Review by Brian McGowan
Formed from the ashes of Rough Cutt back in 1988, Jailhouse became firm favourites with LA’s bandana rock crowd, selling out all the headline Sunset Strip venues on a regular basis.
Their first recorded single, ‘Please Come Back’, written by mainman, Michael Raphael enjoyed heavy rotation on MTV.
One or two attempts at resurrection over the years proved fruitless. Now niche music label, Fervor Records – specialists in marketing the music that influenced American culture – have digitally remastered the band’s best stuff. The result is ‘Vintage Masters – Metal/Glam 87-90’.
Basically, it’s a 2-on-1 release, with Jailhouse sharing the CD with cult US metallers, Lucien Blaque… more on them some other time.
These 7 tracks from Jailhouse once again tell a familiar story… that it’s never only about talent and hard work. Great melodic rock, unarguably, but fate decrees that you have to be in the right place at the right time, otherwise…
The band’s brand of eighties’ melodic rock carries with it many of the genre’s characteristics. Poison and Extreme come to mind occasionally, and although the music unfolds along conventional lines, the bulk of this rises above the genre’s usual limitations.
Unequivocally, it is a debut album of considerable poise and confidence, with guitarist/producer, Raphael keeping a firm hold on the soaring choruses and driving guitars.
Brimful of heartlifting hooks and tight knit harmonies (and the occasional lyrical lapse), it is genuinely difficult to pick out a standout track.
‘Please Come Back’ opens in declamatory, stadium filling style, setting out the band’s stall with an impressive flourish, and the memorably melodic ‘Sweet Angel’ marries a relentless, hard kicking beat to guitar muscle, but it is perhaps the set’s ballad, ‘Tell Me’ that rises a notch above the others.
Unashamedly overblown, it shows the band – and Raphael – at their most artful, transforming a chest beating cliché into an expansive chunk of charged emotion, with some neat gear changes displayed, before returning to the song’s chorus and a sweet, soft landing. Elsewhere, ‘Stand Up’ shows a flinty edge of defiance, addressing weightier matters like street violence and the Cold War, and later, ‘NAB’ ratchets up the jittery rhythms as it delves dark and deep into funk territory.
In all it’s a satisfying set, never groundbreaking, but fresh sounding and exciting nevertheless, even now, some 25 years later.