I’m switching up the format a bit this week. There will be a post every day and the four others all deal with the subject of hair metal. So for my AOTW pick this week I’m not going to reminisce over some beloved-to-me work that I fondly recall and could write about at any given time.
Instead I’m picking a hair metal work that I haven’t listened to in maybe 30 years and I’m going to see what I think on the fly. I played the tape way back when in early 1991, just before the storm came to wipe hair metal off the map. But I can’t really “place” this album at all and it requires a new listen for me to really decide what I think about it.
Warrant – Cherry Pie
Released September 11, 1990 via Columbia Records
My Favorite Tracks – Cherry Pie, ???
The ominous release date stands out but of course this release was 11 years before those events. It was truly just another day back then. It does feel a bit odd to look back in those terms but this AOTW has nothing to do with that so I’ll press on.
This was Warrant’s biggest hit in terms of albums and resulting singles. The band were one of the more interesting prospects in latter-day hair metal and were perhaps second only to Skid Row in terms of popularity. Warrant also handled the demise of hair metal more adeptly than many of their peers, as they retooled with new sounds that saw industry success through the 1990’s before entering their nostalgia phase in the 2000’s.
There is debate over who actually played guitar on the album. It has been semi-confirmed that ex-Streets guitarist Mike Slamer played many of the solos. I don’t see a ton of confirmed info other than C.C. DeVille’s credited turn on the title track so I won’t get too far into it. Using studio players to spruce up an album was far more common than many people realize so the topic is more trivia than a major discussion topic.
I will go through the album track-by-track and see what I think. This is far more off-the-cuff than I normally do but I wanted to dig more into the end portion of hair metal and explore it rather than pay homage to one of the handful of records I revere and could write about at any given time.
We’re right out of the gate with the title track and Warrant’s most recognizable song. It’s a wonderfully done hard rocker that is obviously talking about sex without really talking about it. The song and resulting video were big hits and this is everything right about hair metal. Sure it’s silly and that likely turns off a lot of detractors of hair metal, but there’s nothing wrong with having some fun now and again. I’ll have to get through the rest of the album before any final verdict but I’m sure this will stand as my favorite tune when we’re all done.
Uncle Tom’s Cabin
On to another of the album’s singles. This song is not an ode to the classic novel of the same name that would greatly influence the debate over slavery in America. Rather it is more of a murder ballad, telling the tale of two cops who murdered and were disposing of the bodies in the swamp.
It’s a really good song that changes up the hair metal formula of party rock or love ballads. I don’t know why songs like this are so intriguing, the case here is fictional, but these types of “I saw the killer” songs always grab attention.
I Saw Red
We go now to full ballad territory. This song was a hit single for Warrant. It is a sad account of the narrator finding his lover in bed with someone else. The song is well arranged with somber instrumentation to accompany the heavy topic at hand. The tune keeps things more high-minded and does not descend into a need for revenge or anything like that.
I will give the song full credit for being good but it’s also pushing it for me in terms of sappiness or whatever. I can do without a ton of that in my diet so this is one I wouldn’t revisit on a regular basis.
Bed Of Roses
It’s back to back with the sappiness, though this song picks up the tempo. The song is pretty good but I’m choking a bit on the sap levels. I don’t know why every rock band went for the “bed of roses” trope around this time. Stuff like this is probably what led me to getting into death metal.
Sure Feels Good To Me
We get fully back to rock and roll on this banger. This tune is quick, hard and simple. And that’s just how things should be. And uh, whoever played the solo on this did a fantastic job.
Love In Stereo
The tempo stays up and the theme stays the same. This song is a piano-backed jam that is perfectly fine. Warrant aren’t reinventing the wheel here but they’re executing well. These more “filler” songs are holding their weight so far.
This was the fourth single from the album. It wasn’t a chart topper. The song is a very simple, prototypical power ballad for end-era hair metal. It doesn’t stand out as anything special compared to I Saw Red but the song is ok. I don’t mind listening to it but it’s not a song I’d playlist.
Song And Dance Man
The lyrical fare is sillier than shit here but the song thankfully picks up the tempo for the chorus and saves it from totally losing my interest. It’s one of those songs that’s just about whatever. Sometimes songs like this work really well, other times they’re garbage. This one sits somewhere inbetween.
You’re The Only Hell Your Mama Ever Raised
I don’t know entirely what’s going on here, if this was intended as some call and response to the Johnny Paycheck classic I’m The Only Hell My Mama Ever Raised, or what. Whatever the case the song is pretty good and picks up this second side a bit, things were lagging there for a minute.
I notice that this track has a lot more Spotify streams than others from the record’s second side. It’s probably because the song is head and shoulders above anything else on this side. This is a well-executed hard rocker about finding love and not needing to be rained on anymore. The way the album was going I was afraid the quality was going to further descend into something horrible, but this song really picks things up.
Our last proper song is a cover from southern rock veterans Blackfoot. Warrant fit the song very well into this album’s vibe. It’s not a trasnformative cover by any means but it’s done nicely and keeps the album’s listening experience up after the excellent track prior.
Ode To Tipper Gore
Tacked on to the album’s close is this small rant directed at the PMRC’s queen bee. Rather nice timing as I was just discussing the PMRC and the Filthy Fifteen last week. This is just a compilation of Jani Lane saying fuck and shit a lot and is of no real listening value. It is funny to recall it in the context of the PMRC’s grip on popular music at the time, this is the kind of stuff musicians provided in response.
That does it for the original studio version of Cherry Pie. There are bonus tracks scattered around from various reissues of the album over the years. The band would change course for more rock and quasi-grunge sounds after this release but would keep their heads above water as many other hair acts fell by the wayside.
Cherry Pie turned out to be a pretty enjoyable listen. I remembered the hits but I had to re-acquaint myself with the other material. Overall I found it worthwhile to listen to, just one or maybe two songs approach but don’t quite fully fit the term “stinker.” The music here isn’t transcendent by any stretch but it was done at a level above a lot of the hair metal drek coming out at the time, just before the death knell of Nirvana sounded a year after this album’s release.
The standout performance on the record comes from singer Jani Lane. He was all over the album with the appropriate vocal for whatever mood the song evoked. He only went full throat a few times on the album, it’s a bit of a shame that they didn’t make better use of their best instrument. Lane would be in and out of Warrant over the ensuing years before his tragic death in 2011.
Overall I’d say Cherry Pie does a good job of being an album above the hair metal fray in the waning days of hair’s reign over rock. I’m glad I picked this one to revisit, there was some awful music coming from the Sunset Strip around this time and this could have gone a lot worse.
And that will be the topic for my posts the rest of this week. I’m going to get into the gritty details and look at just who really is guilty for killing hair metal. We all know the obvious suspects and we mostly all know the real answer, but it turns out there are few others who were at least accessories to the killing. I’ll be in tomorrow for the first of four posts on that topic.