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Wednesday, July 09, 2008


I posted recently about a local cache of vinyl that I've been mining, and while I mentioned the more notable records that I purchased, there were some other more obscure gems that I picked up as well.

As discussed in another recent post, after Ian Hunter left Mott the Hoople with Mick Ronson in tow, the band attempted to continue on as Mott (no Hoople) without him without much success. By 1977 Mott was over, but drummer Dale 'Buffin' Griffin and bassist Overend Watts formed a new band, British Lions, and released this self titled LP.

It's actually pretty good. It bears no real sonic likeness to Mott the Hoople, but the record delivers above average Hard Rock of the late 70's British variety. I found no real fault with anything I heard, except that it was, well, un-exceptional. Nothing to shout about, but a worthy addition to the vinyl library especially given it's Mott the Hoople connection.

Back in the late early 80's, or the early mid 80's, finding a new Hard Rock/Heavy Metal band was a mark of distinction amongst our crew. I'm not sure who first came home with the Talas record - 'Sink Your Teeth Into That', but for a brief time it got some recognition. Talas was a Buffalo based band that played the Mid-Hudson circuit, and when their record came out, a number of us bought it.

Neither back then, nor now, is there any need for an 'Eddie Van Halen of the Bass'. Talas, led by bassist Billy Sheehan featured not only a bass heavy mix, but completely unnecessary , over the top, self indulgent lead bass playing. It's just not natural. There's even an 'Eruption' like bass solo track complete with finger tapping and dive bombs.

Billy's overplaying got him noticed in athletic rock circles and unsurprisingly showed up in David Lee Roth's post Van Halen band. Diamond Dave even included the Talas song 'Shy Boy' from 'Sink Your Teeth Into That' on his 'Eat 'Em and Smile' LP. It's notable that Billy's bass parts were sufficiently tamed within the Roth camp, as well as his next venture, the wholly mis-named Mr. Big. In my research I found that Billy is a Scientologist which is somewhat telling in retrospect.

'Sink Your Teeth Into That' might have been a decent record had somebody had the balls to tell Billy that lead bass is stupid, and he should stick to supporting the groove with the drummer, but nobody did, and the album is only noteworthy for it's nostalgic qualities, as well as serving as an example of what not to do with a bass guitar.

I was pleasantly surprised, however, by Riot's 'Rock City' album. Without a doubt, Riot's best offering came with the addition of vocalist Rhett Forrester on the 'Restless Breed' LP in '82, but the band had been together since '75, and 'Rock City', their debut ('77) is a strong record. I had always chalked up pre-Forrester Riot as second rate, a notion based on my purchase of their second release, '79's 'Narita', which failed to knock my socks of back in the early eighties, but a good showing on the Castle Donnington 'Monsters of Rock' live record from the 1980 Donnington Festival in the form of the tune 'Road Racing' prompted another look into this Brooklyn based Hard Rock act.

Much like the British Lions record, 'Rock City' is an above average example of pre-shred age Hard Rock, and looking back, it's much better than much of the crap that I was into at the time.

"Sink Your Teeth Into That might have been a decent record had somebody had the balls to tell Billy that lead bass is stupid..."


I HATED the Talas singer too. Uninventive and unable to pull out any melody. The boys loved the shit, but it never attached itself to me beyond tagging along to see them at Lamours East and getting black out drunk one night.
In 1981, I was in a band called Blackwater. We opened for Talas in Binghampton, NY. Billy played some loud fucking bass. I recall not being able to hum any of their songs, but that bass sure was loud.
I remember reading about Billy Sheehan in all the guitar rags when I was a kid. When I finally heard Talas, my reaction was like Jackson's - there's just no fucking need for bass like that. When I heard Jaco, it was totally different. That was music. Sheehan was just a fuckwit.
I think we have a quarum.
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