RATT – The Atlantic Years 1984-1990 (Cherry Red Records)
Ratt’s tale remains a story of unfulfilled potential.
And this revealing box set captures their verminous career in a nutshell.
Prolific yet wildly inconsistent.
Quantity over quality.
And a frustrating failure to break into hair metal’s big leagues.
But at their best Ratt were just brilliant.
Way Cool Jr.’s funky sax-infused swagger should have been way more successful.
Dance deserved to make a bigger move on both sides of the Atlantic.
And Back For More must be the best mid 80s anthem never to bother the singles charts.
Of course, Ratt are still best known for their Top 12 Billboard smash Round And Round.
That breakout single boasts a groove that made Bon Jovi jealous.
And it ensured debut long player Out Of The Cellar attained triple platinum status Stateside.
Tellingly, it was the only one of five songs released from that record which dented the charts.
It would prove to be the story of Ratt’s career.
Sporadic success punctuated by inexplicable failure.
Soaring highs juxtaposed with confidence-sapping lows.
And at the end of it all a sense that these poster boys for the Sunset Strip scene should have been jostling for position with Leppard, Jovi, Van Halen et al.
Of course 1990’s Detonator wasn’t the end of Ratt.
They were back – with a whimper, rather than a bang – on 1999’s self-titled flop.
And back for more a decade ago with the much-improved Infestation.
But the Atlantic Years are where Ratt belong.
Rising from the gutter of the early 80s scene, sleaze was in their DNA.
And the combination of MTV’s birth and hair metal’s explosion should have propelled Stephen Pearcy et al into the soft rock stratosphere.
Instead Ratt were slowly overtaken by fellow wannabes Poison, Mr Big, Extreme and more.
But closer inspection of the post-Cellar catalogue offers no explanation as to why.
Sure, those inherent inconsistencies meant there’s no such thing as a great Ratt album.
And yet there are plenty of killer tunes spread across the next five years and four records.
You’re In Love and Lay It Down (the band’s only other Top 40 Billboard hit) are exceptionally catchy.
Throw in Between The Eyes and Dangerous But Worth The Risk and 1985’s Invasion Of Your Privacy is a pretty decent album.
The following year’s Dancing Undercover saw producer Beau Hill go the extra mile.
It’s slick, self-assured and…soulless.
Ironically, the Ratt record that sounds the best performed the worst as far as the Atlantic Years were concerned.
Lead single Dance nudged the Billboard’s Top 60 and the album itself limped into the Top 30.
Over-thought and over-produced, it lacked the anthemic appeal of its predecessors.
But 1988’s Reach For The Sky represented a much-needed return to form.
Hill was still at the helm but Way Cool Jr. evidenced a more relaxed approach.
And the MTV Unplugged version, included here as a bonus track, is a genuine treat.
Don’t Bite The Hand That Feeds and Chain Reaction could have been hits back in the day.
But I Want A Woman, the second single from Reach For The Sky, sounds horribly dated.
And even in the late 80s it died a death.
So to 1990’s Detonator.
Hitmaker Desmond Child had been drafted in to give Ratt one last shot at the big time.
And Jon Bon Jovi added his considerable vocal clout to Heads I Win, Tails You Lose.
A Mike Shipley mix guaranteed a pin sharp tone.
And Lovin’ You’s A Dirty Job is the monster hit that never was.
Want proof? Check out the Ratt Fonic Monster Mix and Ratt Fonic Radio Mix included as bonuses!
But opener and lead single Shame Shame Shame sounds like an offcut from Alice Cooper’s Poison.
And Scratch That Itch is toe-curlingly painful.
Hard Time hinted at the difficult decade Ratt was about to encounter.
But One Step Away is a Child-inspired classic.
As with most of their work, Detonator evidences a band bleeding ambition but lacking direction.
Ratt’s tale in a nutshell.