Lita, fire up the Delorean, destination nineteen eighty-something! The story behind Lita Ford‘s new album Time Capsule is almost as captivating as any Back to the Future movie, but we will get to that in a moment. First, let me start with my personal history and one Lita Ford. No, I have never had the pleasure of meeting her or for that matter, I have never even caught her live which is tragic considering how many shows I attended back in the day. That said, I consider myself a pretty big fan. We were introduced in 1984 with the “Dressed to Kill” video and the Dancin’ on the Edge cassette that was soon added to my insatiable heavy metal tape collection. Throughout the eighties, she remained “America’s Metal Queen”.
As the we moved through the nineties and the music industry squeezed every ounce of fun out of rock music in general, I heard that Lita had up and moved to a remote island with her family. I have to say I wish I had the means to have joined her in order to completely miss the “great depression” also known as the grunge era. Fast forward a number of years and I heard some rumblings that Lita was indeed working on something new. This was great news! That album was 2009’s Wicked Wonderland and my anticipation was met with confusion and disappointment. Although there were some great song ideas, the music was completely buried in an over-produced, computerized, electronic muck completely void of any emotion or soul. Certainly not what I was wanting from Lita‘s return. In fact, as I write this review, I decided to give Wicked Wonderland another spin just in case I was being too harsh, but my words still ring true.
Fortunately, 2012 would see the true return of Lita Ford when she released Living Like A Runaway. This was the album I was anticipating in 2009. Lita, her guitar, a great band and some killer melodic rock songs. She was back and with a snarl and attitude that harkened back to her days with Joan and Cherie! She followed that up with an awesome live album in 2013 entitled The Bitch is Back…LIVE. For any of you following along at home who might not be familiar with Lita‘s return to rock, I strongly suggest you stop what you’re doing and check these two albums out. Do it now! I will just wait here until your up to speed.
Alright, now that we are all on the same page we get to the here and now. I recently saw something online that Lita had a new release coming entitled Time Capsule, in fact that news was followed with an audio clip of a song called “Rotten to the Core” that apparently featured one Mr. Gene Simmons (KISS) on bass and Mr. Bruce Kulick (KISS, Union, Grand Funk Railroad) on guitar. I enjoyed the song, catchy headbanging fare, very 80’s in both feel and fun factor, so I put this on my radar as an album to watch out for. Then last week Time Capsule came up as an opportunity for a Decibel Geek album review, so this morning I am breaking open the Time Capsule and taking a listen inside.
The story behind this album is quite interesting and really something I would enjoy discussing further with Lita is given the chance. From what I now understand this album is truly an actual time capsule. Sometime after the recording of 1988’s multi-platinum Lita album during some downtime these songs started to take shape organically in the studio, old school style. “These lost recordings are the result of what happens when you insanely talented musicians get drunk, hang out and end up in a room together with a “Screw it, let’s play” mentality, minus the click tracks and label execs breathing down their necks”. Musicians like Gene Simmons, Bruce Kulick, Dave Navarro, Robin Zander & Rick Neilsen.
Late night, whiskey soaked, real recording sessions with musicians face to face, in the same room working off of each others vibes and energy with “drinks in hand”. Definitely a more organic and certainly a way more fun way of getting things done than using today’s model of “email me the solo” from the other side of the country or world. It’s funny that we often sit and wonder why today’s music feels so empty and lifeless. So as it turned out these songs that never were released ended up on 24 track tapes that remained with Lita and ended up in the closet of her island home.
“There was a shitload of these 24 track analog tapes in the house” Ford recalls “This was some of the best work I had ever done and it was just sitting there. I grabbed a couple of suitcases and took them back to the States.” The problem she faced was now due to the age of the tapes, they would have to be baked in hopes they wouldn’t flake and be ruined. “I was chewing my fingernails thinking “Please work!” and thankfully it did, so on April 15th, this Time Capsule will be available for everyone to open up and take a trip back in time.
