The year started with such promise for Mötley Crüe fans; Nikki, Tommy, Vince and Mick had buried the proverbial hatchets and gotten back together, appearing everywhere to promote the long anticipated new album of ass-kicking material and whirlwind support tour. The boys are back in town and ready to reclaim their places as rock’s most incorrigible noise makers, even getting banned from NBC for being profane. Controversy at this early stage? What else could the faithful ask for? Not much, except perhaps something other than a twin CD set of material that they already own in triplicate if not quadruplicate…
Let’s not infer that the new album is bad, it isn’t, as it accurately sums up the Crüe’s career in 37 tracks. It looks good and sounds better, but it only offers three new songs, one of which is a cover. Doing a cursory check of the Crue’s catalogue, there are five albums that can be classified as compilations: Decade of Decadence, Greatest Hits, The Millennium Collection and Music to Crash Your Car To, Vols. I and II. Six including the 2003 remastered version of 1998’s Greatest Hits. Thus the question must be asked, why do we need an additional recording that culls from the band’s storied history, particularly if we already have one or more of the above? Technically we don’t, unless we want to feel a bit disappointed and somewhat sCrue’d by shelling out good money for Red, White & Crue. C’mon fellas, you went into the studio to record, couldn’t you have given us a bit more?
Before addressing the questionable marketing of such a recording, it is important to recognize what the CD set offers of value. Disc One highlights the band’s inaugural decade of decadence, running the gambit from Too Fast For Love to Dr. Feelgood, as it reminds everyone of the Crüe’s original appeal. They were glammed out but their sound was just plain mean unlike most of their ‘80s hair metal contemporaries. These weren’t the preening poseurs of Warrant and Poison, but the dudes who’d rock the house then start brawling with the cops out in the alley. While much of the music is anchored by Tommy Lee’s bludgeoning drums, the band’s secret weapon was/is Mick Mars. Leaving the over-the-top theatrics to his band mates, Mars built his Crue resume on dense riffing, and while universally underappreciated as a guitarist, he generates a monstrous sound from which his three compatriots propel themselves. The opening blasts of “Live Wire” and “Looks That Kill” are reminiscent of a full-auto assault rifle strafing a target, and among the Crue’s finest early moments. As the twenty tracks chronicle the group’s growth spurt from 1982 through 1989, it’s interesting to listen to Neil’s maturation as a vocalist. Spanning the range from high pitched shriek (“Toast of the Town” and “Black Widow”) to classic metal howl (“Kickstart My Heart” and “Dr. Feelgood”) Neil’s voice is perfectly suited for Crue duties, sometimes abrasive but always dripping with leather clad attitude and sneer. Disc One is truly a greatest hits retrospective of a band living on the proverbial razor’s edge, personally and professionally.
Disc Two offers a distinctly different vantage point, covering the mixed offerings from the Crüe’s tumultuous ‘90s incarnations. Featured prominently are four tracks from the John Corabi era, two of which are not nearly as dreadful as initially thought when released in 1994. In actuality, “Hooligan’s Holiday” is suitably heavy, while “Misunderstood” bears a discernable Beatles influence, making for a strangely appealing diversion from the Crue’s signature sound. The disc’s strongest material however comes with Neil back at the helm, be it the 1991 remix of “Home Sweet Home” or New Tattoo’s “Hell on High Heels”. What Crüe-bees really want though is the new shit, which closes out the disc in the final three slots. “If I Die Tomorrow” finds the band in amazingly fine form; ponderous and gloomy, the song is Crue at its brooding best, with Neil’s voice sounding as strong as it has in years. Bettering this is “Sick Love Song” which returns to the proven Mick Mars formula of fret board brutality. To think that the band could revisit its prime so readily is a testament to how good Crüe can be when they get on the same page and start wailing. The disc closer is a cranked up rendition of the Rolling Stones’ “Street Fighting Man”, again featuring Mars’ acidic guitar wizardry. As good as theses tracks are, it is the promise they represent which leads to the predominant criticism of Red, White & Crue: If the band can come together and churn out new material of this quality, then why not give the masses an entire album to enjoy?
Taking into account all that Red, White & Crüe is and is not, consumers are faced with the decision: To buy or not to buy. As there’s a great deal of classic material to revel in, the dual CDs are a tremendous distillation of the Crue’s past, present and future. Yet baiting the product with a paltry three new tracks is not exactly sporting for a fan base that has rabidly supported their motley heroes into the band’s third decade of decadence.
A good set of discs, but c’mon guys, you could have done better for us.
// Notes from the Road
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