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Customer Review

10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars White Line Fever, Indeed, 1 Jan. 2012
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This review is from: Motorhead (Audio CD)
Recorded in just two days, Motorhead's often overlooked debut album from 1977 is a dirty and raucous collision of Punk attitude and Biker rock.

The song selection is a mixture of covers and Motorhead originals. Of the former; Vibrator and City Kids were penned by Motorhead's first guitarist, ex-Pink Fairy Larry Wallis (who departed the band after playing on an earlier version of this album which at the time was shelved by UA Records). These two tracks have quite a Punky edge. Musically they would have sat perfectly well on the debut albums of The Damned, Clash or Jam - although only The Damned would have gotten away with unchanged lyrics for Vibrator and retained any measure of credibility! Wallis also penned On Parole, a chugging R&B precursor to the later turbocharged likes of Going To Brazil and Bye Bye Bitch. Lemmy managed to cover himself on this album, revamping three tracks from his old Space Rock band Hawkind with Motorhead, Lost Johnny and The Watcher. Train Kept A' Rolling and I'm Your Witchdoctor are covers of 1960's R&B standards, coated with some extra Motorhead grime. Beer Drinkers and Hellraisers is a ZZ Top cover. Yep, the same ZZ Top who, with the aid of constant MTV video rotation in the 1980's, bludgeoned the world into submission with the synthesied radio-friendly Pop-Rock of Sharp Dressed Man and Legs. This track however is taken from the band's earlier days when they were still true to their Bluesier roots.

As for Motorhead originals you get Iron Horse/Born To Lose (Which went on to be a live favourite for many years. I have though never understood the double-title thing), White Line Fever (the first track jointly penned by the classic Lemmy, Eddie and Phil line-up), Keep Us On The Road (probably THE best Motorhead track ever written which nobody seems to remember, a real neglected classic) and Instro (a throwaway instrumental thing. I believe the clue may be in the title).

The let down with this album, but also, paradoxically, the very thing which gives it a uniquely skuzzy fingerprint, is the production. Mixed by Speedy Keen (he of "Something In The Air" hit single fame) during the two-day studio deal, it could have benefitted from a lot more time and a little more professionalism. The quality varies between tracks, from being quite well produced to being sharp and punky to being a one-dimensional murky haze. That's probably a consequence of mixing this much material in less than a handful of hours, but one consistantly annoying thing is the lack of bottom end. Across the album there's very little lower frequency punch to the sound, which is probably due to Lemmy liking his bass trebly.

Don't get me wrong. It is a noisy album. But in the same kind of underproduced way as the Velvet Underground's White Light White Heat. Imagine the sonics of that album crossed with the sonics of The Damned's debut and you'll have a vague idea of what to expect.

One quick point about the mastering. No matter which version of this album you buy on CD it's going to sound rough as a bear's backside. That's unavoidable due to the original mix. But to my ears this original 1991 CD on Roadrunner Records (catalogue number 168 619 357-2) beats the more recent remaster. It's the lesser of two evils. I found the remaster just too harsh on the ears to play at loud volumes. Only a remix would benefit this album; nothing major, but something that would give the drums and lower-end more punch, whilst retaining (not extending) the fuzz and grime of the upper levels.

So how would I rate this release? Well, despite the questionable production, it has to be a 4. Although it's the forgotten Motorhead album, it does feature a number of classics that deserve to be remembered.

It doesn't sound much like any Motorhead album that came after it, but it does sound like 100% Motorhead. If that makes sense, which it probably doesn't....but it might once you've heard it!

PS:If you wish to hear how some of this album may have sounded with better production, check out On Parole. To cut a long story short, On Parole was Motorhead's actual first album, with the original line-up of Lemmy/Larry Wallis/Lucas Fox. It was recorded the year before this one, but was shelved by the UA Records. Much of the material is the same, but recorded far more professionally.

When Wallis and Fox left to be replaced by Phil Taylor and Eddie Clarke, the "new" band re-recorded the bulk of the earlier tracks for this album.

So fate handed us a unique comparison point. I can't think of any other band who with their debut album have two completely different recordings by differing line-ups recorded within a year of each other.

On the earlier album although the sound of the band is cleaner, it does have a lot more power and punch due to the production. If you like this 1977 debut, be sure to check that one out too. It's the same...but different. They're both enjoyable in their own unique ways.

But I can't help thinking that if this 1977 album had been produced by Fritz Fryer, the man responsible for the earlier album, it would today be more likely viewed as a classic of 1970's Rock rather than an album forgotten even by many of the band's own fans......
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Showing 1-5 of 5 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 4 Jan 2012 14:59:56 GMT
blzbub says:
I wouldn't have called Larry Wallis' "City Kids" punky, he did after all pen this back in 1973 for the album "Kings of Oblivion" and it hasn't changed much since then.

In reply to an earlier post on 11 Jan 2012 18:33:02 GMT
Last edited by the author on 11 Jan 2012 18:35:40 GMT
XBBX says:
I don't think the date of composition makes a difference. The staccato riffing and the subject matter make it sit perfectly well amongst the class of '76.

The 1973 original with the Pink Fairies, although essentially the same in construction, has a very 1970's Rock feel, one which for me brings to mind a slightly hungover Bachman Turner Overdrive. It lacks the stripped down and more urgent edge of the Motorhead recording.

Posted on 27 Jun 2012 17:02:28 BDT
Amazonian says:
A really excellent review - thoughtful, informative, thought-provoking. Thank you for putting the effort in to pay such a warm and intelligent tribute to a very noteworthy album.

Posted on 28 Nov 2015 16:56:00 GMT
MoaninPost says:
Had this on vinyl from 77 100 percent the absolute best album I have ever owned . Dont care whateverthe delivery system is turn it up as loud as you can stand !

In reply to an earlier post on 1 Dec 2015 12:05:03 GMT
Last edited by the author on 1 Dec 2015 12:07:55 GMT
XBBX says:
Easier said than done when an album is quite heavily digitally compressed.

I remember the days of listening to music on vinyl and feeling the urge to crank albums up louder and louder, because the louder the better. It actually felt good to have the volume of the music engulf you.

In comparison, try the same with a heavily digitally compressed CD, then see how long it is before you get sick of it and have to lower the volume or turn the CD off.......
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