Julian Cope presents Head Heritage

Ted Nugent - Ted Nugent

Ted Nugent


Released 1975 on Epic Records
Reviewed by Shelf-Stacker, 08/02/2014ce


Ted Nugent - Ted Nugent

(1975) Epic Records


Somewhere between his unwittingly psychedelic explorations with the Amboy Dukes and his metamorphosis into an exaggerated, cartoon representation of everything that is scary about American Republicanism, Theodore Anthony Nugent found, in 1975, a brief window of opportunity to give his mouth a rest and show the world how to wail on a Gibson Byrdland guitar. His debut solo album steers clear of the overt macho braggadocio that came to define his music thereafter, focusing instead on meting out florid, scarifying guitar over an unwavering rhythmic groove.

Once Ted's opening lick has introduced Stranglehold it becomes abundantly clear that recruiting a backing band of no-names is in no way the same as recruiting a bunch of no-marks. Rob Grange (bass), Cliff Davies (drums) and Derek St. Holmes (rhythm guitar) display the restraint and surety of touch in laying down a groove that suggests a musical symbiosis that goes back to the womb. If Nugent's claim to have been naively ignorant of the drug references in The Amboy Dukes' Journey To The Centre Of The Mind are to be believed (oh p-lease!), then we can only assume that he was similarly unaware of the effect that Stranglehold's hypnotic pulse was having on a generation of basement-dwelling bong aficionados. There is no aspect of this song that could be improved upon - Ted's edge-of-the-seat master class in feedback control, that one-take, career-best guitar solo, Rob Grange's languid, liquid, phase-effected bass-line, the best snare drum sound ever committed to vinyl, those staccato, machine gun snare flurries punctuating Ted's solo flight, Derek St. Holmes' cocksure lead vocal - all unassailably perfect.

Having got the stoners' attention, the Motörhead-lite of Stormtroopin' ups the tempo with a rattling, urgent warning, to followers and detractors alike, to get ready 'cause 'stormtrooper's coming'. A statement of intent or a helmet-referencing nob gag? You decide. Still, as titles go it's a damn sight subtler than Wang Dang Sweet Poontang.

The swagger and swing of Hey Baby diverts attention away from the fact that we're an elk's whisker away from having regurgitated, mid-Seventies, barroom fodder in our musical crosshairs, but the sheer exuberance of the band ensures that, although not a classic tune, the momentum of the album is maintained. And remember, this is the 1970s when an album was intended to be played from the run-in groove on side A to the dead wax on side B and sequenced in such a way as to take you on a journey punctuated with both highs and lows - there are no concessions to scattershot, itunes cherry picking here.

Side closer Just What The Doctor Ordered has much in common with Aerosmith in their gloriously dangerous, pre-rehab, gutter-punk pomp, but there's no disguising that the central riff is Lennon and McCartney's Paperback Writer on steroids. 'Got me an overdose of rock 'n' roll', declares St. Holmes before he and Nugent trade licks in an exhilarating race for the finish line, their guitars bragging and sparring like hormone-raging teens.

The flipside's Snakeskin Cowboys affords the band the opportunity to get its collective breath back. Ted fires up the opening riff, reigns in the squealing feedback, and repeats the motif until the rest of his sidemen have, one by one, jumped aboard. They settle into an unhurried, honky-tonk put-down of style-over-substance wannabes which could, if you squint, be a loosely thematic US cousin to Black Sabbath's Fairies Wear Boots.

Motor City Madhouse is this LP's second bona fide classic: an amphetamine-paced, clucking chicken of a Stones riff with snaking slide guitar and a relentless, rattling, look-ma-no-brakes landslide of a rhythm section. The sweetly psychotic harmonies on the mantra-like chorus add an air of genuine, unhinged delirium and menace, especially in combination with Ted's gruff, redneck lead vocal. After a brief respite, where the rhythm section judders to a halt allowing Ted to shred alone, the band returns, clattering like a freight train and intoning its Motor City Madhouse mantra to the fade.

Where Have You Been All My Life is a cocky, musical chat-up line, heavy on the twin guitar interplay of AC/DC and Aerosmith with occasional nods to a down-and-dirty, Detroit take on Wishbone Ash's signature twin harmony guitar sound. In common with much of Uncle Ted's output, the song title tells you everything you need to know about the lyrical depth of the track.

You Make Me Feel Right At Home sees Ted Nugent taking a stab at subtlety - and pulling it off. The delicate pattering of brushes on drum skins ushers in a track that uses jazz guitar chords and Cliff Davies' vibes playing to create a woozy, leftfield, Polynesian-flavoured diversion reflecting on the home sickness engendered by life on the road. Against all expectations, not only does the track work, but it works within the context of the album.

Naturally, the Motor City Madman can't slink off back to his cave having you think he's some kind of a wuss, so normal service is resumed for album closer Queen Of The Forest, a joyous, high-on-life, hard-rocking ode to Mother Nature that recalls the sound of Montrose on their genre-defining debut album. The rhythm section has this one nailed, clearly enjoying letting their hair down after exercising such restraint on the previous number. And yes, I know that the tracks probably weren't recorded in the same order that they appear on the album, but the sequencing and the immediacy of the production make you want to believe that the band banged all nine tracks out in order, in one take. Done.

For anyone familiar only with the motor-mouth, kill it and grill it, God and guns, flag-waving, liberal-baiting, self-parodying, gobshite version of Ted Nugent, his debut solo album will come as an eye-opening testament to the fact that, at one time, he let his incendiary six-string skills do the talking with, as his sleeve notes have it, "one guitar, eight Fender speakers and no toys in between to mess up the signal."


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