Jaguar

Power Games: The Anthology

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History has shown that Bristol, England's Jaguar only deserved consideration within the second (or maybe third) tier of New Wave of British Heavy Metal bands: capable followers of trailblazing groups like Iron Maiden, Diamond Head, and Saxon, whose efforts were commercial flops but surely influential to a small number of future rock stars. Indeed, at least early on the band was pure, spitting adrenalin, as exemplified by speedy proto-thrashers like the brilliantly raw, pre-Neat single "Back Street Woman," and equally outrageous follow-ups "Axe Crazy" and "War Machine." And although the unnecessary polish had already begun to set in, the band's debut album proper, 1982's Power Games, was by all rights quite a scorcher. With standout cuts such as "Dutch Connection" and "Ain't No Fantasy" positively bulging at the seams with crazed excitement, it's deservedly included in its entirety on this anthology. Especially since Jaguar's 1984 sophomore album, This Time proved such an unmitigated disaster. Making the mistake of many heavy metal acts under the sway of well-intentioned but ultimately clueless managers and record companies, Jaguar went for the pop angle. The band even hired a keyboard player to help slather the release in cream-puffiness, resulting in a positively tame hard rock sound verging on AOR. It's therefore not surprising to find that this collection replaces many of that album's studio originals with livelier, noticeably tougher versions culled from BBC Sessions of the time. For what it's worth, singles like "Last Flight" and "A Taste of Freedom" were quite competent -- even catchy -- stabs at commercial rock ready for mass consumption, if only Neat Records had been remotely prepared to support a radio-charting band. They weren't, and a disgraced Jaguar soon broke up following numerous personnel changes. Ironically, that's where this anthology gets interesting (not great, mind you, interesting), by including all of the band's never-expected-to-happen 2000 comeback album Wake Me. Something of a belated apology to the band's original metal fans, standout numbers such as "Junk" and "Scrap Metal" go some way toward redeeming the band's wayward ways. But this falls well short of brilliant results, merely qualifying as well-founded intentions. Which pretty much sums it up about Jaguar's career: a worthy, if unessential portion of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal's underbelly.

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