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The Rods - The Rods (Reissue)

The Rods
The Rods (Reissue)
by Chris Hicklin at 22 December 2021, 3:22 PM

THE RODS are an early American Metal outfit that sprang from the ashes of ELF, which featured THE RODS' lead guitarist David Feinstein along with his cousin, at the time a little-known singer by the name of Ronnie James Dio. Originally independently released as "Rock Hard,” the album was re-recorded and the tracklist shuffled after the band scored a major contract with Arista Records, who immediately set about trying to launch THE RODS into the UK market with a choice support spot on IRON MAIDEN'S "Number of the Beast" tour.

The album is simple, it is also highly derivative, but more importantly than that, it is rather exciting. The guitars are kept to a single instrument with a classic Marshall sound and very few effects, there are occasional overdubs for a solo and perhaps a little acoustic to add flavour here and there, but for the most part the frills are kept to an absolute minimum. The same can be said for the vocals which mostly consist of a single, strong vocal with no overdubs, and perhaps one or two harmonies on the choruses. Despite this apparent simplicity the album is also surprisingly diverse, drawing on (or knocking off depending on your point of view) a raft of influences from the ever-evolving Hard Rock and Metal scene that was born at the beginning of the 70s. We have classic LED ZEPPELIN style soulful bluesy rock, a little NWOBHM slipping in there, presumably a nod to their intention to conquer the British Isles, there's Glam Rock very reminiscent of the foot stamping boogie of T-REX, and even a smidge of what would go on to become Hair Metal. It's a bit of a “throw it all at the wall” approach, but while they regularly hop genres, they do manage to maintain the sound of a cohesive unit throughout.

One of the first things you may notice as we crank up the opening track “Power Lover” is that the lyrics are juvenile and could have as easily been the product of awkward adolescent sexual fantasy as the musings of a grown man. It’s not important though, THE RODS are not here to pique your intellectual curiosity, they are here to rock you, and that is exactly what this track is going to do with its proto-Speed Metal riffing and infectious chorus. Dave “Rock” Feinstein’s vocals are surprisingly clean, but it works, and he can carry a tune. “Crank It Up” doesn’t stray too far from this formula, a little gravel is introduced into the vocals, but the riff is similar, it’s another raunchy rocker with inconsequential lyrics, only this time attention has been turned to rocking rather than loving.

As you might imagine, “Hungry for Some Love” does not suddenly recast Feinstein as a bard for the 20th Century, the lyrics remain as infantile as ever, even as he does his best Robert Plant impression. The song is a minor curiosity however, as it contains what I have identified, mathematically, as being the quietest guitar solo of all time. Almost entirely camouflaged by a minute long blast of power chords, and in the left speaker only, Feinstein has tucked away a ripsnorter of a guitar solo. The mix is so bizarre one must wonder if this was simply a mistake in the production of the track, although it is hard to see how it could have been missed.

The only remarkable thing to say about the boogie-ish “Music Man” is that it went on to form the template for every song POISON were ever to write, it does have another nifty solo which just about saves it from being completely forgettable. The guitars wind down a little on “Woman” replacing the more frantic soloing Feinstein has showed on other tracks with a more bluesy approach, although he demonstrates his prowess with tapping, which at the time had just been thrust into the public consciousness by the gymnastic abilities of Eddie Van Halen. This sets us up for what is probably the most essential cut on the album, and it isn’t even their own song. “Nothing Going on in the City” was a record company mandated addition originally performed by a female-fronted Dutch rock outfit named WHITE HONEY, the band takes the track and well and truly puts their stamp on it, Feinstein’s febrile vocals are never stronger, and the guitar solo is a masterclass of shredding.

Ace In the Hole” is the second cover on the album, written by one time JOURNEY singer Robert Fleischman, it sits in stark contrast to the style of the rest of the album. Musically the song takes strong cues from the Fantasy Metal style of Feinstein’s ELF bandmate Dio, in keeping with this the production is also wildly different to the rest of the album. Ultimately the lyrics are another let down as they show nothing of the ambitious Sword and Sorcery story telling you might expect from this genre, instead settling for a mundane tale of a risky card game. And no, it isn’t a metaphor.

Rock Hard” rocks hard. Especially on the chorus where we a repeatedly reminded to rock hard. This was the original name of the album which was independently released before Arista picked them up and had them re-record it, so one can assume from this that the bands raison d’etre has always been simply to rock hard. The album wraps up with “Roll with The Night” which is another foot stomping boogie penned with seemingly no other motive than to remind us that the band is a lean, mean rocking machine, going as far as to even single out each musician and comment on their personal musical and sexual prowess. It’s probably a fair assessment though.

Part of the albums sonic success is rooted in the production work that was handled by drummer Carl Canedy pulling double duties. Perhaps the name is familiar? It should be, after THE RODS started to run out of steam Canedy went on to produce the early Thrash Metal classics “A Fistful of Metal” and “Spreading the Disease” for ANTHRAX, as well as albums for OVERKILL and THRASHER. In keeping with his style across these albums, the production is straightforward with no time for frippery, and has lots of separation between the instruments. Every note can be heard, and nothing is ever buried in the mix (except the solo), this lends the whole album a sense of urgency and excitement. The relentlessly puerile lyrical content can get a little grating and the riffs can sail suspiciously close to those of their peers at times, but energy and precision of the performances help the listener put this to one side and concentrate on the sheer power of the delivery.

Songwriting: 6
Musicianship: 8
Memorability: 6
Production: 7

3 Star Rating

1. Power Lover
2. Crank It Up
3. Hungry for Some Love
4. Music Man
5. Woman
6. Nothing Going on in the City (WHITE HONEY cover)
7. Get Ready to Rock 'n' Roll
8. Ace in the Hole (ROBERT FLEISCHMAN cover)
9. Rock Hard
10. Roll with the Night
David "Rock" Feinstein - Guitars, Lead Vocals
Carl Canedy - Drums, Backing Vocals
Garry Bordonaro - Bass, Backing Vocals
Record Label: High Roller Records


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Edited 03 December 2022

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