Play It Loud

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This album demonstrates Slade's image evolving, along with their sounds; four rather respectable lads are on the vintage cover photo, reversed to negative for the back side, delivering a more refined hard rock than portrayed by future titles like "Gudbuy T'Jane" and "Mama Weer All Crazee Now." Chas Chandler's production beefs up the bottom with noticeably more bass and piano than on Ballzy by Ambrose Slade. Also there is less cover music here. What sounds like the opening to the Yardbirds version of Graham Gouldman's "For Your Love" emerges as Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil's "The Shape of Things to Come." Things to come is exactly what this album is, from the Ten Years After inspired original "Raven" to the more ominous "See Us Here," which is Noddy Holder sounding as sinister as Ozzie. Slade has gone from redoing classics of the genre to copping riffs and writing their own rock essays. "See Us Here" is subtle Black Sabbath, when the Sabs are on their best behavior. One of the album's most outstanding tracks is "Dapple Rose," a take-off of the Move when Jimmy Miller gave that band their number one British hit, "Blackberry Way." The violin adds to the majesty of the big vocals and pretty guitar, delivering a commercial performance very unlike the stuff that would make them famous. J. Griffin/R.Royer's "Could I" sounds like heavy Chinn/Chapman with a sludgy solid hook that gives birth to an elegant chorus and fade. Very sophisticated, which is where the first album was heading. "Know Who You Are" is a wonderful study here; the band is more proper dipping into that Yardbirds bag again on this original. By the time it was re-released on Slade Alive, only two years later, the song would become part of their glam success. But here, Neville "Noddy" Holder is kept on key by Chas Chandler, and that restraint makes for an intelligent album of rock which draws from all of the aforementioned sources, Ten Years After, Sabbath, "The Move," Yardbirds, as well as the Beatles, Steppenwolf, and Kaleidoscope U.K. Surprisingly, there's no Animals or Hendrix that can be seen on the surface, an original like "Pouk Hill" leaning more toward the rock side of things than the blues embraced by Jimi and Eric Burdon. Nick Innes' "Angelina," however, takes that early pop/blues sound Z.Z.Top gave to their early-'70s single "Francene" and shows what that style sounds like when performed by Englishmen as opposed to Americans. "Dirty Joker" seems almost anti-gay, a paradox for a band that would be so essential to the glam blitz which Bowie, T. Rex, and Mott the Hoople were all part of. There should be more similarities to Mott, but there are not, the final track, "Sweet Box," taking a Beatles riff from "She Said" and mutating it beyond recognition, experimenting with rock & roll in an inspiring way. Although the latter-day Slade were fun, it is the music of Ballzy and Play It Loud which was more serious and which demands repeated listenings. Wonder what would have happened if Slade had dismissed the humor and kept on this more serious course? They certainly had the chops for it, and this is, on the whole, a good record apart from what they became famous for.

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