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"First Blood... Last Cuts" is a compilation album by American heavy metal band, W.A.S.P. It was released in 1993 on Capitol Records and features Blackie Lawless (vocals/guitar/bass), Chris Holmes (guitar), Randy Piper (guitar), Bob Kulick (guitar), Johnny Rod (bass), Steve Riley (drums), Tony Richards (drums), Frankie Banali (drums), and Stet Howland (drums).
So here it is, at long last, a W.A.S.P. greatest hits album. Blackie Lawless has come a long way since releasing the band's self-titled debut album in 1984, and W.A.S.P. has always been one of my favourite bands. Over the years the band has evolved from shock rock to glam metal to straight edged heavy metal but one thing has remained constant, and that's W.A.S.P.'s ability to make music. Without wanting to waffle on, let's get on with the review!
"Animal (Fuck Like a Beast)" is a song that made the PMRC's (Parents Music Resource Center) "Filthy Fifteen", along with the likes of songs by Prince, Def Leppard, Twisted Sister and AC/DC, amongst others. Somewhere around the 1990s, Blackie Lawless chose to never play the song live again - a trend which continues to this day. Personally, I think it's a great song. Yes it's degrading to women and yes it's unashamedly about sex and violence, but you can never judge a book by its cover, or, in this case, a song. This is a track that has a great guitar riff and some wonderful vocal harmony, even if people choose to look on the negative side of it. I don't, and that's exactly why I can enjoy it for what it is - a rock and roll song.
"L.O.V.E. Machine" is one of my favourite W.A.S.P. songs and it's no surprise that it's ended up on a greatest hits album. I really like hearing this live and have done so on a number of occasions when I've seen the band play. It's another classic W.A.S.P. song that's about sex, in particular the narrator is talking about his girl here. He doesn't see her as a person, just a sex object. Again, though, I advise you to look past the words and listen to the music. I like the main guitar riff on this song but it's the simplicity that I enjoy the most. It flows effortlessly through its time changes, and Blackie's vocals are strong and powerful. This has all the ingredients for a great heavy metal song.
"I Wanna be Somebody" is a great song with an upbeat tempo to match. The energy on this track is really good with the narrator telling the world that he's ready to make it big and he doesn't want a dead-end day job and doesn't want to beg to force his way through life. Instead, he's saying he has what it takes to get to the top. The guitar solo is typical Chris Holmes. It's mean, angry and dirty. A little like the man himself! The ending of the song repeats the chorus and when it's played live, it usually involves Blackie having the audience sing along.
Without going into too much detail, I think we it can be safely assumed that we all know the subject matter for "On Your Knees", so I'll jump straight in to reviewing the song. When I first got into the band in the mid 80s, I got hold of a VHS of a live concert of theirs from the Lyceum in London, England. It was raw and energetic and featured semi-naked women in cages to give the impression that W.A.S.P.'s persona was that of sexual predators, with We Are Sexual Perverts amongst others being linked to the band's acronym. On that video, "On Your Knees" was performed and I immediately connected with it. Not for its content, but for what W.A.S.P. was trying to achieve that night. The studio version still captures enough magic to make it a worthwhile listen, but I always long to hear it live.
"Blind in Texas" is my all-time favourite W.A.S.P. song which is about a true story in that the band was doing a gig in the Lone Star State and Blackie didn't like the heat or the people, so he decided to write a song about his experiences, although he put a slight twist on things when he talks about drinking moonshine and whiskey. The song is a true-edged rock and roll number that you wouldn't find out of place in any rock bar where you would find people dancing on tables to it. This is W.A.S.P. at their very best, and Chris Holmes' guitar sings to perfection during the solo.
"Wild Child" is a song on which Blackie's vocals are in fine form and the harmony is magnificent, with the soft guitars helping the verses along. Back to Lawless, though, who sings the song almost as if his life depends on nailing it - and nail it, he most certainly does. If you've heard W.A.S.P. before you'll probably agree that Blackie isn't a polished metal vocalist such as Iron Maiden's Bruce Dickinson, for example, but what he brings to the table is a vocal attitude that no voice coach can bring out in anyone, and it's that guts or glory determination which makes this song what it is.
"I Don't Need No Doctor" is a cover version of a song originally recorded by Ray Charles in 1966 and was written by Nick Ashford, Valerie Simpson & Jo Armstead. W.A.S.P.'s version is obviously much heavier than the rhythm & blues style Charles was known for and I love the harmony in the chorus here with the backing vocals, and I think the band makes this record their own in many ways. It's definitely a crowd favourite live and I've heard it every time I've seen W.A.S.P. play. It's a song where the narrator tells the tale of missing his woman and he's not medically sick but just needs her.
