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Salvageable - 70%

DawnoftheShred, April 22nd, 2009

On Parole is the first Motorhead album ever to be recorded, though if you’ve been paying attention, you’ll notice that it was not the first to be released (it came something like fourth). This is because the record labels rejected it, resulting in the tracklist getting re-tooled and many of the songs re-recorded for the eponymous Motorhead, the band’s first official album. After getting picked up by a label and gaining a little notoriety with albums like Overkill, the label decides to release On Parole anyway to cash in on the band’s success.

But there’s a reason the labels hadn’t released the album from the get go: it’s pretty rough. Having recently been ousted from space rock pioneers Hawkwind, Lemmy Kilmister’s new outfit sounds exactly like what you’d think the drunken-70’s-psych-rock-reject-turned-power-trio-leader would offer. There’s a heavy blues sound on many tracks, particularly “Iron Horse/Born to Lose,” but there’s also traces of Pink Floyd in some of the sonic experimentation and the vocal harmonies. There’s also a little proto-punk with the raucous “Motorhead” and the hilarious “Vibrator.” Lemmy’s vocals are the cleanest I’ve ever heard them on this album and original guitarist Larry Wallis has a different style of playing that fans might grow fond of. The roughness occurs in the stripped-down production which differs greatly from the sleazy sound they’d pioneer with Bomber and Ace of Spades. It’s likeable though: it’s the most 70’s-sounding Motorhead album (“Fools” is a prime example). Those of us that dig that sound should be able to find value in On Parole, with the only real annoyance being the overabundance of weird studio gimmickry that the band employs, such as the end thing of “City Kids” and some of the weird shit near the end of “The Watcher.” Probably sounded great when the band was wasted in the recording studio, but the end result is one of confusion: what the hell were they thinking?

My opinion might be a bit biased, as I’ve spent a lot of time listening to this album on the road, but I believe the strength of the songs justifies this release. Okay, so most of them appear on their debut and the sound isn’t the ideal for Motorhead, but come on, v-v-v-v-v-v-vibrator, man! The old versions are just as cool as the later ones; in fact, there are plenty of differences in the arrangements, melodies, and solos for those that have already played through the Motorhead album a bunch of times. And there is a pair of exclusive tracks (might be covers, I’m not sure) for On Parole. Worth checking out, at the least.

Fairly competent classic rock album - 67%

Mungo, June 2nd, 2007

Originally recorded in 1976, Motörhead's 'On Parole' shows a band that is more relaxed and brooding compared to what they would later become. This is their real debut album, but due to record company problems the album was shelved until three years later, where it was released to try and cash in on the bands new found success. Motörhead was originally founded as a result of Lemmy's beliefs that the Metal scene losing it's popularity and intensity as a result to the explosion of the punk scene, and having just left Hawkwind it seemed a perfect opportunity to make a band which would bring the Metal genre back to where it was before.

With that said however, 'On Parole' has it's roots first and foremost in classic rock. The music on here is a far cry from the speed/heavy metal they would later play. The riffing is still very bluesy and midpaced, and the songs which would later make it onto their self titled album are slower and more relaxed than their later day counterparts. The ones which didn't get included had the most prominent blues influence, from the classic rock riffage of 'On Parole' to the pure rock 'n' roll track 'Leaving Here'. Listening to them now it is easy to see why they didn't make it onto the debut, not because they weren't enjoyable but more because they aren't as heavy as the rest of the tracks and therefore would seem out of place on later records. There is even a song on here which sounds a lot like old school punk rock , that being 'City Kids'.

Lemmy's voice is a lot less harsher than it would later become, and sometimes he doesn't sound anything like he later would. His vocals are more smoother and melodic before, which suits the riffing well. The production is what you would expect from Motörhead; raw and unpolished.

When you put all this together you get a fairly competent classic rock album. While not being anything near the heaviness of their later songs, it is still enjoyable, and if nothing else it is recommended for the historical value behind it.

Different, yes, but good as well. - 78%

I_am_thy_abyss, February 4th, 2006

From the beginning of this Motorhead album, On Parole, we see on the first place that this is really different from the more common "agression" that symbolizes the rock based speed metal practiced by this unique band.

Yes, this is not as fast paced or speedy like some previews Motorhead albuns such as Ace of Spades, and the genre of music here practiced its much more softer, it is not speed n'or heavy metal, Motörhead went to the roots of rock and blues and use them to build this great album, with excellent solos and guitar riffs (with the best inspiration that we can find on the preview album, Overkill), and a acceptable drum, soft as well and with great skills.

The voice is different as well, Lemmy left those rough vocalizations, using this "drunked based" clean singing, which is very enjoyable.

There is also a track, City Kids, that, we could say, its kind of punk/punk Oi! oriented, it sounds like the music from those suburban bands that were playing with no commitments at all, just for the love of music.

