Fans of classic hair metal like Motley Crue might raise an eyebrow when I mention this long-lost debut from an act that could have been as big as Warrant, Ratt, Whitesnake and several others from that era. This record was originally supposed to be released by Atlantic back in ’90, but that didn’t happen. We can blame label theatrics for that much, as Interscope turned the record down because they “just didn’t hear a hit.” And yeah, these guys have played The Whiskey, same as any of those other big hair acts of the eighties. They had both talent and potential. Problem was, I think the record may have released too late into the hair metal era as it’s ’90 release would have been edging around the birth of grunge bands like Nirvana and Soundgarden. I remember watching a documentary on hair metal, where similar issues were reported by other acts in that scene. It’s sad to say, but there were just a great deal of bands from around this period that got left behind due to labels moving on to pursue the grunge, thrash and later Nu-Metal sounds.
Yet it is a new era, where musicians have more freedom than ever. Black Bambi’s debut has now seen the light of day thanks to 20th Century Music an indie label that like many others, is seeking to find those long-last relics of a bygone era for fans that never would have had access to them otherwise. If you’re a millennial, this is dad rock, but I was born in the eighties so it suits me just fine.Judging from the album, I have no idea what Interscope was looking for that night when the band played for them at The Whiskey, because I’ve heard nearly hit after hit on this album, not to mention the memorable guitar solos of Ronny Jones.
If the opener “Mary’s Birthday” doesn’t deserve a place on classic rock radio, than “Crucified” certainly does. But that’s only a quarter of the album. Surprisingly, there are a even a few tracks on this disc that are a bit longer than a radio single, like the funky “Cry Blackbird Cry” or the more modern and slightly progressive “Down.” It’s safe to say that Black Bambi would have made a mark on the scene, if anyone had given a damn about them years ago. Best of all, frontman Steven Ray Anastos comes in with killer hooks and a few nice falsetto tones. The record is ultimately very catchy and features a hefty amount of variation, something that you obviously weren’t getting at the time, especially as far as the radio is concerned. Ballad “Seven Miles To Rome” also manages to hit hard, coming in with a bit of guitar muscle towards the very end. It contains a slightly folkish quality, replete with a female vocal element in the background. Towards the end of the record, things get less experimental and more straight-forward, but that’s just the kind of formula that should appeal to labels. I’m more or less just trying to wrap my head around this, as everything that Black Bambi perform here sounds exactly like what would have sold thousands of copies back in the eighties. It’s this very record that makes me thankful that the power is back in the hands of the musicians and the fans, rather than massive corporate labels.
We have no one to blame but the ancient music industry for pushing this record back so far, as it is now a far different generation in which Black Bambi will never be the kind of rock stars that they very well could have been. It’s a real shame, but don’t let that keep you from exploring this “would-be-classic” of the hair metal era.
(12 Tracks, 50:00)