Review Summary: A highly impressive debut for a classical & theater trained vocalist who'd only been doing rock music for a short time.
Pat Benatar's debut album was a fierce statement of purpose for an artist who had singing rock music for a short time. As a young girl, she trained for a career in opera and later performed in theater productions in NYC. While these experiences might seem dissimilar, Pat was able to distill these influences into a vocal style that was stunning for a rock audience to behold. Right from this auspicious start, many fans regarded her vocal prowess as virtuoso level within this genre of music.
I can vividly remember the very day I first saw Pat perform. She appeared on Don Kirshner's Rock Concert in 1979 and was ripping through a cover of The Sweet's "No You Don't". Pat sang this song with swaggering confidence, aggression AND precision. She wielded her voice like a well sharpened saber. That track is among one of my favorite moments on this album, as well as the perennial favorite "Heartbreaker" which was truly the song that helped Benatar kick down the door for herself and many other female hard rockers to follow. Neil's propulsive chugging riffs and the angry betrayal expressed by these lyrics vaguely echoed Heart's 1977 track "Barracuda", but is now a classic in its own right.
While I know Pat would bristle at her gender being singled out, even she cannot deny that her success inspired many other women to follow in her footsteps. There were a few notable women performing hard rock at the time (most notably Heart), but few were of Benatar's caliber.
IN THE HEAT OF THE NIGHT showcases Pat's ability as an interpreter, given that she and her band wrote only three of the albums 10 songs. Of those songs, guitarist (and Pat's future husband) Neil Giraldo wrote the single "We Live For Love". Giraldo's flashy, but tasteful guitar playing is perfectly complementary to the material and Pat's vocal acrobatics.
Many songs were handpicked or written by producer Mike Chapman including the slow & smoky title track (another highlight), "No You Don't" and "If You Think You Know How To Love Me", which was unsuccessful as a first single. Although I've read that Chapman actually wasn't present for most of these proceedings, this record does possess that same hard pop/rock sensibility that's present in his work with The Sweet.
Other covers include raucous reworking of John Cougar's own hit single "I Need A Lover", Alan Parsons' "Don't Let It Show" and Nick Gilder's "Rated X". While there are a few lesser moments, such as the theatrical sounding "My Clone Sleeps Alone", this is a very tasty collection of catchy hard pop/rock. This album would also provide a successful template for Pat's next two albums, which also combined songs from outside songwriters with a few band penned numbers.
Highlights: "Heartbreaker", "In The Heat Of The Night", "We Live For Love" and "No You Don't".