Welcome to the musical meandering insights of Aaron Joy. Here you'll find 600 reviews of CDs & DVDs of rock & metal in all its variations, mainstream & indie. What they all share is that the album or band is unique in some way & not every submission was reviewed. Please share these reviews or link to them if you like what you read. Reviews are no longer being posted here but feel free to e-mail Aaron & post comments. (Formerly the Roman Midnight Music Blog)

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Hotshot ~ The Bomb (comp)

(Click on heading to visit official website.)
Style: hard rock
Label: Split Finger Records
Year: 2005
Home: New York City (disbanded)

Members: Mike Pont ~ vocals
Al Pitrelli ~ guitars/keyboards/harmonica/b. vocals
Spike Francis ~ guitars
Tony Bruno ~ guitar/b. vocals
Timmy Starace ~ bass
Bruno Ravel, T.C. Cook ~ bass/b. vocals
Kurt Fairchild ~ drums/b. vocals
Chuck Bonfonte, Steve West ~ drums
Al Greenwood, Steve Savides ~ keyboards

Guest: Nikki Sixx ~ voice
Leslie West ~ guitar

Additional: Geroge Cintron ~ guitar/b. vocals


At first listen this sole release by disbanded hard rockers Hotshot sounds like so many of its peers that were on the scene in the mid/late-1980's. It's got everything fans have come to expect from Ratt, Motley Crue, Bon Jovi, Skid Row & countless other hair bands that frequented MTV, the difference being that Hotshot never had the same level of national commercial success. Today some listeners and maybe even former band members might cringe at hearing how dated Hotshot sounds as what was once a popular style of hard rock has now become history, but on the other hand, once the listener lets oneself fall into the pleasures that this particular genre still offers irregardless of changing musical trends this becomes an album that would be a wonderful addition to any music collection. Those who once frequented New York's club scene may remember Hotshot while others might be more familiar with the faces in the band as it's alumni would achieve greater fame outside of the band making this a historical snapshot, or relic, of what a group of musicians were doing before they became famous. Hotshot started as a NYC new wave cover band led by Mike Pont with future Danger Danger members Bruno Ravel & Steve West, amongst others including roadie Kelly Nichels who'd join L.A. Guns. Moving to L.A. Pont discovered the Motley Crue-led scene there only to return to NYC & form the Mike Pont Band with Gary Binova, original Foreigner keyboardist Al Greenwood, future Megadeth/Trans-Siberian Orchestra/Savatage guitarist Al Pitrelli, future Joan Jett/Joe Lynn Turner/Danger Danger guitarist Tony "Rey" Bruno & future Morning Wood drummer Chuck Bonfonte. In the meantime Ravel & West had formed Danger Danger with whom Pont & Pitrelli would join. Another excursion to L.A. found Pitrelli, who'd left Danger Danger & can be heard on their early demos via the hard to find Rare Cuts, convincing Pont to return east once again where they reformed Hotshot with bassist TC Cook & drummer Kurt Fairchild. Cook went on to Dio while Pitrelli to Alice Cooper. Hotshot now found itself going through line-up changes and gaining attention climaxing with their demo landing in the hands of Motley Crue's Nikki Sixx. Sixx wanted to manage the band but kicking Vince Neil out of Crue took priority & Hotshot's career came to a near overnight premature end. Fourteen years later the demos, recorded between 1986 & 1990, were collected & finally released by Pont. It's unknown if there's more recordings out there or if this the complete recording output of Hotshot. Given all that history this might be a historical relic but it's far from moldy or for collector's only or even full of disasterous musical experiments one comes to expect on early demos, even though the album opens with the original phone message left by Sixx that feels sad knowing the outcome. Hotshot comes from the days when one assumed a guitar player could run modes, scales & riffs to land at some melodic & memorable outcome that combined feeling and technical skills, versus much of today's bands where there's often a difference between musician & guitarist. Memorable riffs, great solos, love ballads, complex but seemingly simple arrangements & lots of typical 80's dynamics highlight these songs. Seeing whose behind all the riffs is what takes this album a step above many of its more famous peers, but the songs can still stand on their own regardless of the who's who. These may be some of the earliest recordings/compositions by Pitrelli, Bruno, Ravel & co. but they are anything but demos or musicians just getting started & honing their chops or even experimenting. It's a shame it took so long to make this music available & it never saw the charts at the time. Some musicians hone their skills over their career but here a 20-something Pitrelli, featured on about half the tracks, is blasting out the door with wicked & raw guitar solos with his common choice to play something melodic instead of fast or heavily distorted. Obviously his playing has improved in the decades since, but these early recordings show a young axeman overflowing in talent & ability some well-experienced guitarists don't have. He also lends his backing vocals to the arrangements, a highlight of the songs that is sorely missed on the tracks he's absent on. The arrangements & compositions are top-notch 80's rock, though sometimes a bit too AOR & heavy on ballads. The production is also top-notch even though they are essentially low-budget recordings, which is probably due to a much later mixing session. Outside of the overabundance of love songs or the largely dated sound of the some of the keyboard heavy ballads one would be challenged to really find something wrong with this collection. For those wanting to hear young musicians who haven't developed their chops yet this is everything but that. With three line-ups featured it's also interesting to hear how much the different members dominated the sound. Pont might have written the lyrics but the outcome is clearly influenced by whoever he was playing with. The Pitrelli/Cook/Fairchild line-up have a commercial rock reminiscent of early Whitesnake. It's somewhat by-the-numbers hard rock, not glam or power metal, but have, or more properly would have had, great radio appeal. Two tracks ("Always In My Heart" & "In The Groove") find Pitrelli/Cook replaced by guitarist Spike Francis & bassist Timmy Starace in what sounds like a completely different band with Francis's distorted solos being the complete opposite of melodic Pitrelli. He doesn't blend in as so much as take-over. There's a whole other album waiting to be shared with this particular line-up. The Pitrelli/Bruno Ravel/Steve West/Steve Savides & the Tony Bruno/Ravel/Chuck Bonfonte/Al Greenwood line-ups are the earliest recordings & sound as much with less intricate arrangements & is a more reserved band. The best way to listen to this album & get the full picture, which is arranged by most radio friendly to the early demos with Francis/Starace/Fairchild being a bump in the middle, is to play that tracks in chronological order & hear how one band that was hot on the scene & could have been hotter had they been given the chance and how much they had to offer as they developed their sound.






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