Tuesday, November 23, 2021

MAD ANTHONY "Party Heaven...Hell...WHATEVER!"


(c) 2021 Eonian Records

  1. Just My Type
  2. Party Town
  3. I'm The One
  4. Mother's Helper
  5. Falling Out Of Love
  6. Back Stage Boogie
  7. Face To Lace
  8. Stay With Me
  9. Tonight We Ride
  10. When We Touch
  11. Big Ole Long Red Hot Rod
  12. Rock Me
  13. Nadine
Rik Burnell--Lead Vocals
Ralph Longo--Electric & Acoustic Guitar
Mark Freseman--Guitars
Bryan Lujan--Bass
James Bohn--Drums

Mad Anthony.  You know....from San Francisco.  Big time party band in the mid-to-late-80s scene.  Ever hear of them?  No?  Not surprising, as Mad Anthony is yet another in the long...LONG...line of "coulda, woulda, shoulda" bands that, by all accounts, wowed audiences and packed the clubs, but never had that one little thing that would get them their big break and a record deal: luck.  It seems that Mad Anthony, like so many others, was just never in the right place at the right time with the right song being played to really hook the attention of whatever talent scout or A&R guy was in the club that night.  But did the band have the goods to attract that attention?  Eonian Records has assembled a 13 cut retrospective of the band that gives listeners a chance to make their own judgement.

Before really digging into the CD, I think a couple of points need to be made.  First, I'm not sure if these 13 songs were ever released as a proper album, or if they are assembled from multiple demos and singles, so the flow of the record may seem a bit uneven to some people, and I get that, as I felt that way, too.  Second, keep in mind that while this is definitely good-time, hard rocking party music, this is not hair metal of the late 80s/early 90s.  Mad Anthony came about just a couple of years after Quiet Riot broke big with Metal Health, and Ratt was coming Out Of The Cellar while Motley Crue was still Shout(ing) At The Devil.  This isn't Poison or Warrant or Firehouse or any of the slick pop-metal/hair metal bands that were MTV darlings even outside of Headbanger's Ball.  There is far more Y&T or KEEL here than Winger or Bon Jovi.

With those things being said, it's still apparent Mad Anthony was about having a good time and partying.  This fact is laid bare with opening rocker, "Just My Type", which extols the virtues of the ladies that are the subject matter of the song.  Right away it is evident Mad Anthony (by the way...what a really bad band name!) is definitely coming at things from a Y&T meets Ratt direction, and the song actually has the feel of an album cut from either band, really.  Lead vocalist, Rik Burnell, has something of a Stephen Pearcy quality to his vocals at times, especially in the chorus sections of this, and a few other songs, where he employs more grit and edge to his delivery.  Track two, "Party Town" adds a bit of a Van Halen flair to the mix, but overall it doesn't come across as anything overly special.  Not bad, just not amazing.  Two tracks in and I have to admit I was a bit underwhelmed.  But then things changed in one big clump of songs, starting with track three.  

"I'm The One", which starts off in a very...VERY...Dokken-esque fashion, is definitely one of the best tracks here, with Burnell's vocals climbing the ladder in a few spots and making me think a bit of another shoulda-been-bigger band, Sledgehammer Ledge.  Musically, the song is a mid-tempo rocker with a pretty good guitar solo and simple, sing-along chorus, and anyone who doesn't hear Dokken's "It's Not Love" in the guitar lick here must not be listening to the same track.  "Mother's Helper" is another great song that I can't help but feel should have been the real centerpiece of any presentation the band pitched to a label.  With backing vocals that remind me of early Britny Fox, a big rhythm section presence, and those mid-80s metal-edged guitars, "Mother's Helper" is a seriously kick-ass song that I am certain had clubs shaking when it was played.  That high octane rocker is followed by the best ballad here, yet another Dokken-ish tune called "Falling Out Of Love", which has a really cool musical vibe and a great overall sound.  Freseman's solo starts off a bit slow but really builds into a strong, flashy affair by the time it is over, and Burnell's vocals have a strong resemblance to Sebastian Bach's big power wail that he uses on several of Skid Row's best ballads.  Add in the bouncy, Van Halen-styled boogie number, aptly titled "Backstage Boogie", and you have now have four top-shelf tracks, backed up with my second favorite song here, the punchy "Face To Lace", with its solid bass work, gang-shouts in the chorus section, and a gritty, galloping rhythm guitar line that just drives this edgy rocker perfectly, although the "I like to f**k!" line that is thrown in near the end is absolutely insipid and serves zero purpose.  So, for me, tracks 3 through 7 would have been a really solid EP or showcase demo.

Things decline in varying degrees from these five tracks, however, though the it's not like the wheels come off the ride altogether.  "Stay With Me" is decent mid-tempo number with a pretty solid solo from Freseman, but the song generally feels like a weaker version of a Ratt album cut.  "Tonight We Ride" has potential...in fact, I generally really like the song with its darker vibe and haunting feel, but there is something that's a bit off here, likely the echoing reverb used on the backing vocals in the chorus section.  "When We Touch" finds a nice Y&T-meets-Ratt groove to work in, and is also a pretty good rocker musically, but some of the lyrics are just hard to listen to.  It feels like the guys were just fishing for rhymes at one point.  I mean... "I see you sitting there, and the way she combs her hair"?  What the heck does that even mean?!  "Big Ole Long Red Hot Rod" is just one big ole long musical cliche, although it is kind of fun the first few times through, and "Rock Me" is another one of those Van Halen-styled rockers the band seems to enjoy throwing into the mix and pulls off pretty well.  I'm not really sure what "Nadine" is supposed to be, but at less than 50 seconds, it's either a brief listen or a very quick skip that really doesn't add anything or damage much.    

Overall, Mad Anthony is a pretty good listen, with a handful of really strong, standout cuts that would have potentially seen the bottom of Billboard's Hot 100 at the time, maybe squeezed their way onto a  compilation cassette or a movie soundtrack, and if a video had been made, might have even spent some time on Headbanger's Ball.  But in the end, there just isn't enough to truly separate Mad Anthony from so many other bands of the time, and the things they do well, other bands simply did better.  That's not to say that a big time label with a full production budget wouldn't have bolstered a few of the best songs here, but all in all, as I was listening to the album, I kept getting the image of the fun, regional party bands that opened for tours in the area to draw the locals.  We all knew of bands that everyone was friends with and would go watch play, but that were likely never going to click in a massive way, at least with the line-up and group of songwriters that they had at the time.  For me, bands like Zwarte, Vyper, St. Elmo's Fire, The Untold, and others come to mind when I think of the tier where I think Mad Anthony likely existed.  To be fair, however, I think Mad Anthony had more talent than several bands I've heard that DID get recording contracts, so I have to go back to my original belief that Mad Anthony simply wasn't in the right place at the right time.      

The production here is really good, with the re-mixing/re-mastering beefing up the sound and eliminating nearly all of the "demo" feel of the songs here.  Kudos to Eonian for putting together yet another solid release of an unknown that is likely to spark a lot of interest from fans who remember the band from back in the day, and from fans of the scene and genre, in general.  If you are one of the numerous collectors that are continually looking to bolster their catalog of well-produced unknowns, make sure you add Mad Anthony to your shopping list!  I'm sure you won't be disappointed if the rare and unknown is your thing!

Rating:  Rock this to 6.5, with tracks three through seven nearly pushing this nice collection into crankable territory.

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