In 1979 and 1980, the period between the end of the Dictators’ original reign and the birth of Manowar, Ross the Boss did yeoman duty as the guitar god for the French band Shakin’ Street. It’s time to give them a fresh listen.
The logical starting point is their self-titled 1980 album on Columbia. Singer Fabienne’s English as a Second Language vocals don’t always work, and there are points where the material doesn’t keep up with the playing. But RTB is killer throughout, and there are high points tune-wise, with “Solid as a Rock,” “No Time To Lose,” “So Fine” and especially “Susie Wong.” “Susie Wong” is easily the best thing here, a beautiful tune with a nicely structured arrangement that winds its way to RTB’s best bits on the LP, where he’s sympathetic and muscular all at once. It’s simply a great song, and one of the best non-Dics things he’s ever played on. The highs more than compensate for the lows here, and overall this is a pretty solid album.
This was their only studio album of the era, but the band was road tested heavily, and toured with Black Sabbath and Blue Öyster Cult. Two live LPs resulted – 1980’s Live and Raw and Shakin’ Street Live, which was recorded in the same era but didn’t see the light of day until 2004. Like 99 percent of all live albums, these things are basically souvenirs for the die-hards. There is very little overlap between the two albums, proving the band to be fairly prolific for its relatively short life span. The 1980 album is only eight songs, and sounds like it was recorded through the lining of my winter coat, while the 2004 album is much longer, has better sound, and has five additional studio tracks. If faced with the choice, go with the 2004 album.
The 1980 tour with Black Sabbath led to RTB meeting up with Joey DeMaio, and subsequently to the birth of Manowar, which should have ended RTB’s tour of duty with Shakin’ St. There was a long-belated postscript to the story. Ross played a reunion show with the band in 2004, which was followed up earlier this year with 21st Century Love Channel. The band sounds great, Ross is a monster as usual, but the same problems that detracted from the first LP are still intact here. There are a couple of rocking new tunes, “Stick to Me” and “Streets of San Francisco,” which can be counted as additions to the band’s legacy.
Go find that Columbia LP. It was reissued on CD in an expanded version in 2004, and the original vinyl shows up regularly in the dollar bin at used stores.
— Salvi C.