Tesla: The Best of Tesla: The Millennium Collection

Scott Hudson


The Best of Tesla: the Millennium Collection

Label: Geffen
US Release Date: 2001-06-12

Had Tesla risen to fame ten years earlier they would've have been heralded as a great, gritty rock and roll band taking their place alongside the likes of Aerosmith and Bad Company. But unfortunately, their mid-'80s rise forever lumps the Sacramento quintet amongst a myriad of forgettable hair bands like Cinderella, Poison, Faster Pussycat and Whitesnake, even though the philosophy of spandex, make-up, stage gimmicks and Aqua Net hair spray was never one that Tesla espoused. With the mindset of most classic rock bands of the '70s, Tesla simply put on their blue jeans, walked on stage and let their music do the talking.

Before Tesla was Tesla, Jeff Keith (vocals), Frankie Hannon (guitar), Tommy Skeoch (guitar), Brian Wheat (bass) and Troy Luccketta (drums) were known simply as City Kidd. It wasn't until the band's 1986 debut album was finished that a change of name was suggested. The name was inspired by the achievements of turn-of-the-century Serbian electrical engineer/inventor/scientist Nikola Tesla, the father of groundbreaking work in the manipulation alternating electrical currents, as well as inventions like the a/c motor, remote control and radio. Not only would the band borrow the name but they would also champion the man along the way. Three of the album titles of Tesla's first four records would speak directly to Nikola himself.

The band's debut, Mechanical Resonance (1986) was named for the inventor's theory that sound waves could split the earth. But what eventually split the airwaves was the band's first hit "Modern Day Cowboy", an MTV staple that showcased their gritty, blues-based brand of heavy rock. The success of the album coupled with their dynamic live performance resulted in high-profile touring stints with David Lee Roth, Def Leppard and Alice Cooper.

The title of Tesla's sophomore outing The Great Radio Controversy (1989) refers to the Supreme Court ruling that posthumously reinstated Nikola Tesla as the inventor of the radio, not Marconi. This strong effort featured Tesla classics like "Heaven's Trail (No Way Out)", "The Way it Is", "Hang Tough" and the fan favorite "Love Song", with its beautifully melodic, acoustic prelude courtesy of Frankie Hannon. The album eclipsed the success of its predecessor by eventually attaining double platinum status.

Five Man Acoustical Jam (1990), Tesla's third album, happened quite by accident. Acoustic performances of their music for the syndicated radio program Rockline and the Bay Area Music Awards were so successful that the band began a series of all-acoustic shows that included, in addition to their own music, classic cover tunes as well. A taping of a Philadelphia concert yielded Five Man Acoustical Jam and gave Tesla their highest charting single ever in an acoustic treatment of the Five Man Electrical Band's "Signs" which went to #8 on the Billboard Hot 100.

Psychotic Supper (1991) is yet another reference to Nikola Tesla, alluding to the compulsive cleaning of his dishes and silverware before he ate. The album continued the trend of platinum success featuring strong numbers like "Edison's Medicine", "What You Give", "Call it What You Want" and "Song and Emotion", a somber, yet powerful composition dedicated to the late Def Leppard guitarist Steve Clark.

In 1993, the band successfully petitioned the Smithsonian Institute to recognize the achievements and contributions of Nikola Tesla. But by the release of Bust a Nut (1994) it was obvious that things were changing. Although the album wasn't as strong as previous efforts, it still included some fine material like "Try So Hard" and Mama's Fool", but the following year internal tension within the band came to a head and Tesla disbanded. Much to the delight of their fans, Tesla reunited in October, 2000 and has since made plans to tour which will result in a new live album, as well plans to record a new studio record as well.

Like fellow rockers Guns 'n Roses, Tesla served as a mid-'80s beacon of hope for fans of no frills, riff-based '70s rock. Their raw, gritty sound was a like breath of fresh air for those who had spent most of the decade of the '80s subjected to a largely punk, glam and lame power ballad rock landscape. All of the aforementioned songs are included in The Millenium Collection which does indeed present the very best of Tesla.





