Thursday, 2 May 2019

Slade




Slayed by Slade was the first album I ever bought, in 1972. For a few months, they were all that mattered, the first band that I properly liked and followed. In a matter of months David Bowie had made his other-earthly presence felt in my stratosphere and Noddy Holder and his "yam-yam" mates were just a memory of my younger days. I always retained an affection for them, though, and that still remains to this day. Just listening to the bit where Dave Hill's guitar comes in at the beginning of the summer 1972 single Take Me Bak 'Ome reminds me of the point where I really started to appreciate individual parts of music as opposed to just the tune of the song, being aware, for the first time, of who played what on a record. Simple, I know, because it is just a guitar riff, but it was a big progression. I remember riding along on my bike one sunny morning discussing it at the time with two other boys, Robin Boult and Pete Trewavas, both of who went on to be musicians, the latter, of course, as the bass player in Marillion. People like myself moved on to Bowie, Mott The Hoople and Roxy Music and Pete moved on to prog rock, but, for a few months in mid/late 1972 it was Slade that got our juices flowing.

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The albums covered here are:-

Beginnings (1969)*
Play It Loud (1970)
Slade Alive (1972)
Slayed? (1972)
Sladest (1973)
Old, New, Borrowed & Blue (1974)
and Slade in Flame (1974)

* credited to Ambrose Slade

Scroll down to read the reviews.

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BEGINNINGS (1969)

1. Genesis
2. Everybody's Next One
3. Knocking Nails Into My House
4. Roach Daddy
5. Ain't Got No Heart
6. Pity The Mother
7. Mad Dog Cole
8. Fly Me High
9. If This World Were Mine
10. Martha My Dear
11. Born To Be Wild
12. Journey To The Center Of Your Mind  

This was the debut album from later to be glam gods Slade (known as Ambrose Slade on this release). It is a totally impossible to categorise album made up of covers and a few originals. The covers are from some names that are well-known now but, at the time, were certainly not household names. While there is Lennon and McCartney's Martha My Dear, Marvin Gaye's Motown ballad If This World Were Mine and Justin Hayward's hippy rock of Fly Me High, there is also Steppenwolf's Born To Be Wild and Frank Zappa's punky, psychedelia of Ain't Got No Heart. Journey To The Center Of The Mind was from the relatively unknown Ted Nugent. The songs are covered in a sort of hybrid folky, proggy, bluesy, rocky style that, try as I might, I just cannot pin down. Even Noddy Holder's trademark rasping bellow has not really developed at this point.

Everybody's Next One has Slade sounding like The Who, while Knocking Nails Into My House is very Small Faces-esque. They were struggling to develop their own trademark sound.

  

The group's own songs included the really catchy, spacey instrumental opener, Genesis, and the chugging blues of Roach DaddyPity The Mother is utterly unrecognisable as being anything latterday Slade would do. It is full of acoustic guitar, Zeppelin-esque chunky lead guitar and also dreamy strings. It is a very hippy-ish proggy number. Mad Dog Cole is an instrumental with Hendrix-style "woo-woo" effects. It did show, though, that the group, at this point were a little short of actual songs, even though they could play.

One thing that is clear is that Slade could play, something that was never really acknowledged in their glam days. Dave Hill, Jim Lea, Don Powell and Holder all knit together really well and instrumentally, it is an impressive offering. The problem is that Slade just couldn't really create an identity at this point. Were they rock, were they prog, were they psychedelic. Fans and the band themselves didn't really know. The band have admitted that they were a bit overwhelmed by the whole recording experience. It sort of reminds me of the first Mott The Hoople album, from the same year.



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PLAY IT LOUD (1970)

1. Raven
2. See Us Here
3. Dapple Rose
4. Could I
5. One Way Hotel
6. The Shape Of Things To Come
7. Know Who You Are
8. I Remember
9. Pouk Hill
10. Angelina
11. Dirty Joker
12. Sweet Box       

This was Slade's second album and they had now dropped the "Ambrose" prefix from their name and,  in the hope of creating an identity had turned themselves, against the wishes of Dave Hill and Jim Lea, into skinheads. Only drummer Don Powell really carried off the look. The album is a strange hybrid of styles, mainly heavy-ish rock, with proggy overtones. As with the previous album, it was impossible to categorise. Despite the skinhead image, the music had not become stomping as yet. Musically, the band were quite accomplished, and this certainly did not fit with the oikish image.

