Review Summary: Black Sheep have the talent, but they sadly lack the songwriting skills.1 of 2 thought this review was well written
In the music world, like pretty much anywhere else, there is only room for a few to succeed. This explains why, in any given tendency, only the pioneering leaders and a few choice followers manage to make it big, with the heap of hopeful (hopeless?) bandwagon-jumping wannabes usually falling by the wayside. And while many a good band, with genuine songwriting skills and an honest take on influence-emulating, was lost this way, the truth remains: ninety-nine percent of this type of groups were not that good to begin with, and would never have amounted to more than the obscurity of a “cult” following.
Case in point: Black Sheep. One of the myriad glam bands to pop up in the early eighties to try and emulate the success of a couple few, their main claim to fame was having a colored frontman – certainly not a first, but not that usual in the white-bread rock’n’roll world – and serving as the breeding ground for many a future star. The list is impressive: Slash, Paul Gilbert and Randy Castillo all served their term in this band at one point or another, and their one and only full-length has Castillo on drums and Gilbert on guitar, siding along with Yngwie Malmsteen’s replacement in Steeler, Kurt James. With such a star-studded cast, it seemed hard to fail…and yet, Black Sheep did.
You see, there’s a reason
why nobody remembers this band anymore, and it’s the same reason why nobody remembers most of these kinds of bands: they’re just not that good. While Basse’s bunch is certainly not lacking the talent, Trouble In The Streets
fails songwriting-wise, with a couple of genuinely good tracks getting lost among the piles of fillerish afterthought and murky production work. The band does know how to keep their sound varied – songs on here go from the glam assault of Eyes On Love
to the full-on heavy metal sound of the title track or Love Is Not Enough
– but the overall product misses that extra bit of effort which sometimes makes all the difference.
To be fair, this album does contain a couple of really good songs. The title track is fantastic, and Eyes Of Love
is one of those glam anthems that can make a cheeseball heart melt. Stick! To My Guns
may have a silly title, but it is a top-class stomper, with a lead singer you’d swear was Glenn Hughes. Love Warrior
and Stop Spinnin’ Your Wheels
are harmless fluff with fun choruses, and power-ballad The Day Of The Kids
, while by no means a stellar representative of the genre, at least helps divide the waters and heralds the turning point of this album.
Because you see, before Day Of The Kids
, there was absolutely nothing going for this album. The first four tracks are various degrees of average, and while there is an occasional promising detail (the Arab-lite solo in Love Is Not Enough
), this first section is mostly made up of painfully standard glam songs. Good thing, then, that the slightly trite ballad turns the tide and ushers in a strong second half, which makes up for the silliness of Love Warrior
with a bunch of strong, honest and varied tracks.
However, even this strong finale can’t help save the album. Interest throughout is lukewarm at best, and only the whopping title track, the magnificent Eyes On Love
and Stick! To My Guns
really raise the bar in terms of attention span. In the end, it is easy to see why Black Sheep never made it very far: despite having the talent, they lacked both the production and that extra “something” which could have made them big(ger). As was, the band faded into obscurity after this album, with all of its members (apart from, strangely, the frontman) going on to pursue much more worthy careers. Their only other sign of life would be a typically pointless reunion tour in the late nineties, which spawned their only other offspring: a 4-track EP of re-recorded tracks from this album. As for Trouble
itself, it remains a cult item, one of those oddities glam fans will track down purely on a rarity basis. For those fans, a word of warning: this one may look good in your vinyl collection, but don’t expect to spin it very often.
Stick! To My Guns
Eyes On Love
Trouble In The Streets