"The Real Me" is a cover song of The Who's 1973 song, which was on the legendary "Quadrophrenia" album. It's a song about a man who has multiple personalities and how nobody understands him or can see the real man inside, and he's searching for answers which never come. Not being a big fan of The Who, I prefer this version. Johnny Rod's bass sounds good and Blackie is putting every effort into singing.
"The Headless Children" is an excellent song which builds up into something wonderful from something just as equal. It's about how we're all children of the earth and how we're looking to something higher to save us from what we've become and what we've done to the planet. It has a great main riff and some really good lyrics highlight the problems of the world today. Blackie Lawless is never afraid to speak out, and does so with venom on this song.
"Mean Man" is one of my favourite W.A.S.P. songs. It's one of those instantly recognisable tracks which you can't help but sing along to. The song is apparently about guitarist Chris Holmes and his wild child lifestyle. Holmes appeared on the 1989 documentary film, "The Decline of Western Civilization Part II: The Metal Years", in a swimming pool on a floating raft and in the space of 30 seconds drinks a full bottle of vodka. It made for sober viewing and made me realise that the life of a rock star isn't all fun and games.
"Forever Free" is one of the best highlights on the album. It's a slow, almost ballad-feeling song, about a man whose loved one is dying and she's telling him to keep strong, knowing it's her time. It's sung with so much passion that I almost think it's got something to do with Blackie Lawless' past. It's an emotional ride which doesn't fail to touch you as you listen to it.
"Chainsaw Charlie (Murders in the New Morgue)" carries on the story of Jonathan from "The Crimson Idol" album. Jonathan is in Los Angeles and he meets a man named Charlie. It is about how record executives throw money at young musicians and work them to the bone for their own profit. It's one of the catchier songs on the album with some great guitar work and lyrics. It is here where Jonathan starts to get a taste of the stardom he once craved while looking in the mirror.
"The Idol" starts out with a scene in Jonathan's house, where he's having another monumental party. He's doing more and more drugs and drinking heavily, and this is where his manager tries to talk some sense into him. This is also where Jonathan reaches out and calls his mother for the first time since running away, because he feels down and out, and even with all the money and fame he has, he's lonely. Musically, it's an incredible song full of meaning and emotion, sung brilliantly by Blackie, and is one of the best W.A.S.P. songs, ever. The line of "Where is the love to shelter me, only love, love set me free" sets the goosebumps going when you hear it.
"Sunset and Babylon" is one of two new tracks exclusive to this release. It's a tribute to Hollywood and the many things about the tinsel town of California, like the Sunset Strip and the Rainbow Bar & Grill. The song is done in the typical style of W.A.S.P. but the drums sound a little tainted somehow, and that's what brings it down. The spoken word verse just doesn't work either, and I've never been a fan of putting a new release on a greatest hits album. It's a greatest hits album for a reason and the songs that are chosen to be part of it are part of history.
With "Hold on to My Heart" we find Jonathan completely broken emotionally, and would do anything to have his mother around to take away the pain. It's another brilliant vocal performance from Blackie Lawless against the backdrop of softly played guitars, and the slow solo near the end of the song is incredible. Jonathan realises that the only thing in life he really wanted was the love of his parents, and he'd trade the fame and fortune just to have that.
"Rock and Roll to Death" is the final song on the album and is the second previously unreleased track. This number did eventually end up on the band's next album, "Still Not Black Enough". I'm not sure what Blackie Lawless was thinking here because the opening riff and first few bars sound exactly like "Johnny B. Goode" and the song is set to that rock and roll style. I understand the latter but the former completely confuses me. If you're going to do something new for a greatest hits album, at least be original.
In summary, W.A.S.P. is not a perfect band, but what band is? They're a fun rock and roll outfit that liked to get drunk and get busy and didn't mind telling everyone about it. On this compilation of their best songs most are worthy, but the two exclusive tracks could well have done with being left out and replaced. Surely "Scream Until You Like It" deserved a place, and I'm hugely surprised that "Inside the Electric Circus" is not present. I'd give it a 9/10 if it wasn't for those factors. So if you're just getting into W.A.S.P. or are wondering what all the fuss was about, this is the album to buy.
1. Animal (Fuck Like a Beast)
2. L.O.V.E. Machine
3. I Wanna be Somebody
4. On Your Knees
5. Blind in Texas
6. Wild Child
7. I Don't Need No Doctor
8. The Real Me
9. The Headless Children
10. Mean Man
11. Forever Free
12. Chainsaw Charlie (Murders in the Rue Morgue)
13. The Idol
14. Sunset and Babylon
15. Hold on to My Heart
16. Rock and Roll to Death
My rating: 8/10