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“…sands of time will sway…”
With the minor injustice of excluding Wildfire (not to be confused with a different ignorantly bruteless and unforceful Wildfire, also from the U.K.) from the archives having been corrected, this very early split/compilation/sampler may now seem more historically important to those questioning its inclusion here due to the recognition of what seemed like a mere two out of four bands worthy of the metal brand. Well, make it three, ‘cos despite having less of a reputation than Tootie, my grandmother’s old poodle, “Wild Dogs” is not a song that’s easily called off, and that cat on the cover is well aware of it.
Considered the final slice of the significant Metal For Muthas series of 1980 compilations, Muthas Pride guards a smaller family of songs, four from as many bands, and are the first series appearances of Wildfire, Quartz, and Baby Jane, all fellow Brits. Can’t help but feel this disc was released on the coattails of its big brothers as an afterthought with the material here either not making the grade (which I find hard to swallow) or were last to be accepted. Of the two biggest fish, White Spirit was already a series veteran with high times on Vol. 2 (and in the scene, with possibly their debut album out by this time) and Quartz, with a slew of previous singles and a ’77 debut, wasn’t a newbie by a stretch, then with Wildfire and Baby Jane…? Well, whatever. I’m just glad it got released.
Right off the bat we’re hit with busy White Spirited keyboards…um, wasn't whitey supposed to kick off side two? Did I…? Nope, right side, and it turns out this mazy display of synths is the preamble to the daring of Wildfire, a smiling surprise that you don’t have to dig to the bottom of the box to find. High-octane “Wild Dogs” is tenacious, insistent, and, despite its chronic keyboard indulgence, quickly and mindfully collapses the hard rock section of the bridge the ‘70s had built to reach the ‘80s. This is done - most reverently - by revealing a commanding chorus that's crammed between some startling rhythmic fervency that easily churns the virtually untouched dirt of then-unknown speed metal. Wha?
Older hands keep Wildfire’s high spirits from hitting the floor with the even-tempered and fairly typical “Back in the Band”, Quartz’s (who incidentally have a song called Wildfire) solid and up-tempo split original that would live solely with this mutha for the next 24 years. To rev up side two, White Spirit paints an alternate version of the self-controlled, yet keyboard-heavy “Red Skies”, here with a lifespan about thirty seconds shorter than the one on the debut, and it’s this song’s obvious relationship with heavier music’s hard and soft spectrum that starts rebuilding the bridge between the decades. The band with the shakiest name here picks up the contract to complete the bridge and sends its first foot soldier “Baby Jane” - mildly peppy and confident, yet creatively bridled and lukewarm - across, actually a poorly disguised toddler with a nametag that is promptly shot, falls over the railing, and rightfully kept falling into the oblivion of metal’s mind from that point on.
To my thoughts, Muthas Pride is more than the third wheel on the Metal For Muthas tricycle and more than an early-to-wake metal sampler of 1980, and while for most music fans it's absolutely no big deal now, this mutha proves a once unworthy (or forgotten) band of no consequence somehow plowed one of the deepest, fastest, and aggressive ruts in metal’s then-tiny plantation. It would only make sense that fans hearing this for the first time today who are interested in metal’s early sonic history or merely hanker for its traditional times need to dust off the question ‘where the hell has this been hiding all these years?’. Yet no one seems to know or care. This, my friends, is why v/a compilations matter, or at least have the potential to matter, and this credence grows with each buried gem that is forced back into the daylight. It’s also tiny surprises like these that can make life even a little more tolerable.
In two years Wildfire would press a single as Red Alert where “Wild Dogs” (or a rendition thereof) would be unleashed once more. White Spirit would go to band heaven not soon afterward and would be joined by Quartz a little later. Baby Jane? Rock hell.