  

It is notable that on this album, Noddy Holder develops his voice more in the direction of the throaty rasp that we would come to know and love. It hadn't really been noticeable on the previous one.
                             
Raven is an enjoyable, rhythmic and chugging piece of rock. Great drumming from Don Powell on it too. See Us Here has some heavy rock riffing and drumming once more. It is one of Slade's heaviest numbers. Dapple Rose is a Don Powell song about an old racehorse and it really is rather sad. So sad in fact it is rather difficult to listen to. Could I has those proggy airs to it, sounding like The Strawbs or the early Electric Light Orchestra.



One Way Heart is one of the album's best tracks - a bluesy, upbeat number with a catchy guitar riff. The Shape Of Things To Come is a rousing rock number that uses a backing sound like the one used on Diana Ross And The SupremesYou Keep Me Hanging OnKnow Who You Are is very typical of Slade's early seventies output. It was played on the 1972 live album, Slade AliveI Remember sounds a bit like early seventies Status Quo.

Pouk Hill is a folk rock-ish song about a hill in WalsallWest Midlands. It has a line that goes "please help we", using the Black Country grammar of "we" instead of "us". Holder's vocal sounds a little like Jethro Tull.

Angelina is a solid, mid-pace rocker with hints of early Mott The Hoople in places. Dirty Joker is a riffy, Stonesy rocker, with a bit of funky wah-wah guitar in there. Sweet Box has Holder doing a Deep Purple-style high voice vocal at the beginning. It is another heavy, riff-driven number. This is as heavy and dense as Slade ever got.

Listening to this, no-one would ever have predicted that Slade would become what they did, either musically or image-wise. This was a million miles away from Come On Feel The Noize.

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SLADE ALIVE (1972)

1. Here Me Calling
2. In Like A Shot From My Gun
3. Darling Be Home Soon
4. Know Who You Are
5. Keep On Rocking
6. Get Down Get With It
7. Born To Be Wild         

This album was released as Slade were right in the middle of their glam rock domination of the charts and Top Of The Pops. It is actually a classic live album of a solid band rocking hard, and must have puzzled much of their teenage audience, who bought it, as I did, aged fourteen, expecting to hear three minute glam handclapping anthems. What I and many others got was seven extended heavy, bluesy rock workouts. Sure, it was loud and brash, but it did not really sound as I had expected Slade to sound, live. Still, I got into it and it became part of my musical education.
              
The opener, Hear Me Calling sounds more Deep Purple than Slade, it is heavy as hell, full of guitar riffage, sledgehammer drums. In Like A Shot From My Gun has Noddy Holder in more typical Slade vocal style, but the backing is still industrially heavy metal in its sheer thump. There is a palpable live atmosphere, though, and you really sense the crowd getting into it.

Darling Be Home Soon is a plaintive ballad initially, although it gets the full band treatment eventually, it is still a slow tempo number. It has an absolute killer guitar solo in the middle though and the famous Noddy Holder belch.

  

Know Who You Are is a superb blues grinder and Keep On Rocking is an all-out rocker that sounds like a Little Richard song, but was actually written by Slade.

Get Down Get With It is the one recognisable Slade song, of course, and Noddy gets the crowd worked up into their full foot stomping best. The original album ends with a storming cover of Steppenwolf's Born To Be Wild.

The extended version that is now available has far more material and several of the popular singles as well, but my memories of this album will always be the original seven songs.



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SLAYED? (1972)

1. How D'You Ride
2. The Whole World's Goin' Crazee
3. Look At Last Nite
4. I Won't Let It 'Appen Agen
5. Move Over
6. Gudbuy T'Jane
7. Gudbuy Gudbuy
8. Mama Weer All Crazee Now
9. I Don' Mind
10. Let The Good Times Roll    

This was the first album I bought back in late 1972 before progressing to David Bowie, Mott The Hoople and Roxy Music. For some reason, others at my school got to know I had the album and a boy from the first rugby XV, who would never otherwise have spoken to me, asked me if he could borrow it. I duly told him to fuck off. 

