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.
QUIET RIOT – CONDITION CRITICAL – (1984)
It is no easy thing to follow up a big hit album. It is even more difficult to follow up said hit album when it reached the levels of success that Quiet Riot’s Metal Health did.
The sales and acclaim that followed that album broke down a number of barriers for other metal bands. Unfortunately for Quiet Riot themselves, it also kind of left them forever reaching for that same kind of status but never quite getting back to the top of the mountain.
I can remember eagerly waiting to hear the new Quiet Riot song. Like many fans, I was quite taken by “Cum On Feel The Noize” and “Metal Health (Bang Your Head)”, so I definitely wanted to see what Quiet Riot would do next.
While their cover of the Slade song “Mama Weer All Crazee Now” got radio and video airplay, it was really the only song on the album that got any reaction at all. I know that beyond that song, I failed to pay attention to anything else from this album. Heck, I never even bought Condition Critical back then. I only got it when I picked it up to do this article.
It would seem I wasn’t alone in this regard either. Looking up the sales information, Condition Critical did end up going platinum but that’s about 1/6th what the Metal Health album sold and thus the bloom was off the rose.
But in retrospect, was the album as bad as the original reaction to it would have you believe? I guess that would depend on just what you were looking for. I think it is obvious that the 2nd Slade cover was a bid to keep that particular vein of success open. And it is probably their most recognizable song other than their two biggest hits.
In hindsight that stretches back nearly 35 years, I think the problem with the album lays in the first side. Besides the “Mama” song, there’s not much to get all that fired up about. The album opens with a song called “Sign Of The Times” and while it would seem to have the requisite components to represent a Quiet Riot song (loud guitar, screaming vocal, big backing vocal sound, etc.), it felt to me like it was a paint by numbers track. There was just nothing inspiring about it at all. The same can be said about “Party All Night” and “Winners Take All”.
I will say that “Clap Your Feet, Stomp Your Hands” had a really ear grabbing rhythmic swing to it. Surrounding that with a whole lot of rocking power made the song a pretty good listen.
But I’d imagine by the time the first side of the album ended, many fans had sort of tuned out. And unfortunately, that might’ve been a mistake.
I was kind of dreading the second side of the album myself but I have to say that I really did like Side Two. The title track had an edgy darker feel to it. I’ve never heard the song before now and I really want to go back and listen a few more times because it just has something that grabs you.
The foot rarely leaves the gas pedal with rockers like “Red Alert” and “Bad Boy”. The anthem “(We Were) Born To Rock” features that huge backing vocal sound and that helps readily infuse the song with an extra bit of metallic fuel.
But if you really want to catch what I think is the stand out track on Condition Critical, you have got to check out “Scream and Shout”. It’s all frenzy and fury on the song as the band really seems to cut loose without the slightest hesitation. It is likely a track that not a lot of people paid much attention to, but for me I’d throw it out there as one of Quiet Riot’s best songs.
Judging Condition Critical as a whole is definitely not an easy thing. It is by no means perfect and at times, you can really see where the band went wrong with the songs that were put on the album. As you look back, you can definitely understand why this album, despite the platinum level sales, is seen as a bit of a failure for the band.
However, maybe after the passage of so much time, fans need to take another look at the album to realize that when it actually hit its mark, there are a number of rock solid songs to enjoy and as a whole, the album isn’t quite as bad as it was originally thought.
NOTES OF INTEREST: Bassist Chuck Wright was not a member of Quiet Riot at the time of Condition Critical but he did provide backing vocals for the album. He’s been in and out of the official lineup a number of times over the years but he has been a part of the latest incarnation of Quiet Riot since 2010.
The 2012 Rock Candy Records remastered release of the album had four live songs included as bonus tracks
For those in the same local area as I am, Quiet Riot is set to play The Vault Music Hall & Pub in New Bedford, MA on July 25th, 2019.