When Slade had once again found a new wave of success through 1984 with hits Run Runaway and My Oh My, the band refused to take any risks and began working as a studio-only group. Due to personal problems, lead vocalist Noddy Holder wished to stop touring. The band wanted to write an entire album where all tracks could possibly be worthy of a hit single. The outcome was a highly produced album with top quality song writing in the world of pop-rock.
The opener Hey Ho Wish You Well features one of the best guitar openings on any Slade album. This introduction is complete with a galloping drum beat from drummer Don Powell, strong guitar licks from Dave Hill and some fantastic synthesizer from Jim Lea. This song is in a similar vein to the band's 1984 hit Run Runaway with the feeling of a rock jig. The entire track is as catchy as it gets with the huge sing-a-long chorus and rhyming verses. Whilst the lyrics are pure silly, the track does its job of being highly infectious and fun material. The melody alone does the job. "Mad dogs and Englishmen going out in the midday sun. Too hot to jump the gun, do you know what I mean?"
Following next is Little Sheila, a very synthesizer driven track which again delivers a highly catchy melody. There's some fine guitar work from Dave Hill who weaves the guitar into the piece perfectly, helped by the tremendous production. This time the lyrics are much more mature than the previous track. Noddy's vocals have always had the reputation of sounding loud but here he sounds very smooth which works extremely well. The pre-chorus adds another fantastic synthesizer melody which winds up to the chorus. The powerful chorus features strong backing vocals, making this track a winner. A good example of the band reaching out of their usual sound and entering new territory. "There's another urban jungle on heat and another rebel out on the street, you gotta watch yourself whoever you meet..."
Next is Harmony which shows the sensitive side to Slade. This song doesn't rely on melody or catchiness but instead uses a huge anthemic chorus and a set of sensitive lyrics of Noddy speaking to his lover. Many lines make this clear such as, "I can change you, rearrange you, wait and see..." Noddy's smooth vocals and the high production make this track particularly pleasant. Certainly, this is a new sound for Slade - one that dives deep into emotion quite unlike anything Slade have done before. "I believe in everything you say and do. Is there anything you say that may be true? No more second chance your choice is overdue..."
Welcoming back Slade's spelling trademark since the 70s, Myzsterious Mizster Jones proudly presents itself as the most infectious track on the album - proving Slade were far from a spent force. Again, like Little Sheila, the track is very synthesizer based. The melody is constantly there, infectious and energetic. Noddy's vocals are fantastic and work perfectly. There are some rhyming verses and a great chorus make this song irresistible. But if that's not enough for you there's one of the band's finest guitar solos thrown in as well. The sheer energy within this track is fantastic and only Slade could quite pull this level of fun off so well. "He's into shooting stars, eccentric cars - grew up fussing, fighting, in the bars. All he's got to show for it's the battle scars, the Myzsterious Mizster Jones..."
For the next track the band want to slow things down and present Walking on Water, Running on Alcohol. Like Harmony, the track doesn't rely on melody but instead uses another sing-a-long chorus and another set of lyrics from the heart. Percussion shines on this track and the synthesizer is nothing short of grand. Noddy's vocals are sensitive with the lyrics being rather personal. The chorus blasts out with some strong vocals from Noddy and some glorious backing vocals added. Well known for the fact that Noddy desperately wanted this track released as a single but was ruled out by the record company and the rest of the band. "You gimme something, there's no doubt about it, to get me through the night. Keep on laughing when you see me walk this way..."
If the title hadn't already caught your eye, 7 Year Bitch follows. Guitar is an immediate highlight with a very rich sound which is topped off by a sing-a-long chant. The lyrics are based on a simple story of a older men going for younger women. The lyrics constantly remain sturdy, clever and sarcastic. Noddy capitalizes on this by singing with a rather cruel tone. Noddy doesn't let up until the entire song finishes. "And I know that you were overcome when she told you you're the best...you better believe she's saying the same to me and all the rest" and "Can you control the bitch?" are only two examples of Noddy's forthright lyrics.
