CD Reviews

Silverhead - 'Silverhead' / '16 And Savaged' / 'Live At The Rainbow' Hot

Added by Central Electronic Brain     April 14, 2018    
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An excellent collection of volatile, rough and ready seventies Rock.

As a fan of pretty much all things Michael Des Barres, I was delighted to hear that Cherry Red were resurrecting the Purple Records label and re-releasing the difficult to obtain Silverhead albums. Here they have released both studio efforts, along with the band's live release, all with sleeve notes from Malcolm Dome and several bonus tracks.

The charismatic Des Barres had been a child actor, appearing in 'To Sir With Love' and had ended up performing in a theatre production called 'The Dirtiest Show In Town' in 1971, controversial for its themes of sex, nudity and general edginess. Des Barres was spotted by none other than Andrew Lloyd Webber, who saw something in him and asked him if he had written any songs. Des Barres naturally said yes, even though he'd never penned anything in his life, and Webber, together with his writing partner Tim Rice, placed an ad on behalf of Des Barres to find him a band. Future Blondie bassist Nigel Harrison responded, and joined by guitarists Rod Davies, Steve Forest and drummer Pete Thompson, Silverhead was formed.

While their image suggested they were Glam Rock, the fact is Silverhead had many more strings to their bow. Harrison insists in the sleeve notes they were a pre-cursor to what AC/DC did, although I can't hear that – Bon Scott was apparently a big fan though. Opener 'Long Legged Lisa' is certainly a Bluesy, T-Rex styled romp, but 'Ace Supreme' is a full-throttle Rocker which features The Silverettes, their female backing singers which included Suzi Quatro. 'Johnny' is a killer ballad – in more ways than one when you listen to the lyrics about the song's protagonist – while the fabulous 'Rolling With My Baby' is a firecracker, bouncing along and augmented by some great slide guitar, the Silverettes on a catchy chorus and a horn section. 'Rock 'N' Roll Band' is also particularly noteworthy, and the excellent debut record is bolstered by the inclusion of the B-side 'Oh No No No' and the 7" versions of 'Ace...' and 'Rolling... There are three live tracks added as well, but the audio quality is dreadful and they are best avoided.

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For their follow-up album '16 And Savaged', guitarist Forest had left, replaced by future Robert Plant six stringer Robbie Blunt. His inclusion toughened up the sound with The Silverettes basically defunct and the horns reined in considerably. 'Hello New York' kicks things off with Des Barres' distinctive rasp powering through a raucous chorus, the Classic Rock of 'More Than Your Mouth Can Hold' keeps things going before the superb ballad 'Only You' calms things down. It's a short lived break tempo wise before 'Bright Lights', a powerhouse track that literally gets faster as it goes on. 'Heavy Hammer' is musically just that while the boogie of 'Cartoon Princess' and the throbbing 'Rock Out Claudette Rock Out' continue to impress. The title track is a monster of riffs and harsh vocals, before things come to an end, marking out this, to my ears, as a much better all-round album than the strong debut. Two unreleased tracks from an aborted third album, 'James Dean' and 'Marilyn', are included, along with two post-Silverhead solo singles from Des Barres which are nice to hear, although they have some audio imperfections. There's more poor quality live tracks on offer too, but you might as well skip them in favour of the third album, the band's official live release.

'Live At The Rainbow' was recorded in 1973 but not released until two years later, after the band had split. Apparently they didn't know the show was being taped, so you have an uninhibited, energetic and dangerous recording which sees the group play most of the best stuff from both albums; 'Rolling...', 'Hello...', 'Ace...' and 'Claudette...' are all represented here and sound pretty damn good. Des Barres' on stage banter is amusing and the band blitz through eight tracks at high velocity. The disc is bolstered by four songs recorded by the BBC, which duplicates a couple of selections, but does also add renditions of 'Bright Light' and '...Savaged' which are excellent. The final track, 'Roll Over Beethoven', is unfortunately not from the official live tapes, being another muddy quality recording best skipped.

The two albums were much stronger than I was anticipating and a clear indication of why Silverhead where highly thought of, while the live album is a strong document of their ability as a live unit. While Des Barres would, in my opinion, go on to even better things with the superb Detective, these three albums are a welcome chance to revisit where it all began for the decadent Marquis of Rock. An excellent collection of volatile, rough and ready seventies Rock.

James Gaden

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