A short while ago, I had the opportunity to give my 5 out of 5 star review. Now, due to its re-release on Lovember Records, I have the opportunity to review a classic!
Innovative, original, aggressive and raunchy were the first words that came to mind
after just one listen to SPREAD EAGLE’s debut, self-titled release way back in 1990…
and those words still hold true today. Plain and simple… there was nothing like it and there hasn’t been anything like it since. The arrangements were tight, the music itself was hard and heavy but yet melodic and harmonic and the lyrics were concise and intelligent while almost always remaining true to their theme of the harsh life on the city streets.
Paul Dibartolo absolutely (please excuse the pun) soared on lead guitar. From thrashy to intricate and soulful, this guy could do it all and the more you listen to the album, the more his riffs and chords leap out of your speakers and cut into your bones. I find it hard
to even put a finger on his style because there aren’t many to compare him to! But that’s
the thing about SPREAD EAGLE… they were ALL originals in their own right.
Rob De Luca’s heavy bass pounded through your head like a jackhammer. His unique and dedicated style created the backbone of this heavy metal foursome… as well as his backing vocals that provide the always-important harmonies at those select moments.
Back on the “skins,” Tommi Gallo’s double-bass pounding rhythms supply all the energy needed to fuel this predator. I’d hate to be one of this guys drumheads!
And last but certainly not least, we come to front man Ray West and his soft, soothing voice which will almost certainly lull you into relaxation… NOT! This guy is no one to fuck with! His powerful voice tears through track after track and his heart-curdling screams pierce you like a bullet through glass. But let me tell ya, there is a voice there like no other. In the realm of unique, stand out voices such as those of Ronnie James Dio, Geoff Tate (QUEENSRYCHE), Freddie Mercury (QUEEN) or Steve Perry (JOURNEY); you can definitely add Ray’s unmistakable vocals to that list.
“Broken City” kicks off this incredible release. Its almost haunting opening guitar riff really sets the tone for the entire album and West wastes no time kicking it right into high gear. There is no one… and I mean NO ONE who could pull off this song like Ray West.
So right off the bat, “Broken City” establishes SPREAD EAGLE as a band to be reckoned with!
Next up is another power-driven track called “Back On The Bitch”… but the song isn’t about what you might think so everyone get their mind out of the gutter! There’ll be other songs to get your mind right back in the gutter very shortly. The song is actually the band’s anthem about addiction and substance abuse.
“Switchblade Serenade” is one of my favorite songs on the release and believe me, it isn’t easy to pick a favorite when just about every song is unique and able to carry it’s own. The harmonies between Ray and Rob are absolutely brilliant and the mood-setting undertones of De Luca’s bass really help carry the song and underline some of Paul’s best guitar work on the CD. This track was SPREAD EAGLE’s second single and video back in 1990. I think they may have actually played it on MTV at least TWICE! Guess MCA didn’t feel like backing probably the best band on their label that week… And yes, MTV actually played music videos at one time.
Ah HA! Here we go… All you sex-starved deviants get ready to stand up as “Hot Sex”
begins to blast through your stereo. The song has a very distinct and methodical groove to it. But then again, what do you expect from a track that’s lyrics leave little to the imagination.
“Suzy Suicide” really kicks the CD into overdrive. Gallo gets his double-bass drums pumping over time on this one and almost challenges the rest of the band to keep up. This is followed up by a more moody track entitled “Dead of Winter.” Yet another great track which I would love to have seen a video for as, if you follow along with the lyrics, the possibilities could have been endless on which way the band wanted to go.
Now you’ve got some real “street schoolin’” comin’ atcha as Ray and the boys screech and wail into their first video and single “Scratch Like a Cat.” What an incredible tune!
This should have been in heavy rotation on “Headbanger’s Ball” for months. “Scratch Like A Cat” is the epitome of “heavy metal” and could easily stand out as a song to which all other bands of the genre should model themselves after. WARNING: Do NOT listen to this track while driving as I have had many close scrapes with “the law” and my
unrelenting lead-foot because of it!
Now every band has it’s soft side and “Thru These Eyes” really expresses that side of SPREAD EAGLE. Now don’t get me wrong, it is definitely NOT your typical “metal ballad” as the song actually kicks feverishly back into a hard-hitting rocker towards the end. But the opening verses really tug on your heartstrings and put you in a more sad and somber mood to the point you can really feel the sincerity and empathy in West’s voice. As if the rest of the CD didn’t already do so, “Thru These Eyes” really pushes West’s vocal talents to a whole other level and establishes him amongst the elite vocalists of the time… and even today.
“Oh the things she’ll do for a dollar bill or two!” SPREAD EAGLE’s self-titled track, “Spread Eagle,” gives a rather descriptive account of what’s going on at your local Go-Go bar! Might want to keep this one out of earshot of your better halves, guys! Also… with its strong melody, if there ever was a truly “commercial” sounding track on this CD, “Spread Eagle” is just about as close as they get.
Finally rounding off this amazing release is an instrumental/guitar-solo titled “42nd Street,” which really showcases the once great guitar prowess of Dibartolo, which leads
straight into “Shotgun Kiss,” another lyrically explicit rocker and perfect ending to a debut release which was nothing less than spectacular.
Ya know, the more I think about it, the more and more disgusted I get at the travesty which had befallen a band like this. Given, there was some slight inner turmoil but nothing I don’t think this band couldn’t have overcome had they gotten the record label support they deserved. This combined with the emergence of the garbage… err, umm, I mean GRUNGE era and the old “too many chiefs and not enough Indians!” cliché was the real downfall of this once powerful group of talented musicians and songwriters. So, and as with many other bands at the time, by the time the band’s second album was released, they were already being swept under the carpet.
The upside to all this is that SPREAD EAGLE IS BACK! Of course, minus Dibartolo and Gallo but with newcomers Chris Caffery (SAVATAGE/TRANS-SIBERIAN ORCHESTRA) on guitar and drummer John Macaluso (TNT/Yngwie Malmsteen), they can more than burden the load and even add a new dimension to the band itself.
I really hope this is not just a one-shot deal. This band NEEDS to be heard and with its re-release on Lovember Records, do not let the opportunity to own an absolute classic pass you by. Also, don’t forget to check out SPREAD EAGLE’s “Myspace” site where you can actually view the band’s videos and catch up on the latest tour information. Welcome back guys and lets make this “eagle” fly like never before!
- Ray West - Lead Vocals
- Paul Dibartolo - Guitars
- Rob De Luca - Bass
- Tommi Gallo - Drums
- Broken City
- Back On The Bitch
- Switchblade Serenade
- Hot Sex
- Suzy Suicide
- Dead Of Winter
- Scratch Like A Cat
- Thru These Eyes
- Spread Eagle
- 42nd Street
- Shotgun Kiss