The Essential Ted Nugent

Ted Nugent

Epic, 2010

REVIEW BY: Benjamin Ray

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 04/28/2014

(NOTE: This review covers both the double-disc Essential set and the triple disc Essential 3.0 set, which was released in a limited edition.)

Ah, Ted. I’m contractually obligated to be aware of the man because I was born, raised and reside in Michigan. Men here hunt, listen to rock and have political opinions not unlike Ted’s, the ones concerning personal freedom, the right to arm bears or some shit and a healthy appreciation for sex, rock ‘n’ roll and Native American culture. Hell, “Strangehold” is still used to introduce the starting lineup at each Detroit Tigers home game.

Here’s the thing, though: Nugent stopped being musically relevant in the late 1970s, and so he reinvented himself as a champion of hunting and politically conservative causes in the ‘90s, continuing to tour and release the sporadic bad album to bring in money. But he never really realized that his time had passed, and I have a story to prove it: When I was a reporter in Hillsdale, Mich., I did a feature story on a hunting shop in the county where Ted had stopped in for some arrows and/or ammo. The store owner said Nugent acted the part of a prima donna superstar, the whole “Don’t you know who I am” bit, expecting to be bowed to and kissed because he was Ted Nugent.

All that is to say that Nugent has become a passing memory, sort of a punchline, and that to salvage his dignity he should be remembered for both his causes (the ones that make sense, anyway) and the prime of his music, which was 1974-1980. That is the period represented by the two disc Essential collection, and it contains all the hits, a lot of filler and pretty much all the Nugent that anybody will ever need.

It should be noted that the collection, while very generous at two discs that cover maybe six albums, does not hit on Nuge’s Amboy Dukes output or anything after 1980, meaning that “Little Miss Dangerous,” “Great White Buffalo” and “Fred Bear” are missing, two songs that receive regular classic rock radio airplay (at least around the Great Lakes state). Granted, this is because the focus is solely on the Epic recordings, but that also means this falls short of being truly essential.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Furthermore, only one disc’s worth of music is truly essential for both casual and interested fans not inclined to already own the studio albums. So what you get is nearly the complete Ted Nugent, Free-For-All and Cat Scratch Fever discs, some tracks from Double Live Gonzo, Weekend Warriors, State of Shock and Scream Dream, and a couple of other live cuts from the early ‘80s live discs before Ted jumped labels and lost his way.

The fact that so many album and filler cuts are included, particularly from everything past Double Live Gonzo, makes this pretty difficult to get through, especially since Derek St. Holmes left after that recording, costing Ted an integral part of his team. The whole concept of the wild man with an enormous Gibson guitar, yelping and babbling and shredding for all he was worth (and he could really play), resulted in some fine music for a while and some derivative music for a while longer. So, little of the second disc is truly essential, save for the smoking live cover of “Baby Please Don’t Go,” the melodic instrumental “Homebound,” the completely ridiculous “Wango Tango” (when you get to the part about borrowing talcum from Malcolm, see if you don’t hit the skip button) and maybe “State of Shock.” Sex, of course, is a big part of Ted’s songwriting, with subtle romantic overtures alike “Yank Me, Crank Me,” “Wang Dang Sweet Poontang,” “Wango Tango” and “Cat Scratch Fever” all making an appearance.

The first disc, though, is pretty darn good, mainly because Ted Nugent was such a good album. “Stranglehold” retains a hypnotic grip for its eight minutes, “Motor City Madhouse” and “Hey Baby” are no-bullshit tough-ass rock songs and “Just What the Doctor Ordered” is solid. Elsewhere, the indelible riffs of “Dog Eat Dog,” “Free-For-All” and “Cat Scratch Fever” are among Ted’s finest and still sound great all these years later.

Problem is, all of that is available on Ted’s original hits collection Great Gonzos, and the extra padding here may round out the story but doesn’t make this worth the investment (especially the middle part of the first disc, representing the underwhelming Free-For-All sophomore effort). The three disc 3.0 limited edition set adds a third disc that is just over half an hour and includes a few more live tracks (including all 17 boring minutes of “Hibernation”), the original “Journey to the Center of the Mind” and a very good live version of “Great White Buffalo.” Why those couldn’t have been on the original Essential in place of stuff like “Jailbait” and “Snake Charmer” is beyond me.

The truth is that Great Gonzos is the best Nugent collection; that, along with the debut and a copy of “Journey…” should about do it for your Uncle Ted needs. The Essential Ted Nugent works well as a sampler of all of his Epic records, a nice move for the curious or the casual fan who wants more than the radio hits, but includes far too much substandard music to be worth the time and money.

Rating: C-

User Rating: Not Yet Rated


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