CD Review: Black ‘N Blue / Hell Yeah
Reviewed by: Roger Scales
Black ‘N Blue had one advantage over all the other bands during the West Coast Metal Explosion of the middle 1980’s – they were from Portland, Oregon and not Los Angeles, CA. Maybe that’s why I always thought they sounded a little bit different than the others. Nevertheless Black ‘N Blue still had all the elements that made up a cool band for me: a charismatic front man in Jamie St. James, a talented shredder in Tommy Thayer and songs that had both hook and edge like “Hold on To 18”, “One for The Money”, ‘Without Love” and “Nasty Nasty” among their best. They released 4 albums in 5 years between 1984-1988 and by 1989 they had broken up. They then reunited for a one night only live album in 1997 but didn’t really get back to work to start recording a new record until 2003. By then Tommy Thayer had moved on to play live in KISS and Jamie was fronting Warrant. The album they left behind was called Hell Yeah and it’s finally going to see the light of day in 2011. Without Tommy’s involvement I was a little skeptical about whether this new version of Black ‘N Blue with new guitarist Shawn Sonnenschein would be a worthy successor to the previous/classic version. For the most part Black ‘N Blue has not strayed far from their roots but some of the songs on Hell Yeah! have an odd mix to them with some really bizarre lyrical content and I was not crazy about the tempo in a few others. Putting that aside, it’s a solid release from a classic band with some real shining moments.
The album opens with ”Monkey” and right from the start you get the feeling the album is going to have a no frills approach with just raw energy and guitars..lots of guitars. Jef ‘Woop” Warner and newcomer Shawn Sonnenschein play off each other quite well and the song has a steady flows because of it. Next up we have “Target” and this track has more of the over the top harmonies and vocal style I loved about Black ‘N Blue. Very old school…and my chair is in the front row facing the blackboard!! Next up is ‘Hail Hail” which is where I got left scratching my head. I didn’t care for the tempo here nor the bridge which contains strange chants taking more away from a song that already had me somewhat lost.
“Fools Bleed” brings me back to classic Black ‘N Blue. Those great Jamie harmonies and a nice slow brooding riff that builds into one of the albums best cuts. More tasty guitar work here from Jef and Shawn. “C’mon” is a simple rocker with a simple message – party hard and raise hell! If I were creating the set list for this tour I would open with this one. Reminds me of the vibe I used to get from Def Leppards”Stagefright” or Tesla with ”Comin’ Atcha Live” certain songs are just meant to open shows. Someone needs to explain to me after hearing “Jamie’s Got The Beer” what the hell this is doing on this album 6 songs in. I’m surprised Serafino with his dedication to the art and his attention to detain allowed this at all. Maybe I’m overreacting but it’s a waste of my valuable one minute which is this tracks running time.
“Angry Son of a Bitch” does not work for me. I have never been a fan of the chorus containing vocals that have that “we have the place surrounded” let me speak into a bullhorn ring to it. Sounds like an “Ode to Jani Lane” and probably would have been funnier had it been called that. Next track is ‘So Long” and this is my favorite track off this album. Fun, light, simple riff that works and more like old school Black ‘N Blue, it’s reminiscent of something off “Without Love” or”Nasty Nasty”. ‘Trippin 45” is a nice little acoustic number that provided a cool interlude and I enjoyed it. “Falling Down” is a great mid tempo number that contains maybe Jamie’s best vocal on “Hell Yeah! And I really enjoyed the dual guitar work on this one as well. “Candy” is another nod to vintage Black ‘N Blue and at times sounds like “Cherry Pie” PT II with very rhythmic lyrics with sweet sexual innuendo throughout. This will be very popular with strippers everywhere..not there’s anything wrong with that!! The album’s title track “Hell Yeah!” is a great rocker that never slows down at all. It reminds me of Cinderella’s “The More Things Change” and is an all around great tune. It’s followed by“World Goes Round”, avery trippy, psychedelic Enuff Z Nuff sort of tune. It’s not exactly how I would have chosen to end the album; I think it would work better unplugged. There is a “hidden” track called “A Tribute To Hawking” which I guess is a tribute to Stephen Hawking the British physicist which like “Jamie’s Got The Beer” is a waste of time.
Black N Blue is a seasoned group of veteran players who really show themselves well in a reunion album 23 years in the making. There are a lot more hits than misses. My response to anyone asking me if I would buy the new Black N Blue album..Hell Yeah!!!!