Back to the album itself. Obviously, it contains two great singles in the anthemic, singalong Mama Weer All Crazee Now and the underrated, drum-powered Gudbuy T' Jane but there are some other great slightly blues-influenced rockers too, showcasing Noddy Holder’s rasping voice. It is often forgotten just what a blues-influenced band Slade were, their platform-stomping singles being uppermost in people's minds when assessing them. Take those singles and a few other similar tracks away and it is surprisingly hard blues rockers that you are left with. Slade were actually probably closer to say, Nazareth, than they were to T. Rex or Sweet. Check out the slow bluesy rasp of Noddy Holder's vocal on the muscular grind of I Don' Mind as an example. This is certainly no glam rock anthem, that's for sure.

  
                          
An abrasive bluesy feel is also found on the gritty, riffy opener How D'You Ride, the throaty, brooding Gudbuy Gudbuy and a more than credible, rocking cover of Janis Joplin’s Move Over. On this track we find that Slade could really play - listen to that rumbling, melodious bass, jazzy percussion break and searing lead guitar. Holder's vocal ain't half bad either. Look At Last Nite is a slow-burning solid rocker too, with a big bass/drum backing, typically Slade chorus and a feel of Coz I Luv You about it (but with Jim Lea's violin this time). These songs are the chunky other side of the glam rock fun. Slade were far more of a credible rock band than they were ever given credit for. At the time, it was the poppy stompers I wanted to hear and saw these other tracks as slightly underwhelming. As the years have gone by, however, my attitude has completely changed. 

The more glammy upbeat rockers are the utterly irresistible stomp of The Whole World's Goin' Crazee, a storming, can't sit still cover of Let The Good Times Roll and the slightly glammy but also slightly bluesy I Won't Let It 'Appen Agen. Just check out that infectious drum/tambourine glam stomp on the latter track- very much the essence of Slade's sound in late 1972. The same backing is gloriously applied on The Whole World's Goin' Crazee. Try to stop stamping your feet during it. "Everybody gonna rock and raaaaave...." shrieks Holder. Great stuff. Lord above, I love Gudbuy T' Jane too. Always have, always will. That drum intro and the strange lyrics about "forties trip boots" or was it "tip?".

The deliberate spelling mistakes were continued here on many tracks, including I Won't Let It 'Appen Agen and the Gudbuy and Crazee songs. At the time it caused a big fuss among teachers, who felt it was a bad influence on children's education.






















I quickly left Slade behind but they remain as really good memories for me, actually a huge part of my cultural DNA. They were a good band, not just a silly-costumed fixture on Top Of The Pops. This is a more than acceptable rock album and should be assessed accordingly.

** The bonus tracks included on the expanded edition of the album are the acoustic/electric psychedelic fusion of My Life Is Natural (the b side of Coz I Luv You), that sounds like something from 1969/70 initially before exploding into a huge, chunky chorus; the similarly early seventies Beatles-esque rock of Candidate (the b side of Look Wot You Dun) ; Wonderin' Y (the b side of Take Me Bak 'Ome) which predates those classic Slade ballads like Everyday and How Does It Feel and the heavy grind of Man Who Speeks Evil (the b side of Mama Weer All Crazee Now). For some reason the sound on these cuts is not quite as good as that of the album. They are all listenable tracks, but the final ten tracks that appeared on the album were probably the right choices.

Incidentally, the two non-album singles released either side of this album, Take Me Bak 'Ome and Cum On Feel The Noize were both riffy, hook-laden glam corkers.

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SLADEST (1973)

1. Cum On Feel The Noize
2. Look Wot You Dun
3. Gudbuy T' Jane
4. One Way Hotel
5. Skweeze Me Pleeze Me
6. Pouk Hill
7. The Shape Of Things To Come
8. Take Me Bak 'Ome
9. Coz I Luv You
10. Wild Winds Are Blowin'
11. Know Who You Are
12. Get Down And Get With It
13. Look At Last Nite
14. Mama Weer All Crazee Now  

Effectively a "Greatest Hits So Far", released at the height of Slade's glam rock domination of the singles charts, it contained all their glam hits to date plus a few nostalgic look backs to Slade's earlier albums from before they were famous. It filled the gap between 1972's Slayed? and early 1974's Old New Borrowed And Blue.
            
