Bullet Boys-The Warner Albums 1988-1993

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Reviewed: July, 2021
Released: 2021, Cherry Red/ Hear No Evil
Rating: 3.5/5
Reviewer: JP

The mighty Bullet Boys are the latest Hard rock heroes to get the nice reissue treatment from Cherry Red/ Hear No Evil.  The label has been mining the back catalogue of 80’s stuff for quite some time, polishing it up and putting it out there again and for an old rocker like me, I could not be happier.

Signed to a major in the hey-day of the Sunset Strip in L.A. this collection collects the first three Warner Brothers albums before the bottom dropped out. The double fold-out, digipak houses the self-titled album, FREAKSHOW and ZA-ZA.   The award-winning cover art and design for FREAKSHOW still stand the test of time. There is also a 20-page, full-colour booklet included with the usual liner notes, credits and most importantly a long, impressive and revealing essay by Malcolm Dome.  The King Kobra connection is covered and I learned quite a lot!

Musically, There is not much I can say, I really love the first two albums, less so the third.  I grew up listening to these guys watching the videos etc but never got to see them in their prime. The first album had the boys wearing their love for Van Halen on their sleeve. The second album found them defining their signature sound, in my opinion. It was a sound that stood out a bit at the time, especially with the old bluesy covers.

The third album, ZA-ZA was a mystery to me.  On paper I should have liked it more than I did.  It took the unique elements of FREAKSHOW and brought them to the fore, but so much so that they forget they were a hard rocking band. They open strong with ‘When Pigs Fly’ but then, and I have no idea why, we get four slow songs in a row!  It really took the wind out of the sails of the album. ‘1-800-Goodbye’ was solid but then another trio of mid-paced experimental tunes.  Thankfully the album ends strong with two rockers that could have easily fit on the debut, ‘Fess’ and ‘Crosstop’.  The band did release two singles (neither charted) but to release two slow songs as the singles was a fundamental mistake.  Back in the day only four strong/fast songs wasn’t enough to capture my imagination, but after getting this set, I really have a renewed appreciation for ZA-ZA.  The band is of course still going with another six studio albums under their belt.

Unfortunately there is virtually no bonus material. There is an edited version of  the hit/cover tune ‘For The Love Of Money’ which is nine, (yes, nine!)  seconds shorter.  It is a great song but who cares?    Getting a song that is nine-seconds shorter is not really much of a ‘bonus’ in my mind.  Less is not more, more is more.  I listened to both versions back-to-back and I could barely tell which nine seconds were cut out of the ‘edit’ version’.   FREAKSHOW comes one bonus track, a decent version of ‘Rock Candy’ by Montrose. It’s good song, it appeared on the Wayne’s World  film soundtrack (which I own) so it’s not that rare or unreleased.  I actually prefer Lee Aaron’s version, she makes it sound sexier.  What really pisses me off is that in the liner notes  guitarist Mick Sweda says they have a few rare, unreleased songs in the vault and this would have been the PERFECT time to add those rare songs as bonus tracks!  A lost opportunity no doubt.

I feel that maybe only the truest of the true Bullet Boys fan will own all ten albums and this set will appeal to the broader, more nostalgic audience, who may not even know the band continued on for many more years.   I probably sound like a broken record repeating myself (as I mention this point in many reviews of the Cherry Red/HNE review series) but I own these bad boys on cassette and to have find CD versions now really makes me happy and this is a great snap-shot of that magical point in time. Is it better to burn out (see the cover art of ZA-ZA) or fade away?  Well, Bullet Boys sort of did both!


Track Listing:

DISC ONE:
BULLETBOYS (1988)

1. HARD AS A ROCK
2. SMOOTH UP IN YA
3. OWED TO JOE
4. SHOOT THE PREACHER DOWN
5. FOR THE LOVE OF MONEY
6. KISSIN’ KITTY
7. HELL ON MY HEELS
8. CRANK ME UP
9. BADLANDS
10. F#9
BONUS TRACK
11. FOR THE LOVE OF MONEY (EDIT)

DISC TWO:
FREAKSHOW (1991)

1. HELL YEAH!
2. THC GROOVE
3. THRILL THAT KILLS
4. HANG ON ST. CHRISTOPHER
5. TALK TO YOUR DAUGHTER
6. FREAKSHOW
7. GOODGIRL
8. DO ME RAW
9. RIPPING ME
10. SAY YOUR PRAYERS
11. O ME O MY
12. HUGE
BONUS TRACK
13. ROCK CANDY (WAYNE’S WORLD SOUNDTRACK)

DISC THREE:
ZA-ZA (1993)

1. WHEN PIGS FLY
2. SLOW AND EASY
3. THE RISING
4. SING A SONG
5. MINE
6. 1-800-GOODBYE
7. THE SHOW
8. FOR THE DAMNED
9. LAUGHING WITH THE DEAD
10. FESS
11. CROSSTOP

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