Released on July 6, 1999 (Portrait Records)
As much I as love the internet, there is something to be said about the days when television viewers had to tape a show on their VHS recorders, or actually watch the show live on air, in order to see music acts. I still have several boxes of videotapes that I recorded shows in order to see my favorite musicians on TV appearances.
An example of this involves the 1999 self-titled Ratt release. Being a wrestling fan, I taped WCW at my parents’ house and then the WWE at my college apartment, so I had both shows to watch throughout the week over and over, when I came across a tape with an episode of The Happy Hour. This show was on after WWE‘s RAW Is War on the USA Network. It was a campy game show, where celebrities would sing karaoke (which the band would stop playing the music and the contestants had to continue singing the lyrics), among other games, hosted by the Zappa brothers. The show had female dancers called “Bombshells” (a throwback to the Go-Go dancers or the dancers on the US show Solid Gold), along with the house band led by Leland Sklar. Although the show did not last more than a season, this episode I taped had Stephen Pearcy as a contestant, along with Ratt playing two numbers (“Round And Round” and the single “Over The Edge” off this self-titled album). It was Ratt‘s appearance on this show that made me seek out this 1999 release.
Keep in mind I was not a major Ratt fan at this time. Sure I remember the hits of the band, but it wasn’t until college that I actually got my first cassette of the band, which was the Ratt & Roll 81-91 greatest hits release years later after it came out. My buddy at college would blare the “Ratt & Roll” cassette in his car every Friday after history class, where we would drive off campus to visit a record store outside Kent, Ohio. When I finally got the self-titled album, I was so excited to run back to my college apartment to hear this new release from the band after several years’ layoff, including a new bass player in Robbie Crane.
The opening track “Over The Edge” was the song that I already heard, being that the band started playing a few minutes of the song while the credits rolled at the end of Happy Hour. The song had a slow groove to it, while not being grunge, but still had a darkness to it. The guitar solo on the song made me remember the days of guitarist Warren DeMartini being featured in the many guitar magazines my best friend at the time would get every month. Within hearing the first song, I had the feeling that I was in for a treat with some great musicianship from the band. I still enjoy this opener today.
Track two has become one of my favorite songs in the whole Ratt catalog. “Live For Today” has a great acoustic start to it, that was similar to some of the classic Ratt songs, such as “Back For More.” The positive lyrics of moving on in life, without waiting until tomorrow, also made me love the song. Jack Russell of Great White, along with Jack Blades of Night Ranger have co-writing credits on the song (Russell has a few on this album). Blotzer described the song as being “strong” in his book. I agree. Fans not familiar with this song need to take a listen to it. It rocks.
“Gave Up Givin’ Up” is a song that has a slow blues style to the song, which was also a signature to the band in their heyday. Ratt added the blues with the hard rock style that separated them from some of the other bands in the 1980s, much like Cinderella. The only thing is (and will be a complaint throughout the rest of the album) the lyrics on some of these songs hurt the tracks for me. Although the musicianship is just as good as their other work, some of the songs have the same clichéd and outdated (at times) lyrics that may be why the album did not resonate with many at the time of the release. This is one of the songs that does that for me.
For those that have followed my reviews on here will know, when re-visiting these albums today, I like to find a hidden gem that I may not have liked or listened to when the release came out. “We Don’t Belong” is the song I found on this album that fits the mold. The song starts off with an acoustic ballad beginning, and has a pop sound throughout. To me, this is not a typical Ratt song, which may be compared to something The Rolling Stones would record. If this song was placed a track ahead, the album would have four great songs in a row.
Track five, “Breakout,” is a nice rocking song coming out of the slower ballad. This is a nice feel good song, which would be a good choice for just cranking while driving down the road during a summer day. DeMartini’s solo is just as great here as his other work. “Tug of War” starts off slow, but then kicks in once the chorus appears. The appeal of the song is the different changes during the song. The backing vocals from the band helps the chorus out as well. Drummer Bobby Blotzer has always been a solid drummer (not too fancy, but steady), and he shows it throughout the CD, and I like his playing on this track. Another thing that helps the song is the four-minute run time, where the song isn’t too long that it wears out on the listener. I think the production length of this song is just right.
