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"Live... in the Raw" is the first live album released in 1987 on Capitol Records by American metal band, W.A.S.P. The line-up for the album was Blackie Lawless (vocals/guitar), Chris Holmes (guitar), Johnny Rod (bass) and Steve Riley (drums).
This is one of my most favourite live albums from a band I've been listening to for years. If ever there was an album title that sums it up, this is it; It's live and it's raw. W.A.S.P. are on top form on this album, with Blackie's switch from bass to guitar paying off, and new bass player Johnny Rod hitting all the notes. The wild man of rock, Chris Holmes, is as raucous as ever and the sounds coming from Steve Riley's drums are incredible, quite easily the best I've ever heard on a live album.
"Inside the Electric Circus" begins with Chris Holmes saying "Long Beach Arena. We have returned. The most outrageous band in the world. W.A.S.P." before a spatial guitar riff before launching into the verse riff which is played with plenty of guts. 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. Blackie 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.
"L.O.V.E. Machine" is one of my favourite W.A.S.P. songs and it's no surprise that it's a crowd favourite as well. I really like hearing this live and have done so on a number of occasions when I've seen the band play. It's another classic W.A.S.P. song that's about sex, in particular the narrator is talking about his girl here. He doesn't see her as a person, just a sex object. Again, though, I advise you to look past the words and listen to the music. I like the main guitar riff on this song but it's the simplicity that I enjoy the most. It flows effortlessly through its time changes, and Blackie's vocals are strong and powerful. This has all the ingredients for a great heavy metal song.
"Wild Child" is a song on which Blackie's vocals are in fine form and the harmony is magnificent, with the soft guitars helping the verses along. Back to Lawless, though, who sings the song almost as if his life depends on nailing it - and nail it, he most certainly does. If you've heard W.A.S.P. before you'll probably agree that Blackie isn't a polished metal vocalist such as Iron Maiden's Bruce Dickinson, for example, but what he brings to the table is a vocal attitude that no voice coach can bring out in anyone, and it's that guts or glory determination which makes this song what it is.
"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. If ever the interaction between the two guitarists was at its best, it's on this song at this particular night at Long Beach Arena, California.
"Sleeping (in the Fire)" is a slower song and what sets this apart is the sound from the audience. The crowd is going wild as the band plays and I like to hear that on a live album, as it gives you a sense of what it must have been like to be there that night, especially when you have to open up for Iron Maiden which is what W.A.S.P. was doing on this particular tour. Chris Holmes' use of the guitar during the solo really stands out as something special. The solo isn't ripping as such, but it's masterful in the way it's played, almost as if he's telling the guitar that he's the boss.
"The Manimal" is another W.A.S.P. song about sex and predatory instinct of what they call part man, part animal. It's the first of two songs that hadn't appeared on any album before this live offering and even though it's simplistic in the guitar playing, I still like its structure. The riff on the chorus does sound a little like a slowed down part of "I Wanna be Somebody", but that's not a problem to me. I might have been a little concerned had the band put it on a studio album, but anything goes live.
"I Wanna be Somebody" is a great song with an upbeat tempo to match. The energy on this track is really good with the narrator telling the world that he's ready to make it big and he doesn't want a dead-end day job and doesn't want to beg to force his way through life. Instead, he's saying he has what it takes to get to the top. The guitar solo is typical Chris Holmes. It's mean, angry and dirty. A little like the man himself! The ending of the song repeats the chorus and when it's played live as it is here, it usually involves Blackie having the audience sing along with a little bit of 'audience participation' and Blackie splitting the crowd down the middle.
"Harder Faster" is a song that Blackie Lawless dedicated to the Parents Music Resource Center (P.M.R.C.) because of their inclusion of the band's song "Animal (Fuck Like a Beast)" in their list of 'Filthy Fifteen' songs that they deemed sexist or violent. It's a song that is all of the above, but with tongue-in-cheek lyrics poking fun at the likes of Tipper Gore and the Washington Wives. It is also the second of two live songs on the album that hadn't appeared on any W.A.S.P. album before. The chorus has great vocal harmony and what I especially like is Blackie's introduction to the song which blasts the P.M.R.C. for thinking what they do about the band.
"Blind in Texas" is my all-time favourite W.A.S.P. song which is about a true story in that the band was doing a gig in the Lone Star State and Blackie didn't like the heat or the people, so he decided to write a song about his experiences, although he put a slight twist on things when he talks about drinking moonshine and whiskey. The song is a true-edged rock and roll number that you wouldn't find out of place in any rock bar where you would find people dancing on tables to it. This is W.A.S.P. at their very best, and Chris Holmes' guitar sings to perfection during the solo.
"Scream Until You Like It" is the only non-live song on the album and was thrown on there as an added bonus. I'm glad it was, because it's such a great song and it was the theme from "Ghoulies II". What Blackie does here is a complete double entendre in the lyrics, because they could mean that the Ghoulies will make you scream and they could mean that he will, in completely different context. I've always been a fan of Blackie's voice and on this record it's strong, but I do question the inclusion of a studio song for a live album. As the band did with "Harder Faster" and "The Manimal", just do it live!
In summary, I've never been one to like over-produced albums, especially live albums. It's a joy to hear an album like this which is, essentially, raw. There's only one other live album I'd put above this, that being AC/DC's "If You Want Blood (You've Got It)". Your music collection will definitely be enhanced by its presence. This album gets a big thumbs up from me, and I can highly recommend it.
1. Inside the Electric Circus
2. I Don't Need No Doctor
3. L.O.V.E. Machine
4. Wild Child
6. Sleeping (in the Fire)
7. The Manimal
8. I Wanna be Somebody
9. Harder Faster
10. Blind in Texas
11. Scream Until You Like It
My rating: 9/10
Disc #1 Tracklisting
1 Inside the electric circus
2 I don't need no doctor
3 LOVE machine
4 Wild child
5 95 NASTY
6 Sleeping (in The Fire)
8 I wanna be somebody
9 Harder faster
10 Blind in Texas
11 Scream until you like it
12 Shoot from the hip (live)
13 Widowmaker (live)
14 Sex drive (live)
15 Sleeping in the fire (acoustic)