Take It Or Leave It: A Tribute To The Queens Of Noise.
2011, Main Man Records
2011, Main Man Records
Known to a generation of rock fans as The Queens of Noise, The Runaways shocked their way into the testosterone-dominate heavy metal market in the latter half of the 1970's. Original members Lita Ford, Sandy West, Jackie Fox, Joan Jett and Cherie Currie went on to various levels of success in the entertainment world, with Jett and Ford standing out from the rest. The Runaways were arguably one of the most influential hard rock bands of the 1970's, paving the way for a generation of rock-oriented girl groups in the 1980's and beyond. Main Man Records recently released a two-disc tribute to the Runaways entitled Take It Or Leave It.
Take It Or Leave It is fairly typical for the tribute album genre, mixing in a handful of name artists with a host of regional acts looking for exposure. Some of the song/artist matches here are brilliant; others baffling. More often than not, the covers are half-hearted interpretations that do little to pay tribute to the energy or zeitgeist of The Runaways. The Donnas lead off with "Queens Of Noise", a passive interpretation that sounds as if the band were simply going through the motions. Shonen Knife does much better with "Black Leather", showing the sense of abandon that The Runaways embodied in their heyday. Frankenstein gets two chances to impress. On their own with "California Paradise", the band is too mellow for their own good. Working with Cherie Currie on "American Nights", they bask in the pure rock persona that Currie projects and carry themselves well.
Blue Fox (with Sandy West on drums) manages the best cover on the album with their revved-up rendition of "Neon Angels On The Road To Ruin", also scoring with a solid version of "Dirty Magazines." Other name covers include an overly polished take on "Fantasies" by Kittie, and a middle of the road but solid version of "Waitin' For The Night" from cult-rock heroes Starz.
The real treats on an album such as this come from the more obscure acts that put in a good showing. White Flag offers up a stylistic interpretation of "C'Mon" that's full of 1980's rock pastiche and distinctive vocal triads; a sonic treat. Tara Elliott and The Red Velvets re-imagine "You Drive Me Wild" as a bluesy rocker that shines on the strength of Elliott's brilliant voice. Richard Barone (The Bongos) is memorable on the campy "Hollywood". Digger Phelps makes "Rock & Roll" a fun listen, and Jack Brag shows off a distinctive voice in a solid rendition of "Secrets". Much of the rest of the two-disc album is filler, including many of the brief spoken word tracks that include snippets of old interviews and commercials both real and created for the set.
All in all, Take It Or Leave It plays like a cynical rehash of a band catalog that was built more on novelty and sex appeal than songwriting. There's no denying the real talent in the group, but the sound and song selection of the Runaways was always more about playing to a teenage male demographic than it was about creating great art. Nevertheless, there are some bright moments on Take It Or Leave It, and a couple of bands that listeners may appreciate discovering. This may be one of those collections were a few well-chosen downloads will offer you all of the benefits of the collection without the pain.
Rating: 2.5 Stars (Out of 5)
Learn more about Take It Or Leave It at www.mainmanrecords.com. Take It Or Leave It is available digitally from Amazon.com and iTunes.