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Ratt: The Atlantic Years1984-1990

Based in the UK, as I am, it’s easy to forget, or indeed, not really even be aware of, just how big a deal Ratt were in The States. Multi-platinum albums and hit singles the order of the day right across the band’s six year stay with Atlantic Records. Although their story stretches back into the early 70s under the names Crystal Pystal and then Mickey Ratt, things only really began to happen for Ratt when they released a low budget self titled EP in 1983, causing Atlantic Records to quickly pick up the outfit and build a buzz around them that found radio and MTV getting onside as debut album Out Of The Cellar made its mark in 1984. The single from the album, “Round And Round”, would blast its way into the US top 15, with the band’s commercially informed hard rock perfect for the times, especially given the fivesome’s roguish good looks and the scantily clad girls featured in their videos.

The album itself was a solid affair and while hindsight maybe doesn’t quite back up the triple platinum status the record achieved, there’s no doubt of the class behind not just “Round And Round” but also “Wanted Man” and “Scene Of The Crime”. For some, singer Stephen Pearcy’s nasally delivery was an acquired taste but there’s an attitude in his style that blends perfectly with what is a pretty impressive guitar attack from Robbin Crosby and more especially Warren DeMartini. Rounded out by the energetic rhythm section of drummer Bobby Blotzer and ex-Dokken bassist Juan Croucier, arguably Ratt weren’t as flashy or technically gifted as some acts out there but if you wanted a stinging guitar solo combined to a hugely hook laden chorus then this was your band.

As is so often the case, from there, while still releasing a further three platinum shifting albums - double in the case of the 1985 follow up Invasion Of Your Privacy - the Ratt story was a tale of diminishing returns, at least in terms of sales anyway. However, for my money, musically the band simply went from strength to strength as interest in their fortunes slightly wained, although the lead single from Invasion, “Lay It Down” would still graze the US top 20. Arguably though it’s opener and follow up single “You’re In Love” that stands as this album’s strongest moment but from the refined, if slightly grittier, “What You Give Is What You Get” right through to the pulsating pound of “Give It All”, Ratt’s ability to turn out a chorus that stuck long in the mind was still strongly in evidence.

A further year down the line and Dancing Undercover became the first Ratt album not to rocket into the top 10, landing some 19 places behind both of the band’s first two releases, which each reached number 7. Producer Beau Hill, who had also masterminded the band’s previous releases, outdid himself on a record that bulged at the edges with Bobby Blotzer’s hammered drums and DeMartini’s fret forays. With Pearcy giving arguably his strongest vocal performance on any Ratt release, that none of the three singles from the album - the swirling push and shove of “Dance”, catchy as hell “Slip Of The Lip” and the frantically melodic “Body Talk” - managed to make much impact on the charts remains something of a mystery. The strutting “7th Avenue” is also a deeper cut winner, while “Enough Is Enough” ranks high on the sing along stakes, even if it is something of a remake of “Round And Round”. It’s maybe not the most fashionable opinion but for me Dancing Undercover is actually Ratt’s finest moment.

And not far behind came Reach The Sky, the 1988 release finding Hill taking a stronger hold of the songs and sound but without over imposing an influence that took the end results out of Ratt’s obvious wheel house. Single, “Way Cool Jr” added stabs of brass to the more expected groove and in general Reach The Sky hit in such a way that you feel Ratt were maturing as a band without cashing in their good time credentials. DeMartini, yet again, is the standout but as ever with this band, the motto was keep it pretty simply and hugely memorable. Highlights come thick and fast but it’s “Don’t Bite The Hand That Feeds”, which also had faint brass surges, and the hollering Van Halen-isms of “Chain Reaction” that lead a hugely enjoyable bunch of songs into battle.

That said, I’m maybe battling against the tide regarding Reach The Sky, because even though it did go platinum, the overall quality of the songs was criticised by the press, with the result being that Ratt and Beau Hill ended what had, up until that point, been a hugely fruitful collaboration. Enter man of the moment Desmond Child, the uber-producer looking to bring his magic KISS/Bon Jovi/Aerosmith hit making magic to Detonator, the first album from Ratt in the 1990’s. Stalling at number 23 in the US album charts, arguably this collection received something of a raw deal as the songs here remain bonafide 80s rock of the highest order. However, bringing Child to the party was always going to smooth out the rough edges that had long made Ratt stand out from the crowd and with a more flagrantly commercial edge brought into play, “Shame Shame Shame” and “Lovin’ You’s A Dirty Job” came across as just a little too ‘by the book’, with the thought that any number of bands could have come up with them or indeed “Scratch That Itch” and “Heads I Win, Tails You Lose”, just a little too difficult to shake off. That said “All Or Nothing” brings an Aerosmith shuffle (courtesy of Child, no doubt) into play, while “Top Secret” does head back into a more early Ratt rough and tumble. In the end Detonator didn’t capture the fans’ imagination and from there the writing was on the wall. Robbin Crosby, who would sadly pass away in 2002 after a battle with HIV and Aids, faced struggles with drug addiction, while Pearcy decided that it was time for pastures new as he formed Arcade and then Vicious Delite. The Ratt story would, as with so many of the bands from that time, descend into a soap opera of bitching and fighting that pretty much continues on to this day. However, that shouldn’t diminish the excellent music the band made prior to the break-ups, reformations and law suits.

