Review Summary: An overall very good and highly recommendable classic rock record, with equally solid guitar work, now threatened to be forever overshadowed by the artist's personal politics and erratic behavior of the more recent past.
Even though his glory days are now more than 3 decades behind him, and his last somewhat good album (Spirit of the Wild) is now twenty years old, Terrible Ted probably remains one of the most controversial and divisive rock musicians alive today. This controversy however, has little to do with his music, but rather everything with his outspokenly right-wing political views, and his *ahum* not so diplomatic way of voicing them. This makes it downright impossible not to have an opinion on Ted Nugent, and basically makes him off-putting to anybody who does not share his views (basically everybody from far-left revolutionary socialists to moderate conservatives).
This extreme political outspokenness has worked in two ways for Ted Nugent in recent years. In one way, it has granted him continued artistic relevance (albeit mostly within a certain fringe of American society), despite the fact that the quality of his musical output has been declining for years now, reaching up until now undiscovered depths with the release of 2014’s “Shut Up and Jam!”. On the other hand however, his outspoken attitude casts a dark shadow on his (arguably great) early work, and on his legacy as one of rock’s wildest live performers. He has in fact made it almost impossible to separate his music from his personal politics, which makes it a daunting task for any non-far-right music lover to set aside his/her differences and to try to discover some of Ted's old records. For those with the courage to undertake this journey, there is much beauty to be discovered however.
Arguably one of Ted Nugent’s finest albums is his 1975 eponymous debut as a solo artist, featuring his probably most well know song “Stranglehold”. The overall sound of this album will hardly be a surprise to anyone: namely simple, loud and fast-paced balls to the wall 70’s rock & roll. Notable exceptions to this formula are the album-opener “Stranglehold”, a more than 8 minute multi-section song with a long instrumental interlude, and arguably the best track on the album, and “You make me feel right at home”, which is a rather mediocre pseudo-jazz track that takes you out of the wild atmosphere of the album, more than anything else.
The rest of the album however, is right into 70’s classic rock territory. This consistency in genre is matched by a consistency in quality. Although there are standouts (such as Stranglehold, Motor City Madhouse, and Stormtroopin’) that are clearly better than other cuts, all songs, apart from maybe the aforementioned “You make me feel right at home”, are at least worth a listen. Despite being clearly a product from the 70’s hard rock scene, there are some elements that distinguish this album from your run of the mill classic rock album. Most notable is Ted Nugent’s guitar work. While technically not great, he has a great feel for the music, and plays interesting leads with innovative use of feedback and other noises. This is complimented by Ted’s peculiar choice of equipment, namely Fender amplifiers with big 15” speakers, and a Gibson Byrdland guitar (a big hollow body jazz box), both uncommonly found in the realm of hard rock. The amplifiers give the guitars a bright and percussive sound, that is quite a bit different than the standard Marshall crunch typical of 1970’s records, while his hollow body guitar aids with the singing, controlled feedback effects that Ted is famous for.
In short, Ted Nugent’s eponymous solo-debut is an excellent classic rock album, highly recommendable for fans of the genre, as well as for those who have an ear and a passion for good guitar work (although not necessarily for the uber-technical shredding from the likes of Steve Vai and Paul Gilbert). It is a real shame that Ted Nugent’s erratic behavior in more recent years has overshadowed his classic records from the 1970’s, most likely ensuring that he will forever be remembered (or forgotten) as rabid, cranky old man, rather than a the great showman that he was.
Derek St. Holmes: Lead vocals & rhythm guitar
Ted Nugent: Lead and backing vocals & lead guitar
Rob Grange: Bass Guitar
Cliff Davies: Drums
+ Overall solid classic rock record
+ Interesting guitar work and sounds that adds extra icing on an already solid basis
- One song is a bit of a stinker
- Lack of a really good closing track
Motor City Madhouse