Pat Travers Band - Heat in the Street (1978)
Submitted by Dinosaur David B on Thu, 05/29/2008 - 22:39
Most of you probably know Pat Travers as the guy who did Boom Boom Out Go the Lights — a staple of classic rock radio in the US. If this is the only Travers you're familiar with, then you've got some catching up to do!
In 1978, Travers assembled his strongest and most successful band lineup. He found unknown studio ace, Pat Thrall to augment the band's sound with a second guitar. And Tommy Aldridge — fresh from a stint with Black Oak Arkansas — added some thunder on drums. Heat in the Street, the first album by this revamped lineup was released toward the end of that same year.
Though Heat in the Street only got a mild push on FM radio, I heard the ads on my local station and was intrigued by the sound of the guitars. They reminded me of Jon Lord's organ sound. I hadn't heard a guitar sound like that before. So I went down to the record store (yes, this was vinyl) and snagged a copy.
What drew me into this band and album as a 14 year-old was the sound, the musicianship, and the depth of the songwriting. It didn't hit me on the primitive level the way KISS or Van Halen did. It was too complicated for that. There was something going on here beyond the verse-chorus-verse-chorus-solo-out format I was used to. There was a lot more musical information to digest! This album features odd time signatures, hot lead work, and an extensive use of guitar effects. It also shows how blues-based rock can be taken in new directions with innovative arrangements and songwriting, rather than simply being a regurgitation of what had come before. Once I caught up to what was going on, I really got into it. And for my money, the Pat Travers Band was the best hard rock band in the world from 1978 - 1980. I owe a lot of my own sound to this album, as it planted the seeds for ideas I would apply later on my own songs.
If you remember ads like this, you're a Dinosaur. I not only remember this ad, I owned one of these! Turn the regeneration knob all the way up to recreate Travers' and Thrall's sounds.
Heat in the Street is a deep album, and the deeper you dig the more you'll uncover. The overall flow could be better — the last two songs are a real departure after six songs of ass-kicking rock, but this a great album nonetheless. So let's listen.
Track By Track (vocal cues in parentheses)
Heat In The Street (4:23) Kicking things off with a bang, the intro has Travers and Thrall feeding back and bending the necks on their guitars before kicking into the main riff at 0:11. This tune has a very complicated arrangement and a lot of time signature changes! The main riff (The pressure's all I'm feelin') is in 13/8 and based on a fairly simple I-IV blues progression, but the timing makes it sound a lot harder than it is. At 0:52, we kick in to the prechorus (Comin' 'round ta see ya), which again is based on a standard blues type riff, but this time in 7/4. Then, back to 13/8 for the chorus at 1:04 (You know you got what I want). At 1:45, we switch to a bridge riff, which is in 4/4 and again, a pretty standard blues rock chord progression. A modulation from A to C occurs at 2:11, and then back to the chorus. At 2:33, the solo section starts off with Travers playing a very Trower-esque rhythm figure with an Echoplex thrown in to make things interesting, while Thrall takes the first lead starting at 2:46. Using an Echoplex set to produce rhythmic delays, he peels off a series of 16th note runs before landing on some sustained bent notes and passing the ball to Travers at 3:12, where we also have another modulation to C. Travers rips off some nasty, wah drenched pentatonic licks before pealing off a wicked little lick at 3:22 to end the solo section and return us to the main riff (The temperature is climbin'). This is followed up with another prechorus and then a final chorus. Quite a workout, and a great example of how blues progressions can be spiced up and made a lot more interesting than the standard I-IV-V forms employed by a certain hat wearing Texan.
Killer's Instinct (5:10) A great, ballsy, riff stomper. Dino Dave loves stuff like this! This one opens up with Travers ripping through a Leslie speaker and the band punching, before settling into a major pentatonic groove with a short intro solo from Travers (I'm mean, I'm hard and I feel all right). Again, the riffs are basic blues box forms, with Travers adding short leads before each verse. At 1:53 there's a short bridge section (and I'll never stop this runnin') where every modulation effect in the world is employed on the rhythm guitars, before heading into the solo at 2:19. Travers opens up with some right hand hammer-ons ala Billy Gibbons, before settling into some major pentatonic licks, which he reels off with a slashing, hacking pick attack. From 2:38 - 2:43, we hear one of Travers' trademarks kick in - the MXR Blue Box, which was a combination octave doubler and distortion box, run through a flanger. It's a very unique sound (probably most familiar from Jimmy Page's solo on Fool in the Rain). At 3:47 the song goes into a coda section which features 3 guitars trading off licks before ending up in a three part harmony for the rideout. There's a lot going on in here. (Hear it!)
