Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Hair Apparent: Great White

(Editor's note: This is the third installment in a series about old albums that don't quite qualify in the Lost Classics category, yet still warrant a closer look.)

Great White, Hooked (Capitol, 1991)

The Big Idea: Blues-rockers make a (mista) "bone"-afide grab for arena-rock stardom

Choice Cuts: "Call It Rock N' Roll," "The Original Queen of Sheba," "Desert Moon" and "Afterglow"

Sonic Brethren: Kix, Cinderella, Tesla and AC/DC

It's nearly impossible to talk about Great White these days without mentioning the 2003 fire in a Rhode Island nightclub that killed 100 people. Yet while the focus understandably remains on the tragedy, people have nearly forgotten about the great blues-based hard rock once made by the Los Angeles quintet.

Hooked was frontman Jack Russell & Co.'s fifth full-length studio album and aimed to recapture the success of the band's double-platinum breakthrough effort, 1989's . . . Twice Shy. While it never matched it predecessor in sales, Hooked remains one of Great White's better efforts.

The platter kicks off with the four-on-the-floor stomp of "Call It Rock N' Roll," the disc's first single. Russell addresses the censorship of parent groups like the PMRC with the lyric "There's trouble all around/Trouble with the PTA/Tell me whatcha gonn do?/Takin' all our highs away" while guitarist Mark Kendall cuts loose with some tasty licks in the vein of Chuck Berry. The next track, "The Original Queen of Sheba" is built on a hook with a lot of down-home twang -- so much that it even bears a strong resemblance to "Gyspy Road" by Cinderella!

But Great White are capable of more than just straight-up rock. "Lovin' Kind" is a piano ballad that anticipates the unplugged direction the band would take on their rootsy 1994 effort, Sail Away. While never released as a single, "Lovin' Kind" would have been a good candidate to capture some of the market dominated by keyboard-laden tunes toward the end of the hair metal movement.

The remainder of the album displays a variety of styles from the hardest-rocking cut "Desert Moon" to the expansive swamp boogie "Congo Square," the latter checking in just shy of seven minutes in length. Laidback acoustic guitars dominate cuts like the lazy, back-porch jam "South Bay Cities" and an album-closing cover of the Small Faces' "Afterglow."

They couldn't have known it at the time, but Great White's interpretation of "Afterglow" ends the album on a somewhat prophetic note. Though Hooked would hit the gold mark shortly after its release, none of the band's subsequent albums would ever go gold or platinum again. Hooked's sales of 500,000 copies was like a brief coda to the two million-deep sales of . . . Twice Shy. Afterglow, indeed.


Metal Mark said...

I heard this and remembering liking it, but I have not heard it at least 14 years. I don't remember a whole lot about it except that I remember thinking it was one of their better albums. Cool cover as well.

Theodore said...

Yes, there were actually two covers. The other, which may have been banned, displayed a full-body shot of the girl on the hook.

Mike said...

I also remember it. I always was a fan of Great White. They did have a bluesy type of rock sound, just as Cinderella did.

Rhodeislandrock said...

Because of the Station Fire, I haven't listened to Great White much. I wasn't in the fire but I was supposed to go that night and decided not to go that afternoon. I was a regular at Station shows.

Anyway, Hooked is one of GW's better albums and it did sell well....at first. Released in 1991 in a watered down, over-occupied Hard Rock scene.....add in the Nirvana/grunge movement.....and add the lack of a "hit" single = Hooked's demise.

500,000 ain't bad, with a good single and no Nirvana, it could have gone platinum. Instead it stalled, almost immeadiately.