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Inside the Electric Circus was W.A.S.P's 3rd album released in 1986. With their big hair and glammy outfits, W.A.S.P were in my opinion, the least talented of the LA heavy metal scene that spawned bands like Motley Crue, Dokken and Skid Row.
They did however, pull out all the stops when it came to live shows and have a massive fan base of American girls, this album marks a turning point as the band drop some of their earlier brash tunes with crude lyrics and see a slight improvement on their technicality. Band leader Blackie Lawless switches from bass to rythm guitar and sounds like a male version of Bonny Tyler or a cool version of Meatloaf. Whilst he may not have the same appetite as Meatloaf, he definitely has the same appetite for showmanship.
Fan's views vary on the album's quality but there's no doubt that there are at least a handful of classic tunes on the album, the cover version of I Don't Need No Doctor and 9.5. Nasty, a bit of an anthem back in the day that doesn't stand out too much anymore but is still catchy albeit cheesy. An often overlooked track is Sweet Cheetah, with a chorus almost worthy of Alice Cooper's Poison album, it also finishes off with a nice little guitar solo.
In an attempt to gain more interest in the band, it seems they also chose to cover Uriah Heep's Easy Livin', whilst not as good as the original, it's definitely the best cover to date. Flesh and Fire is distinctly average and King of Sodom and Gomorra isn't much better, bar the good guitar playing towards the end. Shoot from the Hip, is a certain throwback to the band's earlier days.
Unless you happen to be a huge fan of W.A.S.P and it takes you down memory lane, then I would say that The Best of the Best will suffice for most metal lovers, since you might not want to waste time on the poorer tracks on the album. It's quite a different kettle of fish from the later albums like Headless Children.
"Inside the Electric Circus" is the 3rd studio album by American heavy metal band, W.A.S.P. It was released in 1986 on Capitol Records and produced by Blackie Lawless. The line-up for the album was Blackie Lawless (vocals/guitar), Chris Holmes (guitar), Johnny Rod (bass) and Steve Riley (drums).
The album was released almost a year to the day of its predecessor, "The Last Command" and features a change in line-up. Gone is Randy Piper on guitar with Lawless himself switching from four to six strings and in came King Kobra bassist, Johnny Rod. It was with this album that W.A.S.P. hit the big time and went on to support Iron Maiden on their "Somewhere on Tour" dates. This is where my life as a fan of the band began and they have become a big favourite of mine since.
"The Big Welcome" is just that - a welcome to the album. It's a short number which is meant to represent a ringmaster at a circus telling us of the delights of the big top. There's no real music involved except for the circus sound and the ringmaster narrates the intro:
"Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls
And wild ones of all ages
Step right up, I welcome you to come on in
Inside the Electric Circus
The music is your passport, your magic key
To all the madness that awaits you
Feel the thunder and the frenzy
And see all the unusual animals
And the animals?
Well they're something else"
I wouldn't really class it as a song on the album but it's a good intro nonetheless and gives you a quick insight into what's in store on the album.
"Inside the Electric Circus" begins with a spatial guitar riff before launching into the verse riff which sounds really good. What can be noted straight away is the drumming sounds great, or rather, the drums themselves sound great. Big, punchy and heavy sounding drums have always been a favourite of mine. It's a song about being a band on stage (or animals in this instance) and the audience is the prey. Lawless is telling the story of W.A.S.P. in that they go out every night to put on an epic show with lots of loud music and big, bright lights.
"I Don't Need No Doctor" is a cover version of a song originally recorded by Ray Charles in 1966 and was written by Nick Ashford, Valerie Simpson & Jo Armstead. W.A.S.P.'s version is obviously much heavier than the rhythm & blues style Charles was known for and I love the harmony in the chorus here with the backing vocals, and I think the band makes this record their own in many ways. It's definitely a crowd favourite live and I've heard it every time I've seen W.A.S.P. play. It's a song where the narrator tells the tale of missing his woman and he's not medically sick but just needs her.
