By JAY ROBERTS
The Cassette Chronicles is a continuing series of mini reviews and reflections on albums from the 1980’s and 1990’s. The aim of this series is to highlight both known and underappreciated albums from rock, pop and metal genres from this time period through the cassette editions of their releases. Some of the albums I have known about and loved for years, while others are new to me and were music I’ve always wanted to hear. There will be some review analysis and my own personal stories about my connection with various albums. These opinions are strictly my own and do not reflect the views of anyone else at Limelight Magazine.
RATT – DANCING UNDERCOVER (1986)
As I got around to picking up another Ratt album to check out, I wasn’t sure what I might remember about the band’s Dancing Undercover and what would be completely new to me. Like many of their albums, I’d never heard the full album before now.
I have to say that I found myself quite surprised to discover that Dancing Undercover is quite an enjoyably rocking ride from start to finish. And that’s not just due to the fact of the three singles from the album either.
Those three singles (and the accompanying videos that would air on MTV) are all on the first side of the cassette. The album opens with “Dance”, which despite the fact I remember the song so well, didn’t even make the Top 40 chart. For a time when metal ruled the world, discovering that one of the band’s better known tracks didn’t make a dent in the chart was a bit of a surprise.
The songs “Slip Of The Lip” and “Body Talk” close out Side One and both are fast moving pieces that have quite the melodic hook and that big vocal sound you’d expect from the Ratt. Like “Dance”, I remember both of these songs from back when they were released and since they get played regularly on specialty radio shows, I’ve heard them any number of times in the ensuing passage of time.
Both “One Good Lover” and “Drive Me Crazy” are pretty intense, with the latter track coming through with even more of an aggressively driving sound than you’d usually expect. There’s also a somewhat heavier sound to the chorus, the backing vocals giving a fuller sound to that part of the song overall.
The entirety of Dancing Undercover are balls-out rockers from start to finish, with no ballads to muck up the works. While that lack of a ballad may leave you thinking that the music all sounds the same, there’s enough variation threaded throughout the different songs that even with the pedal pushed down to the floor, the music never descends into annoying noise.
When the second side of the cassette started, I was struck by an feeling of familiarity with the song “Looking For Love”. The chorus was very memorable to me for some reason. But I can’t place why that is. The song was never released as a single and like I said before, I’ve never heard the album before now. Whatever the reason for why I was familiar with it, the song was fantastic!
The band follows that song up with “7th Avenue” which has a nice rhythmic swing to the delivery of the music and Stephen Pearcy’s vocals. I really got into how the song was presented and though I thought the abrupt way the song ended was a bit of a pain, overall this is a song I would love to hear a lot more.
The songs “It Doesn’t Matter” and “Take A Chance” continue that blazing rocker feel to the music but the album’s closing track had a bit more of an interesting makeup for me.
The opening intro of “Enough Is Enough” has a far different sound than the pure speedy blitzkrieg opening riff that most of the rest of the songs on the album employs. The song does immediately turn more towards that fiery rock and roll sound after the opening, but my ear was really caught by the song’s intro.
Dancing Undercover features ten songs in all and while I still think of the Out Of The Cellar album as my favorite Ratt release, there isn’t a bad track on this album. The decision to eschew putting a syrupy ballad on the release and instead just rock out all the way through gives the album a big lift in my eyes as well. This is simply a flat out superb album!
NOTES OF INTEREST: Two of the songs from Dancing Undercover were used in other forms of media. “Dance” was featured in an episode of Miami Vice while “Body Talk” appeared on the soundtrack for the Eddie Murphy film The Golden Child.
According to the song’s entry page on Wikipedia, the opening riff of “Body Talk” had been floating around for guitarist Warren DeMartini for years but it was never developed into a full song until bassist Juan Croucier wrote pretty much the rest of the song in a day when the band was dealing with a deadline.