Epic Records, 1978
REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 12/11/2001
It could be argued that Ted Nugent's "glory period" lasted three albums, from his self-titled debut to Cat Scratch Fever. The concert set Double Live Gonzo served to sum up this wild period in Nugent's career... but after that, then what? While Nugent still enjoyed a level of success until around 1980, most of his output past Cat Scratch Fever has all but been written off.
This is interesting, because a chance selection from the Pierce Memorial Archives led me to dust off Weekend Warriors, Nugent's 1978 effort. Featuring a band in the midst of change (which would become standard operating procedure for Nugent), the music contained on this slab o' vinyl isn't a masterpiece, but it's hardly a failure. In fact, if any Nugent album would be rightfully called a "diamond in the rough," this one might just be it.
Out was long-time vocalist/guitarist Derek St. Holmes, in was Charlie Huhn - who, probably by no coincidence, sounds similar to St. Holmes. For his part, Nugent keeps his turns at the microphone to a minimum - smart move, in all reality, since Nugent's strong point has never been his vocals.
Musically, the material on Weekend Warriors is surprisingly tight. In fact, for the entire first half of this album, it sometimes feels that Nugent et al. can do absolutely no wrong - honestly, not an opinion I had when I first bought this disc some 13 years ago. Why tracks like "Need You Bad," "I Got The Feelin'" and "Venom Soup" aren't ranked in the upper echelon of Nugent's repertoire is beyond me - I mean, these tracks absolutely smoke. And the groove that's laid down on "One Woman" is among the bluesiest that Nugent had accomplished to that point in his solo career. (If there is one tiny stumbling block, it might be "Tight Spots," though even it's a small enough thing to laugh off.)
The train is almost derailed, though, by "Smokescreen," a track which just knocks all the momentum out of Weekend Warriors. With much less development lyrically and musically, it hardly bodes well to start the second half of the disc... and, in a way, Nugent and crew never fully recover. Follow-up tracks like "Good Friends And A Bottle Of Wine," "Cruisin'" and the title track all have a feel as if they're trying to cover their tracks. While it might have been better for "Smokescreen" to have been completely left off this disc, if it had to be included, I'd have buried it as the last track, if only to assure that the juggernaut that was the first side of the disc wasn't interrupted.
Even with this one goose egg of a song, Weekend Warriors is a surprisingly good album - honestly, not something one would expect when the broadcast world drools over the three prior studio albums. And, frankly, it might be time for a re-discovery of Weekend Warriors, if only to show people that Nugent's prowess was still quite strong at this stage in his career. More importantly than the quality of his guitar work (which felt like it was kicked up a notch or two on this one), Nugent's songwriting ability should be spotlighted - some people might be surprised these came from the same mind as "Wang Dang Sweet Poontang".
Although this record almost doesn't recover from one bad song, Weekend Warriors is a surprisingly mature effort from Nugent and band that has been left behind for new members of the Cult of Nugent to discover. It might just be time to raise this disc above cult status, and give it the attention it should have been getting for over two decades.