Twisted Sister - Club Daze Vol. 1: The Studio Sessions Reissue
2011 Armoury Records
Ray Van Horn, Jr.
If there's one taint upon the legacy of Twisted Sister aside from their sad breakup in the late eighties, it's the general public's lack of knowledge of just how long this band's been around.
You don't hear it directly on "I Wanna Rock" nor do you on "Burn In Hell," "Captain Howdy/Street Justice," "Under the Blade" or "Come Out and Play," but Twisted Sister was initially direct descendents and co-inhabitors of the New York Dolls, MC5, Slade, Sweet, Alice Cooper, Brownsville Station, The Dictators and The Beatles. The aforementioned songs are pure heavy metal cuts, lineage of the Big Eighties boom in which they were produced. Left unattended, Twisted Sister was on the hair's edge of becoming as heavy as Armored Saint before Stay Hungry elevated Twisted into the commercial ranks.
Doubtful most fans got it when "We're Not Gonna Take It" ushered the ungodly sight of muscular madams into their living rooms that Twisted Sister were heirs of the seventies glam rock boom that fizzled once Kiss turned their kabuki trick and made get-up rock 'n roll a commodity.
By now, the Twisted Sister faithful know the score and it's a sheer delight to see Armoury Records come to the rescue of the band's catalog with a bevvy of reissues coming your way in 2011. Along with You Can't Stop Rock 'n Roll, Come Out and Play and Love is for Suckers, the crown jewel of the Armoury reissues is Club Daze Vol. 1: The Studio Sessions.
Missed by virtually everyone who didn't follow Dee Snider to his post-Twisted entity Widowmaker, Club Daze Vol. 1: The Studio Sessions is a critical slab of lost tunes no serious rocker should be without. Originally released in 1999, it's not just an essential Twisted Sister time capsule; it's an engaging examination of a grease-lickin' rock 'n roll band comprised of roughneck dandies evolving into a world-capturing shock rock unit.
Humble beginnings, as the adage goes, yet the early years of Twisted Sister, as revealed by Club Daze Vol. 1, are as potent (if not more so at times) as the output extolled on their massive big label haunts. The Long Island days of Twisted Sister's ascension were obviously something to behold if you sample the teeth-cutting three-chord punk influence on "Can't Stand Still," "High Steppin'" and "Follow Me" from 1978. Could've just as easily filled CBGB's on punk Sundays.
From the '78 sessions, which included Kenneth Harrison Neill on bass until Mark "The Animal" Mendoza claimed his rightful spot in 1979, Twisted Sister had a lot going on sound-wise, and almost none of it hints at what they would become, at least until the early versions of "Under the Blade" and "Shoot 'Em Down" manifest at the end of Club Daze Vol. 1.
Well, let's amend that last statement, since "I'll Never Grow Up Now!" appears on this album and for all intents and purposes, it should've gone on to become one of Twisted Sister's legacy tunes. With more eat me snarl behind it, "I'll Never Grow Up Now!" is far more rebellious than "We're Not Gonna Take It" and "I Wanna Rock" combined. Perhaps it's best "I'll Never Grow Up Now!" never made it past a hidden track released by TSR Records, because the version here on Club Daze Vol. 1 is gloriously trashy, muddy and sloppy, yet so harmonious. Anthemic to perfection, you won't leave this album without that chorus echoing in your head hours after the album stops.
Beforehand, you get to hear some never-made-it songs Twisted Sister had recorded with Steve Bramberg and the group should give him a big hand for letting them flow to their hearts' content in the late seventies. "Come Back" is a biting charge out the gate, its chugging rhythm an instant endearment. The only fault to "Come Back" (and likely why it never surfaced beforehand) is due to its six-minute-plus length. A song with this powerful a riff should always be mandated to the three-minute mark in order to retain its potency. Still, hard not to get energized with "Come Back" ripping away in your ears.
"Pay the Price" (not to be confused with Twisted Sister's iconic ballad "The Price") is one of Dee Snider's first tunes ever written and its shuck and jive yells street fight but in a precursory manner. Twisted gets NWOBHM Saxon-style on their snarky anti-disco tirade "Rock 'n Roll Saviors." In 2011, this song produces a huge chuckle despite its well-serious chord stamping, particularly since we've now emerged into a disco revival in the pop scene. Looks like Dee and the boys might have to dust this one off for the honor in future sets.
One of Club Daze Vol. 1's savory nuggets is the hilarious "T.V. Wife" which merges Skynard, the Dictators and '50s rock 'n roll. Written in an age where housewives were considered posh, "T.V. Wife" is an isolated bit of pretend-chauvenism based upon soap addicts when UHF and VHF t.v. was all there was in the world. Even more of a riot performed by men wearing more stage makeup than Madge's Palmolive gophers. Dee Snider delivers this one with such vaudevillian huckstery (emulated later by Anthony Keidis of the Red Hot Chili Peppers) you hardly know it's him.
Even funnier is "Big Guns," which rips on stage performers stuffing their spandex with socks, all as dickless overcompensation. Jay Jay and Eddie Ojeda really shred on this one, while Kenneth Harrison Neill lays down some wicked licks behind them.
While Twisted Sister would later be ridiculed for their cover of The Shangri-Las' "Leader of the Pack" on their Come Out and Play album, those who had been long following the group can attest Twisted were already performing this song years prior. A less-slick and more Hoboken-ralphed take on "Leader of the Pack" arrives on this album and it's the superior version.
Unfortunately, the scrubbed and polished version of "Leader of the Pack" was the harbinger of Twisted Sister's doom in the ears of the metal public, which brings their story almost full-circle once you've played Club Daze Vol. 1: The Studio Sessions through. Let the rest of the story lie like the proverbial sleeping dog.
Twisted's affiliation with reknowned producer Eddie Kramer would be instrumental towards their inevitable success, even if they first had trouble winning over American labels before vaulting across the pond for their fateful alliance with Secret label and the penultimate Under the Blade. It's a total blast hearing the crushing din of Under the Blade and all that preceded it on Club Daze Vol. 1.
Perhaps their makeup schemes and afros were even more hideous than their eighties freak flag facades, but Club Daze Vol. 1: The Studio Sessions is a reminder that Twisted Sister had tons to give their fans musically, earlier than most remember.
Tuesday, January 11, 2011
Twisted Sister - Club Daze Vol. 1: The Studio Sessions Reissue