Review by Greg Maki
When Mötley Crüe spent the better part of 2014 and 2015 celebrating itself on its final tour, one part of its history—a fairly significant part of it, if you ask me—was nowhere to be seen. That, of course, was the period in the early to mid-1990s when, depending on who you ask, frontman Vince Neil either had quit or had been fired. With John Corabi stepping in as his replacement, the Crüe’s sound took a dramatic turn on its self-titled 1994 release. The “bad boys of rock ‘n’ roll”—the ultimate party band—had gone in a darker, heavier direction and suddenly had a lot more on their mind than sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll. It was astonishing creative progression that featured some of the best songwriting and performances of the band’s career.
Naturally, the record was a commercial failure, and by 1996, Neil was back behind the mic. The only real acknowledgements by the band that this era even existed are its inclusion in its infamous autobiography, “The Dirt,” and a pair of songs on a 2015 compilation album, “Red, White & Crüe.” Fortunately, Corabi—who, after his Crüe days, formed the band Union with former KISS guitarist Bruce Kulick, played guitar in Ratt, has performed as a solo artist and now has a sweet gig fronting The Dead Daisies—is keeping this superb album alive, first with a tour on which he and his band performed it in its entirety and now with a live record documenting a show on that tour.
On “Live ‘94 (One Night in Nashville)”—recorded on Oct. 27, 2015, in (obviously) Nashville, Tennessee—the songs written and originally recorded more than two decades ago sound just as fresh, vital and exhilarating as ever—maybe even more so now because of how overlooked they’ve been over the years. Time has robbed Corabi’s raspy voice of none of its power, and his band—Jeremy Asbrock (guitar/vocals), Tommy Daley (guitar), Topher Nolen (bass guitar/vocals) and Ian Corabi (drums/percussions)—perfectly recreates the songs, which could not have been an easy task given some of the complicated arrangements. Knowing how little Mötley ended up touring behind this album, Corabi’s tour likely was the first time many of these songs were performed live.
The material runs the gamut from riff-driven metallic numbers like “Power to the Music” and “Hammered,” to the even heavier “Smoke the Sky,” to the single “Hooligan’s Holiday,” to the acoustic “Loveshine,” to the brilliant “Misunderstood,” which is almost three songs in one and, from more of an objective standpoint, might very well be the best piece of music Mötley Crüe ever wrote. After running through the 12 album tracks, Corabi and the band return for “10,000 Miles,” originally released on the Japanese edition of the “Quaternary” EP. I would’ve loved to hear “Babykills,” but a song I’d never heard before in any form is a nice treat.
My reaction to “Live ‘94” might be a little different from that of the average listener today. As a teenager whose tastes were evolving into heavier music, I was huge fan of the Mötley ‘94 album, and I was heartbroken when it seemed like no one else loved it even half as much as I did. (Let’s not even get into how crushed I was after the cancellation of the tour where I going to see Mötley Crue live for the first time.) So the idea that these songs are not just alive but being celebrated in 2018 is almost too much for me to fathom. Thank, John Corabi. “Live ‘94” is a record I will treasure.
(Rat Pak Records, February 16, 2018)