So, this is a very relaxed album, sounding like some friends that gathered on a garage to play some blues and rock tunes, with lots of alcohol on their heads and a great passion for rock n' roll, which is great!

Interesting, but didn't make MY lawn die - 52%

VileRancour, May 20th, 2004

Well, if this isn't a nice little curiosity. This was what started it all for Motorhead back in '75, with Lemmy's butt still sore from being kicked out of Hawkwind. Although most of the tracks on this album have since been re-recorded elsewhere, 'On Parole' is an interesting document, being the only recorded output of the nascent prototype version of the band - Lemmy on bass and vocals, supported by Larry Wallis (from the unfortunately-named Pink Fairies, and fresh out of a short stint in UFO) on guitar, and by Lucas Fox on drums.

The latter didn't make it all the way through the recordings, as he was replaced by Phil"thy Animal" Taylor just after laying down the drum tracks. Fox's talents must have been questionable - you know you suck when you're kicked out to be replaced by your bassist/singer's drug dealer. Taylor (who had absolutely zero professional experience) had to record all the drum tracks from scratch; he almost made it, too, but was then faced with the unfortunate necessity of swallowing a few pills he had on him to avoid being busted. When he woke up in jail three days later, the studio time had run out, which is why one track ('Lost Johnny') still features Fox's drumwork. Gotta love the cops.

So, what do you get out of a band that aspires to be so dirty and loud that "if we moved in next to you, your lawn would die" (according to Lemmy), when you throw them into a studio with a pop producer, after only a few months together and some really ill-received and un-together gigs? The opener - 'Motorhead', a remnant from the Hawkwind days - manages to deliver, and then some. Far removed from the midpaced, psychedelic Hawkwind version (suffice to say there's no violin solo to be found here), it promptly rips your fucking face off with brutal ferocity and unbridled speed that were quite unheard of in '75! An ass-kicker of a speed metal track, it is, and the performance here may very well be the best studio version of this song - it just manages to beat the one re-recorded later on the proper debut.

Unfortunately, the rest falls short... what we get here is a mild affair overall, a rather quirky collection of songs that, moreover, cannot be called "metal" in any way, except for the aforementioned first track. The production is rather polished, by later Motorhead standards; there are vocal and guitar overdubs all over the place, an interesting approach for Motorhead (Wallis joins Lemmy on lead vocals, and in fact, the abundance of guitar overdubbing on here was what later prompted the band to bring in "Fast" Eddie, initially as a second live guitarist). The guitar tone is rather tame, and that goes for the bass as well - lacks the distorted, patented "Lemmy sound" of later works. Lemmy's vocals, too, might come as a bit of a surprise to those used to his trademark gravel-throated snarl.

The material is a potpourri of songs culled from the members' ex-bands, covers, and a few originals; it can be described as '70s hard rock with the emphasis alternating between basic rock stylings and remnants of proggy psychedelia, only beginning to showcase the same stripped-down approach that at the time was pregnant with the primordial versions of punk rock and NWOBHM. Indeed, 'Vibrator' is completely punk, from the simple 3-chord hooks down to the snide, heavily-accented vocal delivery (done by Larry Wallis, by the way). 'City Kids' - a song "borrowed" from Wallis' old band the Pink Fairies - is somewhere in that general territory as well. 'On Parole' and the old Motown cover 'Leaving Here' exhibit the basic rock'n'roll side of things, which gets pretty insipid. The psych leftovers can be felt most strongly in 'The Watcher', another old Hawkwind song, and in 'Fools' ("this is a song for all you managers and agents out there"), another one sung by Wallis, which has that typical odd '70s vibe about it - think 'Am I Going Insane' by Sabbath.

The most striking example of the contrast between this album and later Motorhead would probably be the version of 'Iron Horse/Born To Lose' that's to be found here. Quiet, bluesy, laid back... pretty much a different song altogether when compared with the riff-monster that the later versions will mutate into.

This is what Motorhead emerged with from the studio and delivered to their label. Of course, the time-honored Motorhead tradition of being royally shat upon by record companies had to start somewhere, and United Artists provided a brilliant kick-start by promptly proceeding to toss the album into their vaults and keeping it unreleased. Predictably, it was suddenly issued four years later, when the band started getting places, and then reissued over and over ad nauseam. This particular version, though, has something new to offer - 4 bonus tracks that actually predate the rest of the album, basically alternate demo takes with a different producer ('On Parole', 'City Kids', 'Motorhead' and 'Leaving Here'). Taylor was not involved yet, so all 4 tracks have Lucas Fox on drums, which is pretty much the only possible point of interest they offer.

When this album finally DID see the light of day Motorhead was already a different beast... but fans should still find this interesting, for its historical curiosity value, if not for the excellent first track.