Wednesday, December 28, 2011

ROXX "Diamonds & Rust"




(c) 2002 Perris Records

  1. Breakdown
  2. Better Off Dead
  3. Too Little Too Late
  4. Rockin' The City
  5. Lickity Split
  6. Rock Stead
  7. Puss N Boots
  8. Hot Sweet
  9. A Girl Like You
  10. Ruff Stuff
  11. Deep In The Night
  12. Kidz Rock
  13. For You
George "Roxi" Hall--Lead Vocals
Fanky Novello--Guitar, Vocals
Marko Soccoli--Drums, Samples, Vocals
Mark Skovran--Bass, Vocals
Randy Ferri--Guitars, Vocals

Roxx is another one of those "woulda, coulda, shoulda" bands from the 1980's that not a lot of people have hear of unless they were living the scene at the time.  However, despite their looks and sound, the scene for Roxx was New York City rather than Hollywood.  These guys referred to their music as "bump and grind sex rock" and listed Aerosmith and KISS as their major influences, although neither plays prominently in the sound of the band.  (The band did take their name, Roxx, from the Aersomith album Rocks, although obviously with a re-spelling.)  I would say their sound is more akin to early Motley Crue (Too Fast For Love-era) blended with bits and pieces of Faster Pussycat and Ratt, mixing equal parts sleaze and glam to their sound, similar to a band like Kix, whose album Midnight Dynamite record is referred to as "the soundtrack of our lives..". 

This disc is comprised of demos that were recorded between 1985 and 1989, and while the majority of the songs are very good, the sound quality varies with the source it was taken from.  This is too bad, as a couple of tracks REALLY suffer in the quality department.  It would have been great to see Perris really step up and sink some money into properly remastering all of these songs and perhaps working a bit longer to find better source material.  Regardless, this collection has several high points along with a handful of lows as far as the songs themselves go.

Before getting directly into the songs, one thing of note here is the talent of the drummer, Marko Soccoli.  This guy was a machine gun behind the kit, pulling off some blistering fills and smoking double bass kicks that many thrash metal drummers only wish they could manage.  I was seriously awed by his skill from the very first time I put this album in, and right from track one, "Breakdown", his skills are on display.  Speaking of "Breakdown", this is an excellent example of this band's talent, as this is one smoking song, kicking off with a sampled motorcycle engine and ripping immediatley into a ferocious guitar riff.  It is on songs like this that the raw sounds of early Motley Crue really come to mind.  The follow-up, "Better Off Dead" is a bit more melodic, a bit more "hairy" in sound, but it is still a really good song that just reeks of 1986 or 1987, with Roxi sounding to me like a mixture of CJ Snare from Firehouse and Taime Downe from Faster Pussycat.  "Too Little Too Late" slips even further into radio-ready melodic territory, especially on the backing vocals which remind me of Enuff Z'Nuff as much as anyone.  "Rockin' The City" has some odd guitar effects being used on it, but is a more high-energy, sleazier feeling song. which is where the band is at their best.  This, however, is an example of a track that suffers a bit due to the tape source, as it is a bit hollow sounding and the mix is just a bit weak. 

"Lickity Split" is a song that took me a few listens to before I could say I appreciated it at all.  It has a definite boogie-woogie feel to the music and I can see women in poodle skirts dancing with guys in leather jackets, t-shirts and jeans, a la Grease, especially when the horn section and do-wop sounding backing vocals flare up in the chorus.  I still can't say I LOVE the song, and I have a hard time imagining the band pulling this song off live, but I think it would have been a fun filler track on a studio album and it is perfomed pretty well. 

"Rock Steady" gets things back on track and features some nice bass work by Novello.  "Puss N Boots" is another song that obviously comes from a bit weaker source tape, but is another good song with Roxi really sounding like Vince Neil here, especially on his screams.  The way the lyrics are strung together also is very reminiscent of early Crue for me. 

From this point on, the CD loses a bit of interest for me, as I am almost positive that the next four songs are very early material that is nowhere near the songwriting quality as the first half of the disc.  For example, "Hot Sweet", which is another song with serious Vince Neil/Motley Crue sounds to it, has some pretty dumb lyrics and no real hook.  Therehere is also some slight tape warble about 1:20 into the track, which is a bit distracting.  "A Girl Like You" isn't terrible but would never be categorized as anything more than filler.  It comes off like a masterpiece, however, compared to "Ruff Stuff".."Ruff Stuff" is just about unlistenable, to be honest, with a FULL MINUTE LONG spoken intro and a very garage sounding recording with a "chugga-chugga-chugga" rhythm that goes nowhere.  I'm betting this is an early song for the band because it is not at all representative of the best stuff Roxx put out.  Additionally, there is again some tape wear problems on the source tape and you can literally hear the song fade in and out as far as sound quality goes.  Total skip material here.  "Deep In The Night" gets things headed back in the right direction, although again I am guessing this is an earlier effort as it is not as catchy as the first 6 or 7 tracks are.  The band was obviously experimenting with reverb and echo on the vocal tracks which is a tad bit annoying but it doesn't ruin the song. 

"Kidz Rock" is the glammiest sounding track on the disc, but it is a really good effort until about 2:40 in the song when Roxi tries to do some spoke riffing over the looped chorus.  It's not that the spoken part is bad, it's just mixed so out front it is slightly distorted and sounds like it was added as an afterthought.  The track would have benefitted from this part being left off.

"For You" closes things out and is the band's only attempt at a ballad, although I am not sure ballad is the right term.  We have some keyboards of some sort being played and Roxi singing, but nothing else...no drums, no bass, no guitars.  It's a really odd song and I'm glad it's at the end as I skip it every time unless I just have the CD in a mix or on in the background.      

The packaging is made up of two pages of band history written by bass player Franky Novello, and several pictures of flyers, ticket stubs, a band promo picture, and what appears to be a drum endorsement photo for Soccoli (which I could totally believe...the dude is WICKED on the skins!), and is generally well done.  There are individual head shots of the band members on the back and a full band shot under the clear disc tray.  No lyrics are included.  The website, www.roxxnyc.com, that is listed in the notes appears to be a dead link, and very little can be found on-line about this band, it seems.

Overall, this is about a 60/40 mix of really good to great music mixed with not-so-good to downright awful.  That being said, it is a nice collection that really shows a band that held a lot of promise but one that perhaps would have benefitted from not being so  stubborn and maybe trying to hit the Hollywood scene (Novello admits in the liner notes that the band was determined to make it in New York and not California.  Wrong choice perhaps...)

Rating:  Very hit and miss at times, so overall I would rock this at 6.5.  Still worth checking into if you can find it at a good price as the good parts outweigh the bad.

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