Having reviewed this five disc release from a collection of downloads, it would appear, disappointingly, that the booklet and information in this set are scant indeed, while in terms of bonus content, there’s not very much added of excitement. Only single edits and a couple of remixes sweetening the pot alongside an MTV Unplugged Live cut featuring non-other than Michael Schenker filling in on guitar. Although the inclusion of the Point Break OST track “Nobody Rides For Free” from 1991 (by which time Crosby was no longer on the scene) reveals a much more straight ahead hard rock outlook than anything the band had done previously.

In America, at least, Ratt were huge, so quite why they now go largely forgotten, I’m not sure. Thankfully The Atlantic Years 1984-1990 goes a long way to redressing that balance.


Track Listing
DISC ONE OUT OF THE CELLAR (1984)
1. WANTED MAN
2. YOU’RE IN TROUBLE
3. ROUND AND ROUND
4. IN YOUR DIRECTION
5. SHE WANTS MONEY
6. LACK OF COMMUNICATION
7. BACK FOR MORE
8. THE MORNING AFTER
9. I’M INSANE
10. SCENE OF THE CRIME
BONUS TRACK
11. ROUND AND ROUND (SINGLE EDIT)


DISC TWO INVASION OF YOUR PRIVACY (1985)
1. YOU’RE IN LOVE
2. NEVER USE LOVE
3. LAY IT DOWN
4. GIVE IT ALL
5. CLOSER TO MY HEART
6. BETWEEN THE EYES
7. WHAT YOU GIVE IS WHAT YOU GET
8. GOT ME ON THE LINE
9. YOU SHOULD KNOW BY NOW
10. DANGEROUS BUT WORTH THE RISK
BONUS TRACK
11. WHAT YOU GIVE IS WHAT YOU GET (SINGLE EDIT)


DISC THREE DANCING UNDERCOVER (1986)
1. DANCE
2. ONE GOOD LOVER
3. DRIVE ME CRAZY
4. SLIP OF THE LIP
5. BODY TALK
6. LOOKING FOR LOVE
7. 7TH AVENUE
8. IT DOESN’T MATTER
9. TAKE A CHANCE
10. ENOUGH IS ENOUGH
BONUS TRACK
11. DANCE (SINGLE EDIT)


DISC FOUR REACH FOR THE SKY (1988)
1. CITY TO CITY
2. I WANT A WOMAN
3. WAY COOL JR.
4. DON’T BITE THE HAND THAT FEEDS
5. I WANT TO LOVE YOU TONIGHT
6. CHAIN REACTION
7. NO SURPRISE
8. BOTTOM LINE
9. WHAT’S IT GONNA BE
10. WHAT I’M AFTER
BONUS TRACK
11. WAY COOL JR. (MTV UNPLUGGED)


DISC FIVE DETONATOR (1990)
1. INTRO TO SHAME
2. SHAME SHAME SHAME
3. LOVIN’ YOU’S A DIRTY JOB
4. SCRATCH THAT ITCH
5. ONE STEP AWAY
6. HARD TIME
7. HEADS I WIN, TAILS YOU LOSE
8. ALL OR NOTHING
9. CAN’T WAIT ON LOVE
10. GIVIN’ YOURSELF AWAY
11. TOP SECRET
BONUS TRACKS
12. LOVIN’ YOU’S A DIRTY JOB (RATT FONIC MONSTER MIX)
13. LOVIN’ YOU’S A DIRTY JOB (RATT FONIC RADIO MIX)
14. NOBODY RIDES FOR FREE (POINT BREAK SOUNDTRACK)

Added: March 31st 2020
Reviewer: Steven Reid
Score:
Related Link: The Atlantic Years 1984-1990 @ Cherry Red
Hits: 729
Language: english

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