Tesla – Psychotic Supper Reissue + bonus CD

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Review by Brian McGowan

Good though they were, it seemed to many that Tesla’s first two album releases, ‘Mechanical Resonance’ (86) and ’The Great Radio Controversy’ (89) were simply preparing the way for their magnum opus, ‘Psychotic Supper’ (91).

Even then, that third album didn’t sell by the bucket load, no matter the widespread critical acclaim at the time. It was simply ahead of its time.

Compared to the bloated corporate melodic rock that blighted the late eighties, the album’s sound was remarkably lean and stripped back. It wasn’t the barebones, organic rock of Nirvana, whose album, ’Smells Like Teen Spirit’ was released later the same year, but it was exceptionally prescient in sensing a wind of change.

French label, Bad Reputation have now reissued ’Psychotic Supper’ in remastered form, along with a bonus track, and coupled this with a bonus CD of live cuts and covers. As a result, killer tracks like ’Call It Want You Want’, ’Song & Emotion’ and (my all time favourite Tesla track) ’What You Give’ now sparkle, where once they simply shone.

It’s also good to be reminded – by songs like ‘Freedom Slaves’ and ‘Government Personnel’ – that rock bands are quite capable of writing a pithy, politically aware lyric, as well as the usual junk. The reissue closes with a respectful cover of Ronnie Montrose‘s ‘Rock The Nation’ as bonus track.

The second CD, 10 tracks, 48 minutes really is a genuine bonus.

Tesla are widely credited with pioneering the ‘Five Man Acoustical Jam’ approach to rock music. Of the 5 live tracks here, ‘Modern Day Cowboy’ and ‘Comin Atcha Live’ – probably the outstanding songs from the debut album – are the picks.

The smoking cover versions tell you a lot about where the band got their musical inspiration – Huddie  (also known as Lead Belly) Ledbetter’s much covered standard, ‘Cottonfields’, Willie Dixon’s ‘Ain’t Superstitious’ and the little know Bloodstock’s paean to classic rock, ‘Children’s Heritage’ all feature here. Jeff Keith sinks his vocal cords into them all and just doesn’t let go. No histrionics, just a fierce, old school vocal attack that doesn’t preclude light and shade, beautifully paralleling Frank Hannon’s and Tommy Skeoch’s jaggedly brilliant twin-guitar approach.

On its own this CD would be a good buy for lovers of classic hard rock. But coupled with a remastered version of arguably Tesla’s best studio album, it is an absolute must.

9 out of 10

tesla PsychoticTrack list:

CD1

  1. Change In the Weather
  2. Edison’s Medicine
  3. Don’t Derock me
  4. Call It What You Want
  5. Song&Emotion
  6. Time
  7. Govt Personnel
  8. Freedom Slaves
  9. Had Enough
  10. What You Give
  11. Stir It Up
  12. Can’t Stop
  13. Toke About It
  14. Rock The Nation (bonus)

CD2

  1. Childrens Heritage
  2. Cotton Fields
  3. Ain’t Superstitious
  4. Run Run Run
  5. Cumin Atcha Live
  6. Modern Day Cowboy (live)
  7. Love Me (live)
  8. Cover Queen (live)
  9. Little Suzi (acoustic live)
  10. Song&Emotion (Rockline version)