The glam hits are Cum On Feel The NoizeGudbuy T'JaneSkweeze Me Pleeze Me, Take Me Bak 'Ome and Mama Weer All Crazee Now. There are two rather unique earlier hits in the electric violin-driven Coz I Luv You and the enigmatic Look Wot You Dun. The other hit was the stomping Get Down And Get With It.

  

As for the older tracks, they are these - One Way Hotel is from 1970's Play It Loud album. It is an atmospheric, bluesy rock number that has probably considerably more musical credibility than the glam hits, to be honest. It is not bad at all. Quite impressive in fact. Pouk Hill is also from the same album and has a vague folky feel about it. It is very much late sixties/early seventies rock. Nothing glam about it whatsoever. Slade fans at the time, like myself, wanted to like this earlier material, indeed pretended we did, but couldn't really get into it. Listening to it now, it is more than respectable. The Shape Of Things To Come comes from Play It Loud as well and is another solid rock number. All very serious stuff compared to the carefree terrace stompers of 1972-1973.

Wild Winds Are Blowin' is a solid piece of rock from 1969's Beginnings era. It was released as a stand alone single credited to "The Slade". As with the other numbers from 1969-70, it is pretty difficult to categorise. They are sort of bluesy, sort of folky, sort of rock. It was really pretty impossible to pigeonhole Slade, even after they had their first couple of hits, until the glam thing came along. Know Who You Are is a heavy-ish bit of rock from Play It Loud. It was played on the Slade Alive live album from 1972. Look At Last Nite is from the Slayed? album, strangely. They could have put another older track on as opposed to one that had appeared on their previous album.

 

This album is a good listen, but is somewhat contrasting in its inclusion of the glam hits next to the "serious" earlier material. Both have their merits, but they are very different. It shows, though, that Slade were more than just the glam hits.

 

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OLD, NEW, BORROWED & BLUE (1974)

1. Just Want A Little Bit
2. When The Lights Are Out
3. My Town
4. Find Yourself A Rainbow
5. Miles Out To Sea
6. We're Really Gonna Raise The Roof
7. Do We Still Do It
8. How Can It Be
9. Don't Blame Me
10. My Friend Stan
11. Everyday
12. Good Time Gals   

UK pop music changed an awful lot between mid 1972 and early 1974. In that period Slade went from being bluesy, rocking oiks to leading lights in the glorious glam revolution that ruled the UK charts for the best part of two years. Their music was, in that period, tub-thumping, rabble-rousing, crashing glam anthems. They only released one album in that time - Sladest a mix of glam chart toppers and rarities. Their previous album had been late 1972's Slayed?. By early 1974, the charts, and Slade had changed irrevocably. The glam thing had gone - Marc Bolan and T.Rex were dabbling in soul rock, The Sweet were getting heavier and Slade started recording rock ballads and more traditional rock numbers, as opposed to handclap-backed terrace anthems. It was almost as if the previous two years had never happened and Slade were back in 1971 again. There is quite a lot of 1971-72 about this offering.
                              
Just Want A Little Bit is a solid, muscular bluesy rocker, with a certain ad hoc "live" feel to it. Rather than being a glam song, it is a strong piece of blues heavy rock that harks back to the early pre-glam days of Slade AliveWhen The Lights Are Out is an upbeat rocker, but it, despite a vaguely glammy chorus, has a melodic side too. it has echoes of Merry Xmas Everybody about it, in both its chorus and introductory riff, for me anyway. My Town is a recognisable piece of riffy Slade rock, with Noddy Holder in fine throaty vocal form. Find Yourself A Rainbow sounds like an old 1920s-30s song, with a rolling bar-room piano sound and a good-time singalong chorus. Not really what Slade fans wanted to hear, although they all probably pretended to like it.

