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Slayed?
Slade

Polydor PD 5524
Released: February 1973
Chart Peak: #69
Weeks Charted: 26

Don PowellJimmy LeaDave HillNoddy HolderOn their home continent, Slade are virtually indestructible: singles launched like tank mortars into the Euro-Top Ten at selected intervals, live appearances turned to massive pledges of allegiance on the part of their audience, fan magazines (especially those aimed at sub-hip readership) burning the midnight oil thinking up new and ever more flashy adjectives to ram the point home. In the States, it's not been as easy. Two labels (Mercury and Cotillion) have failed to make any headway with incipient Slade fever (though it might be admitted that the group never did much to help, either in the way of hot-shot product or inflammatory touring), and even Polydor -- which has appeared more than receptive to garnering the group superstatus -- has found the going rough. Despite a sharp amount of critical and promotional push, two unbelievably good singles have spent the better part of their existence in the nether half of the hot 100 charts, while Slade's last album -- Alive -- sold only moderately well; not surprisingly so, given the fact that it was a live album tossed to an audience totally unfamiliar with the group's stage presentation.

Slayed?, however, should turn all that around and fast. It is both the group's best and most commercially cohesive effort to date, with a strut of identity that can't be mistaken and a sheer fronting of musical force that gets you from the first moment the record starts moving through its paces. Guided by Chas. Chandler, the album features a well-tuned selection of originals and chosen covers, brought down to the common denominator of Noddy Holder's piercing lead vocal, Dave Hill's piercing silver-leatherette guitar and a rhythm section (Jimmy Lea and Don Powell) that can only be declassified as a total humdinging bitch. The songs are short (the longest runs somewhere under four minutes) and geared for maximum auditory response; i.e. turn it up and keep it up.

For safety's sake, any further explanations should probably stop there. Slade's ritual is simple to the extreme -- beat plus guitar riff over tag-line, with those thunderous handclaps held in reserve for the final careen to the finish -- and yet they've grasped its fundamentals so well, refusing to become mired in the afterglow of the rock and roll revival (Gary Glitter minus his singles) or tired hacks deciding to move on to more meaningful stuff (make your own succinct nominations, no more than three to a potential customer), that the resultant album feels intrinsically solid and substantial. If there seems to be a bit of forced emphasis on "raving" here, probably a natural outgrowth of all this attention to elementals, at least Slade show they have the goods to back up their claims. I always say it's far better for some slit-nosed rock & roll band to tell you to get up off your ass than some polite jerk who wouldn't know a feedback if he fell over it.

Side two is a little steamier than side one on Slayed?, though only because it's in better supply of the group's hits. "Mama Weer All Crazee Now" is the big star here, a veritable textbook analysis of everything Slade does right, though I've been discovering the follow-up, "Gudbuy T'Jane," has the capacity for an even greater hold over my internal hook center. "Gudbuy Gudbuy" and "I Don't Mind" fill up the required spaces nicely, leading to a powerhouse version of "Let the Good Times Roll" that's all pared to the bone and stripped for speed.

Side one's no piker, either. Along with "Move Over," in which Noddy doffs his mirrored hat to Janis in a way calculated to make you think twice over whose performance you're actually listening to, there's a great lead-off "How D'You Ride," a shade excessive "The Whole World's Goin' Crazee," set off by the better averages of "Look at Last Nite" and "I Won't Let It 'Appen Agen."

Sure, it's a formula, but so for that matter are the general run of Phil Spector records, or early (even later) Motown, or most anything you can name that rests its fame on a distinctive sound and accompanying philosophy. In fact, one of the beauties of rock & rill is that such invention only has to pay off once; from there, it's all concerned with how many different ways you can take your chips to the pay-off window. Leading to the inevitable Mama, you best be-leeve weer all crazee now.

- Lenny Kaye, Rolling Stone, 3/1/73.

Bonus Reviews!

This is in some ways a brilliant album, but it leaves me with several rather uncomfortable nagging sensations. The basic problem is that I'm not sure whether the idea of neoclassicism makes any sense at all in rock, since the form itself is barely twenty years old, and since the music Slade deliberately recalls (the early Who) was made in the middle Sixties. My immediate reaction is gut-level; "Gudbuy t'Jane" and "Mamma Weer All Crazee Now," the hits, are spectacularly good rock-and-roll, filled with all the raunch, exhilaration, and fire the grooves can hold, and everything else -- especially a demented assault on "Let the Good Times Roll" -- is nearly as good. You can't listen to this stuff and remain seated.

Unfortunately, I know all too well that Slade is not the early Who any more than the Raspberries are the early Beatles, and the element of self-consciousness necessarily implied adds a kind of unbelievability. Granted that they have all the tricks down -- the production, in particular, is superlative; it's amazing how, despite the wonders of sixteen-track technology, they've managed to make it sound as if the album was recorded at a two-track demo studio in 1965 -- but one still is supremely aware that, in fact, they are tricks. Slade simply is not four pill-crazed mods lashing out at the world in storms of heavy-metal feedback that they have just delightedly discovered, but is instead a very clever 1973 rock-and-roll band which has long since absorbed these techniques and uses them to gas an audience not yet quite aware of what music sounded like before the onset of their secondary sex characteristics. Which leaves old codgers like me, who grew up to the strains of "My Generation," with, like I said, some uncomfortable nagging sensations.

Ultimately, I'm afraid, we're back to the question of when the Seventies are really going to begin. I love Slayed? -- self-consciousness or not, there's legitimate passion here -- but if rock is going to start cannibalizing itself at this early stage in its history, then we may be in serious trouble. Where, I inquire, is a band that will produce a Seventies rock vital enough to be itself revived ten years from now? Not here, I'm afraid, despite Slade's undeniable excellence and the claims of some critics whose views I generally respect. But I hope I'm wrong.

- Steve Simels, Stereo Review, 6/73.

Currently one of the hottest groups in England, this group has made its name with unpretentious, no holds barred rock, and this is exactly what this set contains. Included are their two most recent hits, "Mama Weer All Crazee Now" and "Gudbuy T'Jane." the latter now getting U.S. airplay. Other top cuts include Janis Joplin's "Move Over" and "How D'You Ride." This could be the album that will break this act completely in the U.S.

- Billboard, 1973.

These guys aren't singles specialists like Gary Glitter or (I insist) T. Rex -- they deliver a whole album of boot-boy anthems that are every bit as overpowering as has been reported, and also more fun (reporters panic real easy). Noddy Holder can wake up the crazee in my neighborhood any time he wants. But that don't mean I'm predicting Slademania -- not in a nation where Loggins & Messina are encouraged to sing about rock and roll. A-

- Robert Christgau, Christgau's Record Guide, 1981.

Slayed was Slade's best and most consistent original album, featuring "Mama Weer All Crazee Now." * * * *

- Stephen Thomas Erlewine, The All-Music Guide to Rock, 1995.

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