I'll Be There takes the listener through another highly infectious, sing-a-long track. The lyrics are from the heart again, showing the devotion to a certain wild female character. A very up-tempo song even featuring another catchy chant for the listener to join in with. The verses flow nicely with some strong vocals, the lyrics working perfectly. The chorus is hugely anthemic and infectious. A great backing synthesizer weaves a great melody in the background. Percussion and guitar is another strong point in this song, helped again by the glossy production. No doubt this song would have been a great asset for a live performance. Slade at their catchiest. "The liberties you take, the excuses that you make, there's something in your eyes that don't ring true. Your ability leads to infidelity, while I'm saving myself just for you..."
I Win, You Lose is itself the masterpiece of all ballads on this album. Again the track doesn't require a catchy hook but instead something of which no Slade fan would expect. A grand sound throughout of thunderous percussion and an effective piano carrying Noddy's vocals along. The real highlight is not only the very personal and sad set of lyrics but the way which Noddy delivers them. Never before has Noddy sounded so sensitive. Particularly when he bellows out the line "Shame on me". A truly inspiring piece right from the heart. "Miles apart, it's getting harder to take the strain. I'm only human and I feel the pain..."
Straight after, the guitar kicks off with Time To Rock, a mid-tempo number with some great percussion. A more guitar themed song which recalls Slade's 70s material. The lyrics, like Hey Ho Wish You Well, should not be taken seriously and it's all for fun. A sing-a-long chorus works perfectly with some solid vocals. This track even features some infectious whistling, the only Slade song ever to do so. "I see my friends and family are waiting at the door. It's a party like you never saw before" and "Somebody called the law - let's pretend that we can't hear them at the door" are two examples of the party atmosphere the lyrics contain.
The grand finale is All Join Hands which begins with a gentle piano riff. Noddy sings nicely over the piano, much like their hit My Oh My. The lyrics recall of past memories and of course, joining together. Noddy's vocals are strong throughout and backing vocals are great as well. Naturally, there's a great sing-a-long chorus and a big ending with a grand guitar solo. Proof that Slade could easily create an endless amount of memorable sing-a-long tracks. "All the girls getting kissed in the ballroom, all the boys Brahms and Liszt on the floor..."
For the remaster of this album there are nine great bonus tracks featuring remixes and b-sides. Here's To... was the original b-side to All Join Hands. The track is a reworking of their 1976 hit Thanks For The Memory with as always a great sing-a-long chorus backed by some grand sounding synthesizer. Noddy's vocals are rather humorous and work well with the lyrics whilst the chorus follows the traditional Slade fashion. "Hey lads and lasses come raise up your glasses, make sure they're filled up to the hilt. Going on the brink again, buy me a drink then I'll show you what's under my kilt..."
The 12" Extended Version of 7 Year Bitch follows which starts with an instrumental section consisting of a verse and chorus. The rest of the track is the original album version. A nice touch for any fan who wants to sing a karaoke version or anybody who is interested in how the track sounds without any vocal.
Leave Them Girls Alone was originally the b-side of 7 Year Bitch. The track was shamefully kept as a b-side despite being hit single material. A tremendously catchy chant right from the beginning whilst the verses show bassist Jim Lea and Noddy exchanging lines. The chorus is greatly infectious and is a perfect example of Slade's own anthemic sing-a-long choruses. The energy is fantastic throughout and the lyrics work perfectly with the melody. "On the town I know there's luck to kill - don't do anything against your will. Overloaded and you still want more, much more than I've ever felt before..."
The 12" Extended Version of Myzsterious Mizster Jones is next which follows the same pattern as the extended version of 7 Year Bitch. The remix starts with an instrumental section consisting of a verse and chorus. The rest of the track is the original album version. Again, a nice touch for any fan who wants to sing a karaoke version or anybody interested in how the track sounds without any vocal.
