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Tooth, Fang & Claw

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Album Review

As Ted Nugent's dominant persona took over the sound as well as the band name, Tooth, Fang & Claw brought his Amboy Dukes concept a step closer to the stadiums than its predecessor, Call of the Wild. The bandmembers don't get photos on the back this time, it's just Nugent being a madman up against some Fender and Marshall amps. The songwriting credits on the originals are all his now as well. "Lady Luck" plays as if the "American Woman" riff by the Guess Who got inverted, placed upside down in the middle of the song, and then finds itself coated in Ted Nugent's flashy and glitzy guitar work. The instrumental "Hibernation kinda touches upon the "Journey to the Center of the Mind" riff just for a moment and veers off into points unknown. Where on previous albums, Marriage on the Rocks/Rock Bottom and even Call of the Wild, there was musical experimentation, the axe is front and center on this platter and all the experimentation is now with notes and how fast they can be played — and in what order. Riff. Thud. Crunch. But beyond Nugent's further emerging hard rock sound, a conscious shift away from the blues of the Polydor albums and psychedelia of the material on Mainstream records, these Discreet/Warner Brothers releases document the forging of a sound and identity that would establish the controversial guitar hero as a true rock icon. Though Billy Squier would have more and bigger hits in the '80s, this foundation, coupled with Nugent's press antics, paved the way for lasting stardom. The version of "Maybelline" is so mutated you won't know it's a Chuck Berry song unless you listen hard; the melody gets put through the meat grinder. But the musicianship is refined. How could it not be with players like drummer Vic Mastrianni? The instrumental "Free Flight" is totally brilliant. That song isn't hard rock or heavy metal; it is just fine musicianship displaying an elegance few hard rock acts can muster. When he does want to crank it up, as with "The Great White Buffalo," he's set the table, and the listener is primed and ready. Where his contemporaries from the '60s, the Blues Magoos, drifted from the psychedelic to jazz and blues before fizzling out, Nugent fused his blues base with hard rock, and found a stadium audience ready to devour it. Tooth, Fang & Claw shows those claws just starting to extend.

Tooth, Fang & Claw, Ted Nugent's Amboy Dukes
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