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New York's Riot is unfortunate representative of a "lost generation" of American hard rock bands. Formed in the late '70s, when widespread record industry recession conspired with disco's airwave domination and headline-grabbing (but little-album-selling) punk rock to drive even some of the decade's most successful heavyweight dinosaurs (Black Sabbath, Kiss, etc.) to the brink of extinction, Riot saw precious few of their contemporaries (most notably Van Halen) actually make it through to the big time. Not so lucky as the California quartet, Riot had to seek out a foreign label to take a chance on their stellar eponymous debut in 1977, and then financed a second, Narita, on their own dime before managing to lure a still rather hesitant Capitol Records to pick it up. Finally released in late 1979, Narita was named after the Japanese airport controversially built on sacred ground (hence its bizarre album cover) and contained slick but powerful hard rock -- nowhere near as combustible as VH's debut, but hardly squeaky-clean like Boston's, either. In fact, the record's more considered tracks, such as "Waiting for the Taking" and "Kick Down the Wall," were generally the ones that left something wanting, while most of its best songs -- "49er," "Hot for Love," "Road Racin'" -- stood upon a knife's edge between Guy Esperanza's chrome-plated, echo-enhanced vocals and Mark Reale's razor-sharp riffs and stinging leads. (The title track simply served up an instrumental tour de force for the latter.) Taken as a whole, all ten songs made for an entertaining but not exactly overpowering experience, and though the U.K. press' warm embrace would get Riot as far as playing the following year's inaugural Donington Monsters of Rock Festival, they would need another trip into the studio to concoct their definitive album, 1981's Fire Down Under. As for Narita, it sold just poorly enough upon release to eventually be deleted from Capitol's catalogs, yet just well enough to attain fond cult status among hard rock collectors, whose anticipation had grown to fever pitch by the time it was finally reissued by Rock Candy Records in 2005.

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