Released: 1988, Capitol Records
Reviewer: Lord of the Wasteland
After its 1986 debut album, INVASION, The Vinnie Vincent Invasion followed up with the more hard rock sounds of ALL SYSTEMS GO. Unfortunately, it is a slightly weaker album. ALL SYSTEMS GO suffers from the same problem facing many late 80s releases--over-production. There are so many overdubs and effects used on this record that it should be a crime. Does it sound good? Yes. Vinnie shreds like never before but sometimes the sound is almost overwhelming. On the positive side, new vocalist Mark Slaughter blows original Invasion frontman, Robert Fleischman, out of the water with a much broader range and not quite as nasal-sounding. As far as the music goes, the material here has a much fresher feel to it than INVASION, which seemed more like Vinnie took the songs from his "vaults" rather than penning new ones. ALL SYSTEMS GO epitomizes the glam image. The sleazy lyrics, high-pitched vocals, lightning-fast guitars...all are archetypes for the glam movement. Not that that is a bad thing! My point is, ALL SYSTEMS GO sounded fresh, "with it", if you will at the time of its release; INVASION sounded as if it were culled from a different era even though it was released only 2 years earlier.
ALL SYSTEMS GO begins with my favorite track, “Ashes to Ashes”. Upon close listening, you can hear the incredible guitarwork done by Vinnie on this song. Acoustic, electric, 12-string, wah-wah, a cool Van Halen “Cathedral”-like sound effect during the solo--Vinnie really kicks your ass! “Breakout” also has a great guitar riff opening. This is one of the heavier tracks on the album with a cool chorus and a great drum beat from Bobby Rock. “Dirty Rhythm”, “Naughty Naughty” and “Heavy Pettin'” are Grade A filth that up the raunch level on the album. They’re both good rockers with great choruses, too. These are probably the catchiest songs on the album, but lyrics like "Little vixen take your whip and tease me" probably kept “Naughty Naughty” off the top 40 charts! “Dirty Rhythm” boasts such lines as "Pull the pin of my love grenade” and “Let your love drip down on me". CLASSY! The worst case though is on “Heavy Pettin’” where Vinnie alludes to his love for the young 'uns. Sample lyric: "Sweet little child...she's sweet as virgin clover she's my baby love doll". Hmmm...pretty subtle?! They just don't write songs like this anymore!! “Love Kills” (also featured in the film, A Nightmare On Elm Street 4: The Dream Master) is my second favorite cut on the album. It’s a real departure for Vinnie in terms of songwriting, too, as he slows things down to create a strong power ballad with a catchy chorus and some excellent acoustic guitar. “Burn” follows with a searing performance from Vinnie, especially on the solo! Speaking of solos, Vinnie tackles “The Star Spangled Banner” solely on guitar. NICE! “That Time of Year” is one of those forgotten songs, "the one that got away", if you will. It is definitely one of the stronger songs on the album and should have fit in perfectly with the commercial metal that was filling up MTV's The Headbanger's Ball at the time. Unfortunately, as a single, it fell flat. I don’t know if it’s just me but I can't help notice the similarities between the choruses of “That Time of Year” and “Love Kills”. Hmmm… If you want cheese, look no further than “Ecstasy” which seems to have found its way on to ALL SYSTEMS GO via a Stryper album. Every time I hear the harmonized chorus of this song, it immediately reminds me of “Always There for You”, Stryper's sappy Christian ballad from the same year. “Deeper and Deeper” is a nicely written song with barely an offensive lyric but before you think it’s safe to bring out the kids, Vinnie slips in the line, "And when I drink from her fountain of love it tastes sweeter more each day". Somebody get this guy some salt peter, for crying out loud!! Rounding out the album are 2 instrumental tracks. “The Meltdown” is a mish-mash of instrumentals from Bobby and some indescribable effects from Vinnie. If Vinnie is the over-indulgent control freak that everyone claims he is, why does he let his drummer showcase his skin-pounding chops in a “Moby Dick”-style bombast like “The Meltdown”? The answer of course is to lead into a 4-minute ego trip for himself called “Ya Know- I'm Pretty Shot” where he fiddles with some classical guitarwork and a bluesy riff in the middle. Vinnie shows his stuff by moving beyond the wailing solos that he is famous for and concentrates on what he learned in beginner guitar lessons: picking. Pretty impressive stuff if you give it a chance. There is also an evil-sounding voice at the end of the track demanding you to "tell your friends about us".
ALL SYSTEMS GO is a decent album. Unfortunately the chemistry of the band was not there and they announced their breakup 3 months after the album’s release. Mark Slaughter and Dana Strum would go on to success with Slaughter and Bobby Rock would resurface with Nitro, as well as on Nelson’s 1990 album, AFTER THE RAIN. Vinnie has virtually disappeared from any recorded output since 1988. Except for a barely released 4-song EP in 1996 called THE E.P., and several long-rumored projects, Vinnie has vanished from the music scene. Sure his name is credited to 3 tracks from Kiss' REVENGE album but otherwise, he has only surfaced to file for bankruptcy, sue Kiss (unsuccessfully) in 1997 for lost royalties and, in a sadder note, the disappearance and murder of his ex-wife. Hopefully, Vinnie will return to the studio or release the long-awaited box set, GUITARMAGEDDON.
NOTE: ALL SYSTEMS GO has been reissued twice on CD: first by Zoom Club Records in 2001 and again by Capitol Records in 2003. The Zoom Club reissue doesn't contain the two instrumental bonus tracks "The Meltdown" and "Ya Know - I'm Pretty Shot." The Capitol reissue contains both bonus tracks, but also contains the single edit of "Love Kills," and not the original album version. The Chrysalis version contains the album as it was originally released, with the bonus tracks and the full version of "Love Kills."