HANOI ROCKS 'Lightning Bar Blues - The Albums 1981-1984' Castle/Sanctuary CMXBX1104
Itís not often a rock band from Finland makes any kind of history. Music is not one of their famous exports. But without Hanoi Rocks, the sleazy rockíníroll that was 80s glam would have been totally different, or non existent. And no Iím not blowing anything out of proportion.
GunsíníRoses and Motley Crue probably owe more to this lot than theyíd care to admit. This six CD box just about covers their entire output in the early 80s, with six albums reproduced in card sleeves and an action-packed booklet.
After a complicated pre-history in the late 70s, the Rocks formed in 1980, featuring the vocalist / saxophonist Michael Monro (who also played piano and harmonica), guitarists Andy McCoy and Nasty Suicide, bassist Sam Yaffa and drummer Gyp Casino. Stage names of course, the Finnish originals being unpronounceable.
Relocating to Stockholm, then London, 1981 saw the release of their debut album, Bangkok Shocks, Saigon Shakes, Hanoi Rocks. It was a kick-ass collection of attitude and rockíníroll at its sleaziest. Think New York Dolls, Alice Cooper, Mott The Hoople and even a touch of the Sex Pistols and Little Richard. Self produced, it was something the music scene hadnít seen before, from the opening storm of Tragedy to the slide guitar of Lost In The City.
Second album Oriental Beat continued in much the same vein, with some strong guitar work, and some great choruses. Sadly, though, things werenít working out with drummer Casino, and enter Razzle.
The next set, Self Destruction Blues (a very apt title with what the boys were up to at the time), was a time killing collection of singles and B-sides while the band continued to tour and break in the new drummer. Itís inclusion here is welcome, eliminating the need for bonus tracks and keeping the albums as the intended originals.
Back To Mystery City saw a more professional sound, with production from Mott The Hoopleís Overend Watts and Dale Griffin. The band were really beginning to make waves, and attract attention from the majors. And quite rightly too.
CBS won the battle, but there was one final independent cry, the double live album All Those Wasted Years, recorded at the Marquee. Kicking off with Pipeline and featuring highlights and new material, itís more than a greatest hits set live. It showed Hanoi Rocksí live appeal and also just how good and energetic the band were. You break out in a sweat just listening to it.
That CBS album, Two Steps From The Move, took the band to a new plateau. Featuring legendary producer Bob Ezrin, the band covered 'Up Around The Bend' and it worked so well. A true classic. The album ironed out the creases while keeping the rawness and sharpness. But after a gig in New York, Razzle was killed in a car crash and the band fell apart, bringing this part of their history to a natural conclusion.
Reunions and solo work aside, these are the essential years, combined in their entirety.
The band havenít been overly plagued by reissues, and a good compilation may suit some, but for most, you will need this box,
Not the first, hopefully the last, absolutely the everything!!
Review by Joe Geesin
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