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) (last update 5/23/2017)

February 18, 2013

Tesla ~ The Great Radio Controversy

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Style: hard rock, blues rock
Label: Geffen
Year: 1989
Home: California

Members: Frank Hannon ~ guitar/gong/keyboards/tremolo/b. vocals
Tommy Skeoch ~ guitar/strings/b. vocals
Jeff Keith ~ vocals
Troy Luccketta ~ drums/cymbals/pedals/stick/tama
Brian Wheat ~ bass/strings/b. vocals

Tesla, for me, are one of the bands that haven't really gotten their shake, either at the time of their commercial peak or later in reunion form. Their most recognizable effort for many is their acoustic rendition of the classic "Signs" & its acoustic live album Five Man Acoustical Jam. As their third album it was a risk. Today it might not appear that way, but at the time there was no MTV Unplugged & hard rock bands didn't do acoustic albums of their songs. But, its not really a great representation of Tesla. It's a low-key fun concert but some of the songs lose their tight feeling & edge at times. When I first heard it I thought it was good but not great. It took looking into the rest of the catalog to hear the great. Sadly, I think many might have had the same response, but didn't listen any further & take the risk as I did. It's ashame, as both during their heydey & the reunion Tesla has a very solid catalog amongst fans & critics. Most bands have a career high & a brief but eventually bored reunion output. Not here. The least liked albums they've done are a pair of 70's covers & if that's it that's not much to worry about. Covers albums are a risk as it is. The problem with those who may have given Telsa a cursory listen is, besides the point their biggest hit is completely the opposite musically of everything else, on one hand they sound like just one more glammy 80's hard rock band with the girl lyrics, screaming vocals & by the book guitar solos. That's true. They are of their time. But, give them a few more listens & something else appears & this is what makes Tesla special ... though it takes that extra listen which few make, so the band never gets its kudos. To do an album of 70's rock classics might be seen as gimmicky but it's more than that. Thread through their hard rock from the arrangements, the groove to the vocals is a 70's feeling & a deep love of the blues. Badlands had it & even Pearl Jam had it & even the Black Crowes. But, these bands were all a step away from the 80's hard rock & Tesla didn't take that step as much as they could have. It's the fine line of being different versus not so much & getting radio play. They play it safe, maybe a bit too much in retrospect, but its hard not to fault a decision that at the time seems the right one. Their albums though don't really suffer, even the average 80's rock is acceptable, but their reputation does & at points their career did. But, trying not to dwell on the what if's of the past there's so many good starting places with Tesla. Their debut or even their second album The Great Radio Controversy, which is a great name for an album. Fans often recommend this album over others. It has the big production of the day & the 80's hooks & adequate songwriting ... great songwriting is not their forte. At the same time it's also got lots of blues (i.e. slide guitar on "Heaven's Trail (No Way Out)", "Be A Man", "The Way It Is", "Love Song", "Paradise") is a little more focused than their debut, includes more acoustic instruments & thus texture. It has has some great twin guitar moments, check out "Flight To Nowhere". While check out "Love Song" for a bluesy take on the obligatory power ballad. The album also spun out numerous fan favorites including "Hang Tough", "Lady Luck", "Heaven's Trail (No Way Out)" & "Love Song". Tesla never really ventured too far from the template presented here, with later albums varying the focus on the blues or the hard rock aspect, usually more the former which is the better thing to emphasize. If you like this I would highly recommend you digging up the Tesla catalog. Their latest album came out in 2008 & personally I have no hesitance recommending anything between their 1986 debut & their latest release. Few bands of Tesla's tier have been able to succeed. The secret is they never changed their sound. Sadly, alongside Pearl Jam & the Black Crowes they should have soared with a second coming success, but as all hair metal fell to grunge & Tesla was never that big they fell too. It doesn't matter that their's was a different type of rock.

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