If there is a song I would skip early on, it’ll be track seven called “Dead Reckoning.” This song has a co-writing credit for Blades again. The music is not the problem with this song for the most part, but the lyrics, which I mentioned earlier. The lyrics aren’t great in my opinion, and the guitar solo, as great as it is, just seems to be thrown into the song. This track takes the rest of the album into a tough listen for me (until the last song).
The songs, “Luv Sick” and “It Ain’t Easy,” have an outdated feel to me with the lyrics. These have the clichéd, or just plain boring, lyrics to me. “Luv Sick” contains lyrics like “Sit back / Love attack.” “It Ain’t Easy” uses the “Long way home,” “It ain’t easy being me,” and “I’m too far gone.” For some reason in 1999, these comparisons just seemed to be stuck in the 1980s and needed something more. Don’t get me wrong, I am a huge fan of the 1980s and its music, but for some odd reason (which I can’t describe but use the term outdated), these lyrics seem juvenile and does not fit with the music being played. Then again, one would not consider Ratt being into the “Songwriters Hall of Fame” so we know what we’re getting with the band — just good fun hard rock (which is not an insult to the band by any means). After listening to these aforementioned songs now, it doesn’t excite me as much as the first few songs.
My problem with track ten, “All The Way,” is that I keep waiting to hear a big massive, rocking build up leading into the chorus from the verses, but it never comes. The song wants to have power, back to the classic feel of Ratt, but doesn’t deliver. Besides that, the song is good, but could been great with more power. However, the last track on the album saves me from the last several songs. “So Good, So Fine” is another one of those songs that you could crank out while driving down the road, which may have been a lead in to Pearcy’s solo work after leaving the band again and his love for car racing. I like albums that rock out in the end, and this song does it, along with giving me a better attitude of the record, as opposed to the last several songs.
Blotzer stated in his book that he “hated” the title, and cover. He also wrote that he liked the album, but it was the wrong time for the release, which may have been why the album didn’t perform well. The musicianship on the record is great, with solid drumming from Blotzer, great vocals from Pearcy, and wonderful guitar work from DeMartini. For the debut of Crane, he performs well. Although the first part of the album starts off with a dark and heavy feel to it, the album has more of a pop feel to the songs towards the end of the release. There are a few hidden gems on the release as well. The release may not be up in stature with some of the band’s other classic releases, but the album isn’t a total throwaway. Besides a few songs, this is not a release I have in constant rotation (even back when I got the CD), but there are some parts that deserve a second listen or can be added to the play lists, but not as a complete whole album. Compared to some other music being put out, I’d still take this any day, although it is not as great as some other Ratt albums.
01. Over The Edge
02. Live For Today
03. Gave Up Givin’ Up
04. We Don’t Belong
06. Tug Of War
07. Dead Reckoning
08. Luv Sick
09. It Ain’t Easy
10. All The Way
11. So Good, So Fine
Stephen Pearcy – lead vocals
Warren DeMartini – guitars, backing vocals
Robbie Crane – bass, backing vocals
Bobby Blotzer – drums
Produced by Richie Zito
Mastered by Dave Donnelly
Engineered by Noel Golden
Additional Engineering: Shawn Bemran
Assisted by Dave Dominguez, Posey Mulaid and Kenny Ybarra
Mixed by Rob Jacobs (2 to 11)
Mixed by Mike Shipley (1)
Mixing assisted by Mauricio Iragorri, Travis Smith and Tim Harkins
Review by Lance Lumley for Sleaze Roxx, July 2019
Ratt performing “Over The Edge” live in Detroit, Michigan, USA in 1999:
Ratt – Over The Edge10/02/99 Detroit, Michiganhttp://www.freewebs.com/bootlegdvdz/