Album of the Week 14-2016: Ted Nugent – Ted Nugent

Sure, we could spend all day discussing how obnoxious Ted Nugent can be as a person, though I suspect him of making it seem much worse than it actually is, but let’s not forget that his debut album is easily the best Hard Rock album from 1976 – a year that also spawned Aerosmith’s ‘Rocks’ and the amazing debut album of Mother’s Finest, no less! Nugent himself has been quoted saying that it’s the only album you’ll ever need if you want to know what Rock ‘n’ Roll is all about, but for once, he might actually hit the nail on the head.

Nugent’s debut album certainly profits from the fact that it’s not yet “Ted Nugent the solo artist”, but rather “Ted Nugent the band”. Derek St. Holmes’ blue-eyed Soul voice definitely makes the songs better than they would have been without him and Nugent has yet to find a better singer to work with, but let’s not forget the work of the rhythm section. Nugent’s former Amboy Dukes bandmate Rob Grange may not stand out immediately, but leaves an indelible mark on the album with his at times unconventional bass lines. Nugent himself is in super overdrive, but his solos are remarkably memorable as well. After a few spins, you’ll remember every note.

Luckily, Derek St. Holmes sings almost all the songs on this album. Don’t get me wrong, Nugent’s vocal insanity is especially what ‘Motor City Madhouse’ asks for – hence the title – but it’s St. Holmes who adds a distinctive melodic edge to the high octane Blues Rock riffs. His own composition ‘Hey Baby’ has a very strong fifties R&B vibe, but his high range is indispensable for material like ‘Queen Of The Forest’ or the downright amazing and nostalgic ‘Just What The Doctor Ordered’. A yin to Nugent’s yang, if you will.

Despite the album being consistently great, two tracks stand out for me. First of all, ‘Snakeskin Cowboys’ has a surprisingly large number of hooks for a four and a half minute song, seems to be tailor-made for St. Holmes’ voice and has a downright irresistible groove. The latter also is true for the epic monster that is opening track ‘Stranglehold’. Dark and menacing, with powerful performances by both Nugent and St. Holmes it’s a masterpiece. I have even heard someone call that riff the number one Rock guitar riff of all time. Okay, it was Nugent himself, but again: he may be right.

All subsequent albums – with the possible exception of ‘Cat Scratch Fever’ – were plagued by consistency issues. Then again, how many musicians release an album as intensely and consistently awesome as Nugent’s untitled debut album? Every riff is classic Bluesy Hard Rock, every song is memorable and the production is just about as perfect as it gets for the mid-nineties, both capturing and cultivating the band’s ferocious prowess. Like “Uncle Ted” himself, the album is loud, brash and immodest, but it’s also a work that many Rock musicians should pay very close attention to. Easily the finest hour of everyone involved.

Recommended tracks: ‘Stranglehold’, ‘Snakeskin Cowboys’, ‘Just What The Doctor Ordered’

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