Mama Nature Is a Rocker is the original b-side to Myzsterious Mizster Jones. A ZZ Top sound alike which features some interesting and witty lyrics over the top of a huge bouncy synthesizer melody. Noddy sounds like he is having fun with the track and the chorus blasts out of the song perfectly. Along with the production, this track sounds very 80s whilst maintaining Slade's usual sound of great energy. This track makes a worthwhile listen. "Mama nature is a rocker, every day comes up with something new. She turns the day out into night time, she can curse and turn the grey sky blue..."
Another bonus track is the Piano and Vocal Version of My Oh My which is rather like a demo. This track shows the early stage of what became one of Slade's biggest hits. There are a few changes in the lyrics which is interesting and this track provides a perfect look into the creation of My Oh My. Noddy sings with passion whilst the piano effectively carries the vocals along. There is also a group of vocals performing the sing-a-long part of the track towards the end, just like in the final version.
Do You Believe In Miracles? was a charity single from late 1985 which also featured on the group's Christmas album Crackers. The track is based on Bob Geldof and his work with live aid. According to the album's sleeve notes, Noddy was amazed at what Bob Geldof was achieving with some rock 'n' roll, some organisation and a vision. A truly inspiring track with a grand melody, anthemic chorus and a fine set of lyrics. The melody ranks amongst one of the band's best and the lyrics rank as one of the most effective and thoughtful. The chorus goes through the usual Slade anthem style and effectively carries the message of the lyrics. The production on this track is truly spectacular, still sounding great today. Sadly the single only peaked at #54 in the UK. "He said "why'd you carry on this way, I could never go to that". But he had to learn he was just the same One step forward two steps back..." and "It was in the autumn of '84, going live through '85. When he made the greatest show on earth just to help a country to survive..." are only two examples of the inspiring lyrics.
Following on is the Swing Version of My Oh My which was originally the b-side to Do You Believe in Miracles?. This track is unique to Slade's work unlike anything expected from the group. This version features full brass backing from the Monty Babson Big Band. The entire track has a great jazz and swing influence with a novelty sound to it. Noddy's vocals work amazingly well and just show his versatility as a vocalist. An interesting and unexpected take on My Oh My.
Finally, the 12" Extended Version of Do You Believe In Miracles? is last which follows the same pattern as the extended versions of 7 Year Bitch and Myzsterious Mizster Jones. The remix starts with an instrumental section consisting of a verse and chorus. The rest of the track is the original album version. Again, a nice touch for any fan who wants to sing a karaoke version or anybody interested in how the track sounds without any vocal.
Admittingly perhaps, many would say this was the band's attempt at trying to fit with the times as synthesizers are heavily used on this album. Regardless, Slade proved they could do something special with the 80s sound and anybody who gets a chance to listen to this album will surely agree. After all, many band's similar to Slade such as Queen began doing the same thing as the synthesizer was key to the sound of the 80s.
Slade's Rogues Gallery in all honesty didn't quite meet the success it should have, only peaking at #60 in the UK and #132 in the US although it was a huge hit in other European countries. The singles also failed to set the UK charts alight, 7 Year Bitch peaked at #60 due to being banned because of the lyrics and title, Myzsterious Mizster Jones at #50 whilst Christmas 1984 allowed the lead single All Join Hands to peak at #15, Slade's last top 20 hit. Little Sheila was also a single but in the US region only. It was a minor hit, peaking at #86 in the US, #60 in Canada and #13 on the American mainstream rock charts. A fair reason as to why the album failed was that Slade were simply seen as unfashionable in the 80s.
Nevertheless I highly recommend this album, one that's been with me for years now and still I find myself playing it often. In fact, this album is probably my favourite of all time. Jim Lea's production has stood the test of time and still sounds very modern today. The remaster also brings the best out of the sound, making it all very lively and fresh. This was Slade's attempt at a highly produced, smooth and rich sounding record. They succeeded even if not many people realise.
The album can be found for a great price on Amazon, whilst the site also includes previews of each track.