The intro to the album is a little tongue in cheek, spoken word scenario in which Chris Holmes (ex-W.A.S.P. and Lita‘s ex) voices the role of Lita‘s Dad. It seems she has stolen the keys to the “Ford” and is off for a night or rocking with her “god damned rock band of hers” and her Dad is none too pleased. Cheezy? You’re damn right, remember this is an 80’s time capsule and I would expect and would want nothing less. The mental imagery it conjured was not far removed from the classic Twisted Sister videos from the Stay Hungry album, but I digress.
The first song “Where Will I Find My Heart Tonight” opens a beautiful little acoustic guitar intro before the big 80’s drum sound blast into this mid-tempo rocker. Pure 80’s, big riffs dripping with melody and a huge sing-along chorus. The ripping additional vocals from Jeff Scott Soto (Yngwie Malmsteen and more) put this song over the edge. This would have been a monster hit back in the day and SHOULD be a monster hit today if radio would remove it’s head out of its ass long enough to actually realize there is more to music than the dribble being force fed to us on today’s radio.
“Killing Kind” could be described as Lita “turning tricks”, Cheap Tricks that is, with killer background vocals from Robin Zander and Rick Neilson. I swear this song could have easily fit perfectly on Cheap Trick‘s Lap of Luxury album. Lita‘s quote of “this was some of the best work I have ever done” seemed to be ringing true. Two songs in and I am totally enjoying this time capsule. “War of the Angels” is a big, epic, moody power ballad, absolutely essential on any self-respecting metal album from the era. Lita delivers some great vocals on this track, solid but not as strong as the previous two numbers.
Time to rock as the tempo is kicked up with “Black Leather Heart”, fist pumping fun melodic metal, nothing more, nothing less. This is the kind of song that endeared me to Lita back in 1984 and is every bit as satisfying today. The little bass slide at the beginning of “Rotten to the Core” proudly announces the presence of Gene Simmons. His 80’s bass tone is hard to miss and as a KISS fan, I am always curious when they get involved with just about anything and this song is another balls-out rocker. Bruce Kulick steps in with a tasty little solo. This is Lita Ford style head banging at its best, horns raised screaming “rotten to the core!”, where’s my studded wristbands? Where’s my jack and coke?
Up next are back to back instrumentals where Lita gets to stretch out the guitar fingers. A cover of the Jimi Hendrix classic “Little Wing” and a jam entitled “On the Fast Track” which reminded me just a little bit of the band Keel in guitar tone with some blatant Hendrix riffs thrown in for fun. I understand that instrumentals are an acquired taste, but the musician in me enjoyed both.
“King of the Wild Wind” starts off resembling another power ballad and one I seemed to enjoy more than the aforementioned “War of the Angels”. Something about Lita‘s voice on this track seems different, possibly one of those late night “whiskey soaked” sessions that really comes noticeable at the 1:47 mark when she belts out “Ohhh she was a wicked child…” she pushes hard and her voice almost seems to crack. I love it, it’s raw and real and then at about the 3:15 mark the song changes direction kicking up the tempo and intensity with plenty of tasty guitar all over the place. Very nice.
Probably the one song that did not age as well as the others, “Mr. Corruption”, I would imagine could be aimed at many of the music industry sleaze balls that Lita found herself having to deal with over the years. This is the only song so far that didn’t hit the mark for me, it seemed somewhat forced and just did nothing to move me. Seeing as this appears to be the only blemish thus far, I think this album is certainly a clear winner.
Lita packed one more treat into this time capsule. “Anything For the Thrill” is a blistering metal/punk fusion that once again sends me back to nineteen eighty something. In fact, if it wasn’t so metal in sound and spirit, I would almost liken it at least in attitude, to The Runaways. Certainly a strong ending to this interesting travel in time.
I will say it is indeed a fortunate turn of events that these songs were both captured on tape during the decade of decadence that we remember so fondly, but more so that Lita found these tapes and had the inclination and determination to make this trip a reality. It is often said that if you remember the eighties you weren’t really there but if you ever rocked out to Lita back in the day then make sure you take a good look into this Time Capsule. Knowing how this record came to be, it was actually quite fun getting to hear these “lost” songs here in 2016. So I raise a toast to whiskey soaked recording sessions, in actual recording studios, with real musicians, and Lita Ford!