Judging from the sound of the guitars on this track, I'm pretty sure that Thrall does not appear on it. All of the lead work is definitely Travers. Thrall is generally more fluid and smoother, and his tone is less biting. Travers has an extremely hard picking attack and a squeaky, biting edge to his lead sound, where the pick attack is very audible.
I Tried To Believe (5:06) This is a mellower track, opening with big chords, a Leslie speaker, and some more neck bending before settling into the verse (You can't imagine). Thrall plays a lot on this track, adding some very jazzy leads to the prechorus sections while Travers fills in underneath. The solo section starts out with Travers again in the major pentatonic mode. Thrall then takes over playing off the changes with some more jazzy lines, before ending the solo with a pentatonic flurry. This is a dense track, with organ and acoustic guitar employed as well as the electric guitars. It's a nice change of pace from the first two tracks, and sets us up for the next one.
Hammerhead (3:05) World, meet Tommy Aldridge! This is an instrumental workout that borders on speedmetal, and Aldridge rises to the occasion with some outstanding double bass work reminiscent of what he played with Gary Moore on Dallas Warhead. The bass line is also noteworthy, as Cowling does much more than just ride the root of the chord — he's all over the place. No leads on this, but some great ensemble playing from the entire band. The track ends with what sounds like a slide through the blue box and delay, and Travers screaming into the pickups. A hot track, and it shows just what this band was capable of.
Go All Night (4:23) This ode to cocaine and wild women is a funky rocker with some nice rhythm work from both guitarists. This one really moves — the live version on on the Go For What you Know is even hotter! It's clearly influenced by the dance music that was popular at the time, yet it sounds nothing like a dance track. Travers plays some funky octave and chord parts while Thrall doubles the bass riff. Travers takes a short solo at 1:09, again with the Echoplex cranked. The main solo hits at 2:26 (Look out) and is pretty standard minor pentatonic stuff, but delivered with amp melting intensity. (Hear it!)
Evie (4:14) This is a hot blues rocker, featuring a call-and-response structure reminiscent of Black Dog. There are a lot of guitar harmonies on this track, with Travers and Thrall trading off licks at the end before ending with a massive dive bomb into a sustained 'E' note. A decent track for what it is. Derivative, but well-executed.
Prelude (3:42) Travers goes progressive on us with this piano driven instrumental. It opens with some dense, fed back harmonies, treating the guitar almost like a string section, over a simple piano part. Cowling plays some great bass in the intro. This is a very orchestrated track with a lot of guitars, and the approach to the arrangement is almost classical in nature. Maybe the closest equivalent would be some of Brian May's work with Queen.
One For Me And One For You (6:18) A synth driven, very pop ballad that really doesn't sound much like the rest of the album, and an odd ending for an album that has been kicking ass until this point. Travers moves over to keys on this tune and hands the guitar reins to Thrall, who responds with some really nice stuff. It opens with Travers playing a simple pattern on the organ before kicking the band in. Thrall harmonizes the organ line heading into the verse, (It's over now, we really tried) where he plays fills between the vocal lines. His tone is full and very chorused. At around 2:19, the feel of the song switches to a pseudo reggae groove, with Thrall playing a harmonized chordal solo before settling into some reggae skanks. At 3:45 Travers plays a synth solo, followed by Thrall at 4:23 on guitar with a similar harmonized chordal approach to the first solo. The song ends with Thrall playing a series of echoed volume swells through an Echoplex.
This is the album that put Pat Thrall and Tommy Aldridge on the map. Had they joined Travers after Hughes/Thrall and Ozzy respectively, the Pat Travers Band would have been called a supergroup — and deservedly so. But as Dino Dave exclaimed upon hearing this album for the first time: "what the hell happened to this Pat Travers?" Did someone say ALD? Not exactly. More like Stevie Ray Vaughan syndrome. This sister malady to ALD turns Dino rock guitarists into hat-worshipping, blooze-playing shells of their former selves. In the late 80's Travers began recording for Mike Varney's Blues Bureau label and continues to tour the US, playing small clubs. The Blues Bureau releases are complete shit and should be avoided at all costs! They're not even good blues records. They make nice coasters, but then, AOL discs still come in the mail for free.
Unfortunately, Heat in the Street was never a huge seller, and you may have to hunt to find it on CD. It has been recetly released in the U.S. on CD packaged with Puttin' it Straight, and there are imports floating around from Japan and Holland on the Internet.
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By John Walker. Copyright ©2003 All rights reserved.
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