I thought Slammin' Gladys sounded familiar but I think I'm thinking of Smashed Gladys, whose singer, Sally Cato, sadly passed away last year. Slammin' Gladys do go back quite a way but not quite that far. Smashed Gladys were mid eighties, with albums in 1985 and 1988. Slammin' Gladys were nineties, their only prior album dating back to 1992, with what may be the most overt phallic symbol I've yet seen on an album cover. Almost thirty years later, the same line-up is back with a second and it's good stuff, if a little less energetic than I might expect for such a long overdue return to the studio.
They play their hard rock with a strong shot of glam and a chaser of funk, which translates to a sound that moves back and forth between AC/DC and the Faces, but with a plethora of extra influences which shake it up considerably, most obviously Extreme. Toxic Lover is like Extreme playing We Didn't Start the Fire with the AC/DC rhythm section. Dragon Eye Girl ditches AC/DC and Durango ditches Extreme too, leaving a song that could work for a smooth Rod Stewart or a less drunk Dogs d'Amour.
The best early song, though, is Lose My Mind, which is sassy, funky and neatly catchy. It's an odd song because it talks about drinking and smoking too much and going a little mad sometimes (hey, haven't you?) but it's not remotely as debauched as the Quireboys or the aforementioned Dogs. We don't buy into the band having to be propped up by roadies while they record the song, which would have been the only way to improve it. It's not squeaky clean and it's not pop glam in the way that Green Day are pop punk, but it's certainly commercial.
One reason for that may be that the mix seems very clean, not thin but emphatically not thick, with J. J. Farris's guitar dampened down a lot further than it ought to be. I like the music but I'd like it much more if it had some real oomph added in the mixing booth. A song like Lost in Texas tries, with a neat harmonica and a backing that lightens for the verses and heavies up before the chorus, but the mix is weak. This song ought to crush, but it merely entertains with the promise of what I'm sure it'll be on stage.
The most obvious sound is the voice of Dave Brooks, which is characterful and highly appropriate for funk rock, even if he obviously hasn't destroyed his throat through a life of debauchery over the three decade gap in between studio visits. His most raspy vocals are more like Axl Rose than Rod Stewart or Tyla. I don't know what he's been doing in that time because the rap on Light Up suggests that he has a taste in music that hasn't moved on from 1992. Everything in the sound here is from then or earlier, whether it's funk, glam, rock or that rap section, which is a lot closer to Blondie than Dr. Dre, not that I'm complaining about that.
Sometimes it's much earlier, like Ice Water, which is a delightfully bluesy old rock 'n' roller with nods back to Elvis and the Grand Ole Opry and, bizarrely, the mix is very different here. The guitar has a lot more oomph, the drums have a lot more oomph, we can hear Al Collins run up and down the fretboard of his bass like he's a born again rockabilly and Brooks isn't as dominant as he's been. This is a deeper sound and it's how Slammin' Gladys ought to sound throughout this album.
I feel a little bad giving this a 6/10 because I enjoyed Lose My Mind, loved Ice Water and liked Poison Arrow more and more the longer it ran. I'm sure I'd have a blast watching Slammin' Gladys live. Some songs here are weaker than others but none of them are bad. They just don't all sound as good as they should because of the mix. This ought to be a 7/10. But welcome back, folks!
By Hal C. F. Astel