Alright Alright's "Don't Worry" Is an Ode for Unity in Troubling Times (premiere)

Alright Alright's "Don't Worry" is a gentle, prayerful tune that depicts the heart of their upcoming album, Crucible.


Tim Bowness of No-Man Discusses Thematic Ambition Amongst Social Division

With the release of his seventh solo album, Late Night Laments, Tim Bowness explores global tensions and considers how musicians can best foster mutual understanding in times of social unrest.


Angel Olsen Creates a 'Whole New Mess'

No one would call Angel Olsen's Whole New Mess a pretty album. It's much too stark. But there's something riveting about the way Olsen coos to herself that's soft and comforting.


Masma Dream World Go Global and Trippy on "Sundown Forest" (premiere)

Dancer, healer, musician Devi Mambouka shares the trippy "Sundown Forest", which takes listeners deep into the subconscious and onto a healing path.


'What a Fantastic Death Abyss': David Bowie's 'Outside' at 25

David Bowie's Outside signaled the end of him as a slick pop star and his reintroduction as a ragged-edged arty agitator.


Dream Folk's Wolf & Moon Awaken the Senses with "Eyes Closed" (premiere)

Berlin's Wolf & Moon are an indie folk duo with a dream pop streak. "Eyes Closed" highlights this aspect as the act create a deep sense of atmosphere and mood with the most minimal of tools.


Ranking the Seasons of 'The Wire'

Years after its conclusion, The Wire continues to top best-of-TV lists. With each season's unique story arc, each viewer is likely to have favorites.


Paul Reni's Silent Film 'The Man Who Laughs' Is Serious Cinema

There's so much tragedy present, so many skullduggeries afoot, and so many cruel and vindictive characters in attendance that a sad and heartbreaking ending seems to be an obvious given in Paul Reni's silent film, The Man Who Laughs.


The Grahams Tell Their Daughter "Don't Give Your Heart Away" (premiere)

The Grahams' sweet-sounding "Don't Give Your Heart Away" is rooted in struggle, inspired by the couples' complicated journey leading up to their daughter's birth.


Gloom Balloon Deliver an Uplifting Video for "All My Feelings For You" (premiere)

Gloom Balloon's Patrick Tape Fleming considers what making a music video during a pandemic might involve because, well, he made one. Could Fellini come up with this plot twist?


What 'O Brother, Where Art Thou?' Gets Right (and Wrong) About America

Telling the tale of the cyclops through the lens of high and low culture, in O'Brother, Where Art Thou? the Coens hammer home a fatalistic criticism about the ways that commerce, violence, and cosmetic Christianity prevail in American society .


Brian Cullman Gets Bluesy with "Someday Miss You" (premiere)

Brian Cullman's "Someday Miss You" taps into American roots music, carries it across the Atlantic and back for a sound that is both of the past and present.


IDLES Have Some Words for Fans and Critics on 'Ultra Mono'

On their new album, Ultra Mono, IDLES tackle both the troubling world around them and the dissenters that want to bring them down.


Napalm Death Return With Their Most Vital Album in Decades

Grindcore institution Napalm Death finally reconcile their experimental side with their ultra-harsh roots on Throes of Joy in the Jaws of Defeatism.


NYFF: 'Notturno' Looks Passively at the Chaos in the Middle East

Gianfranco Rosi's expansive documentary, Notturno, is far too remote for its burningly immediate subject matter.


The Avett Brothers Go Back-to-Basics with 'The Third Gleam'

For their latest EP, The Third Gleam, the Avett Brothers leave everything behind but their songs and a couple of acoustic guitars, a bass, and a banjo.


PM Picks Playlist 1: Rett Madison, Folk Devils + More

The first PopMatters Picks Playlist column features searing Americana from Rett Madison, synthpop from Everything and Everybody, the stunning electropop of Jodie Nicholson, the return of post-punk's Folk Devils, and the glammy pop of Baby FuzZ.


David Lazar's 'Celeste Holm  Syndrome' Appreciates Hollywood's Unsung Character Actors

David Lazar's Celeste Holm Syndrome documents how character actor work is about scene-defining, not scene-stealing.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.