Ted Nugent

Epic Records, 1976

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


Ted Nugent knew a good thing when he played it.

On his self-titled debut album, Nugent turned some solid grooves into decent songs, and added melodic, not flashy solos to them. The end result: a decent first effort.

Just one year later, Nugent came back with Free-For-All. Musically, there weren't that many surprises, except in the vocal department. And while you can hear a little recycling of riffs, it still is a solid follow-up that doesn't fall into the dreaded "sophomore slump".

The first surprise vocally is that Nugent himself takes a turn at the microphone on the title track. Now, Nugent has never claimed to be an exceptional singer; indeed, it's the rawness and emotion, with more than just a touch of swagger, that make his vocals soar. There's a reason that this track is one of the best-remembered by Nugent fans; it's a solid rocker.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Surprise number two is that Derek St. Holmes isn't utilized nearly as much as he was on Ted Nugent, making appearances as lead throat on only three of the nine songs. Taking his place was one Mr. Marvin Lee Aday - better known to the world as Meat Loaf. Prior to his hitting the big time with Bat Out Of Hell, Loaf hooked up with Nugent on this album, and provided vocals on five tracks. And the more you hear them, the more you have to wonder what would have happened had Loaf stayed with Nugent's band. My thought: they would have been unstoppable.

Loaf easily powers through the could-have-been-a-hit-single "I Love You So I Told You A Lie," a song that has all the trappings that make a song successful: solid playing, powerful riffs, and a controlled solo from the Motor City Madman himself. But Loaf also demonstrates his prowess for more groove-based songs ("Hammerdown," "Street Rats") and the ballad ("Together"), songs which also add to the Nugent legend and repertoire.

Fact of the matter is, the marriage between Nugent and Loaf worked damned well - pity it only lasted one album. And it's not that St. Holmes did a terrible job; the track "Dog Eat Dog" is another eternal classic off Free-For-All. But the material that St. Holmes sings isn't quite as strong as the rest of the album. "Turn It Up" is a definite throwaway track, while "Light My Way" just doesn't live up to its potential.

The repetition comes in on the track "Writing On The Wall," where you could swear that you're listening to a re-write of "Stranglehold" off Ted Nugent - even down to the bass line. Oh, this is still a good track, but you have to wonder if this would be a sign of things to come. (Was it? Well, you're just going to have to wait until we review albums like Cat Scratch Fever to find out.)

Free-For-All is another strong effort from Nugent that builds upon the success of his first album, and is rightfully one of his albums that still enjoys popularity even to this day.

Rating: A-

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© 1998 Christopher Thelen and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Epic Records, and is used for informational purposes only.