The Great Radio Controversy


Geffen Records, 1989

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


I remember running out to buy The Great Radio Controversy, the second album from California-rockers Tesla, the day it hit the stores way back in 1989. I had become a fan of the band thanks to Mechanical Resonance, and was eager to hear if they had been able to recapture the magic on this new disc. That afternoon, I think I discovered what "sophomore slump" meant in the music business. I was extremely disappointed, and filed the record away, pulling it out on rare occasion to see if I had missed anything.

Twelve years later, I still find myself disappointed in The Great Radio Controversy, though I'll admit that time has shone more light on a few of these tracks. Jeff Keith and company did have the daunting task of living up to high expectations with this release. Some of my colleagues in this industry call this release Tesla's best. Sorry, my voice won't be joining them.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Oh, all of the trademarks that Tesla established on Mechanical Resonance were along for the ride the second time around. You had the dueling lead guitar work of Tommy Skeoch and Frank Hannon filling the air with some great solos; you had Brian Wheat bringing his bass to the forefront when the moment called for it. You had Keith slowly becoming the next incarnation of Steven Tyler with his hoarse shouts and vocals, and you had Troy Lucketta solidly anchoring the band with his drumwork. So far, so good.

Where things took a downturn was in the songwriting itself. Where Mechanical Resonance had a few clunkers (which is almost forgivable on a band's first effort), The Great Radio Controversy is padded with them. Tracks like "Lazy Days, Crazy Nights," "Yesterdaze Gone," "Did It For The Money" and "Paradise" all fall flat like a bottle of soda left uncapped overnight. The talent is there musically, but if you don't have the songwriting to back it up, musical ability means nothing.

This isn't to say that The Great Radio Controversy is without merit. True, had I written this back in 1989, I'd be pooh-poohing the entire album. But time has shown me that the opening suite of songs - "Hang Tough," "Lady Luck" and "Heaven's Trail (No Way Out)" actually are strong efforts on all fronts, and suggested that Tesla might just have beaten the sophomore slump. If only they didn't lemming off the cliff right after that.

The centerpiece of this disc was, and remains, "Love Song". This is another track that I've had to warm up to over the years, but it has proven to be one of Tesla's best songs in their catalog. Building the power from the guitar instrumental (which is almost never heard on the radio) to the eventual chorus (which seems almost operatic in comparison), Tesla prove they can have mastery over their domain when the material is there to back them up.

Tesla was a better band than the bulk of the material on The Great Radio Controversy lets on to, and there are times when Keith and crew rise above the mundane to bowl over the listener with their talents. I'd be lying if I said this was their worst disc - but I'd also be lying if I said this was their best work. It's worth checking out - but approach it with caution.

Rating: C+

User Rating: Not Yet Rated



© 2001 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 Geffen Records, and is used for informational purposes only.