ve Got) Something for You
Best Deep Cut: (I’ve Got) Something for You
More polished than its predecessor, Shot in the Dark is another old classic that the diehards will defend to the death. This is the album that the band begins to capitalize on what will become its winning formula. The title cut, She Shakes Me, as well as covers, Face the Day (the Angels)and Gimme Some Lovin’ (Spencer Davis Group) are all worthy of a listen or two.
Best Song: Shot in the Dark
Bet Deep Cut: Shot in the Dark
Now we are getting to the big time. This is the record that contains the band’s biggest hit, a cover of Ian Hunter’s, Once Bitten Twice Shy, but there is so much more to unfold. The Angel Song and Mista Bone were solid radio hits, while single, House of Broken Love is the album’s finest moment. But wait! There’s more! Move It, Heart the Hunter, Hiway Nights, and Wasted Rock Ranger are all worthy deep cuts.
Best Song: House of Broken Love
Best Deep Cut: Hiway Nights
This wonderful collection kicks off with the amazing Lady Red Light, setting the tone for the band’s first taste of mainstream success. While singles, Rock Me and Save Your Love are great tracks and turned legions of fans onto the group, deep cuts such as Gonna Getcha, All Over Now, and Fast Road more than hold up on this release.
Best Song: Rock Me
Best Deep Cut: Lady Red Light (I know it’s played on classic rock radio, but it was not released as a single. Plus, it kills!).
There is not a Once Bitten Twice Shy or Rock Me in terms of an undeniable hit single but Hooked is an all-around better album than its predecessors, and that’s saying something! Call It Rock and Roll, The Original Queen of Sheba, and Cold Hearted Lovin’ gets the record off to a fine start, and things never really let up. Listen to, Lovin’ Kind, Heartbreaker, Congo Square, and Desert Moon, the latter containing the unfortunate stigma as being the song the band started with the night of The Station fire. Finally, the group’s covers of Can’t Shake It (The Angels) and Afterglow (Small Faces) are to be dealt with, as well.
Best Song: Call It Rock and Roll
Best Deep Cut: Can’t Shake It
This is Great White at its absolute creative peak, although it is pushing past its commercial peak. It doesn’t matter. This album features the band at its finest, combining hard rock dripped with a strong side of blues, regardless of the dearth of a hit single or arena tour. The entire collection is masterful. That said, if asked to list the highlights, I would say the title cut, Step on You, Old Rose Motel, Maybe Someday, and Big Goodbye, which comprise of a brilliant first half of the record. Meanwhile, the second half is nothing to sneeze at. If you haven’t listed to this release, do so now!
Best Song: Old Rose Motel
Best Deep Cut: Maybe Someday