  

Miles Out To Sea is a good rocker, with a great bass line. It has a good chorus to it, but you couldn't imagine it being a chart hit. I guess that is why it remained an album track. We're Really Gonna Raise The Roof is a classic slice of breakneck Slade rock, no glam drum sounds, just frantic riffy rocking - a bit like Let The Good Times Roll from Slayed?. Holder is superb on this one. Proper Slade. Do We Still Do It is already asking a nostalgic question, as if they already know they are heading towards being old hat. It has a trademark Slade sound and yes, in early 1974, they just about still did it. The riff is almost punky at times.

How Can It Be begins with a country-style acoustic riff, although the song still has a typical Holder bellowing chorus. Don't Blame Me is another frantic bit of Slade rock'n'roll, featuring some great guitar and Holder's vocal almost doing his throat serious damage. There hadn't been any memorable hit singles on the album until this point when the rollicking piano of My Friend Stan comes rocking in. Once more this was a track that had more of 1971 about it than 1973. It had echoes of The FacesCindy Incidentally in its middle guitar riff, for me. Everyday, also a hit single, saw Slade trying their hand at a more mellow, thoughtful sound. The young Noel Gallagher admits to liking this. Actually, I think it was How Does It Feel from Slade In Flame, but I'm sure he loved this too. Despite its laid-back verses, the chorus still rocks, slowly and majestically. Good Time Gals is a copper-bottomed Stonesy, riff-drenched rocker to end on. Yes, Slade could still do it. They could still rock. This is a solid, good-time rock album, but the glam days were already starting to feel a little distant. The next album, the Slade In Flame soundtrack, would do nothing to change that feeling.

  

** The bonus tracks included on the expanded release of the album are the chugging heavy rock of I'm Mee I'm Now And That's Orl (the b side of Cum On Feel The Noize); the strangely jaunty pseudo 1920s cocktail bar jazz of Kill 'Em At The Hot Club Tonite (the b side of Skweeze Me Pleeze Me) that sounds like something Queen would do and the typically anthemic Slade ballad She Did It To Me (the b side of The Bangin' Man). That non-album single, The Bangin' Man was also a Stones-influenced rocker and a mighty good one too.



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SLADE IN FLAME (1974)

1. How Does It Feel
2. Them Kinda Monkeys Can't Swing
3. So Far So Good
4. Summer Song (Wishing You Were Here)
5. OK Yesterday Was Yesterday
6. Far Far Away
7. This Girl
8. Lay It Down
9. Heaven Knows
10. Standin' On The Corner     

This was the soundtrack album to the (now) cult movie Slade In Flame, a dour, bleak, realistic movie about the rock music business. It doesn't particularly matter that the songs are listened to out of context of the movie when one listens to the album. It is still a very good album. Possibly one of Slade's best. It is not a stomping glam rock album. By late 1974, the glam thing was becoming old hat. It is a rock album, and a really good one.
                            
The album kicks off with the atmospheric ballad beloved of Noel GallagherHow Does It Feel. It begins plaintively with just Noddy Holder and the piano before it breaks out into a huge, heavy chorus. It is one of Slade's most accomplished compositions, featuring flute and brass sections as well and, of course, a great Noddy Holder vocal. Them Kinda Monkeys Can't Swing is a great rocker in true Slade style, full of riffs and another killer vocal. So Far So Good is an evocative, catchy rocker as also is the anthemic Summer Song (Wishing You Were Here). The latter is a most underrated Slade classic.

  

Ok Yesterday Was Yesterday is yet another superb rocker. The quality just keeps coming on the big hit single Far Far Away. It is so nostalgic listening to it, for me. Great song. This Girl has Slade going funky, with a clavinet backing and an atmospheric vocal from Holder.  This is a definite change in musical direction for Slade and it is a really impressive one. This is a surprisingly good track.

Lay It Down is a Stonesy solid rock song with some excellent riffage. Heaven Knows is also excellent. Standin' On The Corner is a Status Quo-esque guitar-driven heads-down boogie of a rocker. Great saxophone on it too, unusual in a Slade song. There is a very convincing argument that this collection of songs were the finest Noddy Holder and Jim Lea wrote. There really is not a duff track on this most underrated album.

Despite the quality on show here, this was probably Slade's last stand, really, however. It never got any better for them than it had been over the previous three years. Yes they had several more hits and several acclaimed festival live performances but somehow this was the end of their halcyon days.



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