"9.5.-N.A.S.T.Y." is one of my favourite songs on the album. It's begins with punchy guitars and Blackie's distinctive vocals really stand out here. It was written by Lawless and Holmes, and it's about a high class call girl. The narrator doesn't care how much it costs because she's everything he's ever dreamed of. The solo from Holmes in the bridge is classic W.A.S.P. and I really like the way it rolls out into the chorus once more.
With "Restless Gypsy" comes my favourite song on the album. It's said to be a ballad but I wouldn't class it as one, personally. The togetherness on the song is excellent and Lawless puts everything into singing the song, especially on the chorus which is almost the highlight. The biggest attraction, though, is the incredible solo towards the end of the song. It's a song about a man who cannot stay in one spot too long and as much as he hates to move on, he feels compelled to do so. There is a line in the song which sums it all up perfectly for me: "Holding me is like taming the seven seas". Great song, W.A.S.P. is at their best here.
"Shoot From the Hip" is back to the W.A.S.P. that's famed for being wild and untamed, and with raunchy lyrics about sex you know Blackie and the boys are on to a winner here. It's a no-nonsense song that's pure heavy metal and it has a very catchy chorus to go along with it. The only downside to the song is, I feel it slips towards the end. If it had kept up the same tempo and rhythm it may have won me over but it's almost like it morphs from one song into another, and that, for me, just doesn't work.
A political statement is on the agenda with "I'm Alive", a song which is 'dedicated to oppressive organizations worldwide wherever they may be'. I like the galloping of the guitars on this song but I'm not so sure the chorus works well. However, Blackie's vocals are excellent once more and there's a certain presence about the song which is hard to describe. The moment Chris Holmes throws down the gauntlet and lets fly with a solo is the standout for me, and that completely saves it from being a letdown because of the weak chorus.
"Easy Living" is a cover version of a song originally recorded by Uriah Heep in 1972. It's a great cover song that strolls along at a steady gallop and even the keyboards from Heep's version have been recreated here. I really enjoy the hook at the end of the chorus which is repeated for good measure. It's a great sing-along number that you just can't get out of your head once it's in there, and that's not necessarily a bad thing.
"Sweet Cheetah" is a song that probably inspired the album cover of Blackie Lawless in a Cheetah skin outfit clutching a guitar behind metal bars. It's a song about an animal who hunts his prey and once he finds her, he tells her that if she goes with him he can set her free from the shackles of the jungle forever. It's not known if she does this but not every love story has to have a happy ending. Musically, it's standard metal and not much more to it, to be honest.
"Mantronic" begins powerfully with an acoustic backdrop, sitting behind a Chris Holmes meaningful solo... but that's where the good stuff ends, and not just for the song. It's here where the album takes a slide downwards and never quite recovers. The lyrics just aren't much good and it seems like the song was a little rushed. It's a song that would probably fit the Terminator if Arnie's character had been thought of back then.
"King of Sodom and Gomorrah" is up next and unfortunately, it just seems too much of a filler for my liking, just like these last three songs do in general. It does have a tasty solo in the middle though, but that's about all it has. It's a song about the two cities in the Book of Genesis that were eventually consumed by fire and brimstone of the Day of Judgment. There just doesn't seem to be enough 'feel' to the song to sway it, in my opinion.
The album ends with "The Rock Rolls On" which is a very catchy tune, but sadly it's too little too late to save "Inside the Electric Circus" from being an average album. If you open a tin of paint, you know what you're getting. It's the same with this song, because you know you're getting the same old W.A.S.P. that you know and love and while that's definitely a good sign, it begins to sound too much like monotony.
In summary, "Inside the Electric Circus" is an album of two parts. The first part (tracks 1-8) are really good heavy metal songs that gatecrash the party and drink all the alcoholic punch, but the last four tracks come to the party and sit in the corner drinking orange juice, with "The Rock Rolls On" attempting to get some life into the other three. I still like the album - some of W.A.S.P.'s best stuff is on it - but it's not the polished stone it should be.
1. The Big Welcome
2. Inside the Electric Circus
3. I Don't Need No doctor
5. Restless Gypsy
6. Shoot From the Hip
7. I'm Alive
8. Easy Living
9. Sweet Cheetah
11. King of Sodom and Gomorrah
12. The Rock Rolls On
My rating: 7/10