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Did you know that Celine Dion once recorded a Dee Snider song? Pretty hard to believe isn’t it? Let me explain. It was actually a Christmas song. But the point is that it was a very good song. And as this album amply demonstrates – Dee Snider is a very good songwriter.
Twisted Sister is a bit like W.A.S.P. in the sense that they’re a branded band. To some people W.A.S.P. will always be all shock and Twisted Sister all glam. But both have more to offer. W.A.S.P. got interesting when things got darker. Twisted Sister were never as interested in darkness, as they were in just taking you there – wherever there happened to be. In that respect – ‘Still Hungry’ is a bit of a return trip.
So the band decided to re-record their massive breakthrough album and chuck on almost as many awesome bonus tracks. Welcome to heavy metal dreamland people. I can understand why purists prefer the original, but maybe I was just lucky to hear this one first.
If you don’t know “We’re Not Gonna Take It” and “I Wanna Rock”, please don’t get out from that rock you’re under. Decades later both still stand as text book anthems. The music pumps. The lyrics dump. And this fresh recording turns the volume and clarity way up. Forget spit and polish. This is holy grail stuff.
And the anthems don’t stop there. Take your pick: “Stay Hungry”, “Rock 'N' Roll Saviors”, “Blastin' Fast and Loud”, “S.M.F.” – all live and breathe fist in the air, shouted choruses and a solo as catchy as the stuff with words. But truth be told – even if Dee Snider can be said to have perfected the metal anthem – it’s a reputation that’s unfortunately overshadowed his very real talent and versatility as a songwriter.
What I’m taking about is someone that can pull hooks out of the air and keep the verses as catchy as a chorus you don’t see coming. A song like “Burn In Hell” usually passes for a slowed down and over dark anthem. But look again at that near doom riffing and near melodeath chorus. “Horror Teria” on the other hand hardly needs an explanation. You get eight minutes plus of music theatre melodrama injected with a prog metal tirade. Talk about more than one string to your bow.
Then on “Come Back” you suddenly wander into double kick and power metal soaring. Which is exactly how “You Know I Cry” dishes out the dirt on heartbreak. And as for “Heroes Are Hard To Find” – well remember what I said about perfecting the anthem? This time around it’s the big movie soundtrack number that’s set in stone. The verses do the build up thing and the chorus is an entire mountain range of pure eighties hard rock.
But absolutely everything above is practically filler territory compared to one other song on the album. It’s called “The Price”. This one single-handedly stamps Dee Snider as capable of something few have matched. We’re talking one of the greatest songs ever written. Yeah that’s a big call, but this song matters. The words are about struggle and fears and the human spirit – and the hook is a slowed down scream in the face of life. Enough said.
Let me finish by going back to the Twisted Sister/W.A.S.P. comparison. In some ways I wish Dee Snider had the same visions of grandeur that Blackie Lawless has. I am a fan of Blackie, but Snider is as good a songwriter. Maybe better. But he never managed to shake himself out of a traditional metal strait jacket.
Oh and while we’re on little known facts about this band; here’s one last one. Have a listen to an old Christmas Carol called “Oh Come All Ye Faithful”. Then have a listen to “We’re Not gonna Take it”. Again, enough said.
Twenty years prior to this recording, Twisted Sister released their breakthrough album Stay Hungry. Full of anthemic rockers, heavy metal bravado, and the balls to back it up, the album topped the charts and among the dregs of popular 80's metal. Twenty years later, the band re-envisioned the album, re-recording it and slapping on a bunch of bonus tracks. Fans should rejoice, no? Well....no, not really. Though it is nice to hear some of these classic tunes produced under the power of modern technology, you can't buy the energy of rebellion captured on the original recording. Tack on the inessential bonus and "lost" recordings and this thing is pretty much obsolete from the get-go.
The album starts off well, as the first three tracks from the original are classic. "Stay Hungry" is a good representation of the kind of star treatment the re-recording got. No, Dee Snider doesn't sound as good as on the old album, but the guitars, bass, and drums are perfect. The pace continues with rebel anthem "We're Not Gonna Take It," one of two TS songs that everybody knows, the other of course being "I Wanna Rock" found later on this album. The real charmer is of course "Burn in Hell," a track so heavy and twisted that it's a shame it's overlooked in favor of the hits. The rest? Anyone who remembers this album won't be disappointed, as the remainder of the tracks don't lose that classic sheen (though granted, the rest of the songs weren't nearly as memorable). New-school fans would do well to pick this up; it's pretty faithful to the original and should keep a new generation of sick motherfuckers duly satisfied.
Now for the old-school fan, it's the bonus tracks that make this album intriguing. Two songs left unreleased from the original sessions, plus five new recordings. Twisted bliss? Well, not exactly. The bonus songs kind of blow. None of these are painful to listen to, but christ are they mediocre. Generic riffing typical of the band's past fillers, uninspired vocals, and nothing particularly memorable about the lyrics. I did take note of some exonerable bass work and a few nice solos, but no reasons otherwise that these tracks should have been recorded (or in the case of the old ones, dug up).
The hardcore Sister fan might disagree, but this release seems pretty superfluous to me, considering the original record is better and the bonus tracks are unremarkable. Conclusion: try it before you buy it.
Whether you’re a diehard fan or if you just like the two songs that have been overplayed on radio for the past 20 years this is definitely worth purchasing. Not only do you get to hear the incredible Stay Hungry album completely rerecorded but you also get 7 other songs that alone are worth the price of this disc.
The Original Stay Hungry songs - All of them are much heavier and sound better musically but the vocals are a mixed bag. At times Dee’s voice improves the songs (The Price, Horror Teria, Stay Hungry) but at other times he can’t recapture the magic of the original vocal tracks (I Wanna Rock, We’re Not Gonna Take It). It is especially great to hear a new version of Burn in Hell which is one of the all time great Metal songs.
After that we get treated to 7 tracks that are as good as if not better than some of the Stay Hungry songs. The first two are demos from the Stay Hungry session rerecorded by the band a few years back. After that are 4 studio versions of live songs that were part of the bands set in their early days all were featured on the Club Daze CD’s. The last song is from the Strangeland soundtrack:
Never Say Never - A fast rocker. Not bad but not a classic.
Blastin Fast & Loud - Starts similar to Never Say Never but is a little more memorable than the previous song.
Come Back - Damn this song is catchy. Why they never recorded it until now is unknown to me. This could have been a hit or at least a great addition to any of their previous albums.
Plastic Money - My personal favorite song on the record. This is another song that should’ve been on an actual album. Dee really shines on this one as well as on the other new songs.
You Know I Cry - Good song. Nothing to special but it would have been one of the better songs if it was on Love Is For Suckers.
Rock N Roll Saviors - “Till Disco is dead, you know it’s dead, You’re dead, dead, dead” those lyrics kick ass. A great metal anthem. This shows that Twisted were always good at writing metal anthems.
Heroes are Hard to Find - If you have the abysmal Strangeland soundtrack (at least the movie was good) that only had a few decent songs on it you’ve already heard this one that was by far the highlight of that album. This is another top notch Twisted Sister song. The chorus is one that gets stuck in your head after a few listens.
Overall this record is one of the best releases of 2004 and worth a listen from anyone who ever had even a minor interest in this band. The rerecorded tracks are outstanding and the other songs are just icing on the cake. Go buy it or if you want to be cheap about it go download it.