Rebel Yell

Billy Idol

Chrysalis, 1983

http://billyidol.net

REVIEW BY: Mark Millan

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 04/01/2014

Following up the solid success of his debut eponymous album was going to be a challenge, but Billy Idol wasted no time in getting to work and the record was complete just a year after his debut release. Keith Forsey was responsible for its production again and guitarist Steve Stevens was back with a much greater hand in the making of this record, as he would co-write all but one of the tracks here with Idol. 

While the first album was recorded using a band of four, this time around, Idol surrounded himself with an array of session players and also fully embraced the synthesizers (for better and worse, as evidenced here) that had become the sound of the decade by that point. 

The overall production this time around was much more atmospheric and ambitious, which worked really well for some tracks but also made others a bit messy when listening back to the full album today. The title track is, of course, one of Idol’s most loved and enduring hits, but it certainly wasn’t by accident as you can plainly hear just how carefully constructed this song was in an obvious attempt at a massive hit record. Mission accomplished to all involved, but despite Stevens’ killer playing on the track, “Rebel Yell” has nothing on “White Wedding (Part 1).”  my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

“Eyes Without A Face” was another big hit off this album and the mid-tempo slow-dancer is still a fine song and a definite highlight on what is a very patchy record. Idol has a great singing voice when he tones it down a bit and on songs where he is actually singing about something rather than nothing, it’s a fine voice with which to convey his emotions and deeper thoughts. It’s a shame he didn’t tap into this part of his creative process more often because when he does, it makes for great moments like this one. 

“Flesh For Fantasy” was another hit record and it was also the ambitious track on the record. Lyrically it’s all about sex, and lots of it, but musically it is well crafted and developed but very heavy on the synths. This kind of stifles it a bit, as Stevens doesn’t get much time to cut loose on this one; it really could’ve used more of his shredding throughout the track. Apart from the hit songs, the rest of this album is really disappointing and flat with the exception of one strong album track (“Blue Highway”).

Other cuts like “(Do Not) Stand In The Shadows,” “Daytime Drama” and “Crank Call” are nowhere near the quality of anything that appeared on Idol’s debut album, and only “Catch My Fall” fares a little better, but only just. 

Rebel Yell is one of those albums that sold truckloads based on the strength of its hit singles, and it is also on the back of those few songs that this album’s reputation has been built. But in my book, that’s not a strong enough foundation to call this album a classic – far from it, in fact.

Rating: B-

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