When it comes to heavy metal on Long Island, it just doesnâ€™t get any more recognizable than Twisted Sister.
But before they broke big in 1984 with their commercial breakthrough Stay Hungry and their monster MTV hit â€œWeâ€™re Not Gonna Take It,â€ they served nobly as one of the New York areaâ€™s most revered acts on the indie metal circuit for 12 years before Dee Sniderâ€™s blond mop of war-painted madness scarred the hearts and minds of the Reagan youth for the rest of their natural lives. Originally released on the old Spitfire label in 1999, Club Daze Vol. 1: The Studio Sessions (released January 25) chronicles these early days of the Twisted ones when they were just another local act vying for stage time at The Palladium and the Calderone Theatre. It is an entertaining and educational collection of the bandâ€™s first decade of studio action, starting with demos dating back to their Slade-copping early 70s salad days before Snider joined the fold on through to rough cuts of material that would appear on their debut LP, Under The Blade (reissued May 31), including raw takes on such faves as Shoot â€˜Em Down and the epic title track. Club Daze Vol. 1 is a great look into the soul of the Sister before they allowed ego, image mongering and ill advice get the best of them.
Also available as part of Eagle Rockâ€™s ongoing reissue series of the TS catalog are expanded editions of the groupâ€™s first two full-length LPs, the aforementioned Blade from 1982 and its 1983 follow-up You Canâ€™t Stop Rock â€˜nâ€™ Roll (reissued January 25).
Originally released on the English punk label Secret Records (known primarily as the home of The Exploited) and produced by Pete Way of UFO, Under the Blade has been out of print for the longest time and it is great to see it return to the racks buffed up and sounding better than ever, as the Judas Priest-cum-Cro Mags sound the group was trying to attain here blasts out of your speakers in ways that the first pressing never did, particularly noticeable on burning tracks like Sin After Sin and Destroyer. This 2011 edition of the record comes restored with the controversial original cover art and some tasty bonus material, including â€œRuff Kutsâ€ versions of several key LP cuts and a live version of Shoot â€˜Em Down from their â€˜82 appearance at Englandâ€™s Reading Festival, the totality of which is available on DVD and included here as well.
You Canâ€™t Stop Rock â€˜nâ€™ Roll saw the band make the jump to Atlantic Records that would help catapult them to the mega-success that was just around the corner with Stay Hungry. But in spite of the glimmers of commercialism that defined their direction moving forward from this album, Stop is very much a continuation of the heavy metal assault that had been the groupâ€™s MO since Snider signed on in 1976, albeit with more focus, direction and the luxury of Atlanticâ€™s big bucks bonanza backing them up on the financial end. The bonus material here is identical to the 1999 Spitfire reissue of the LP with the inclusion of three studio outtakes that failed to make the initial pressing of Stop, those being One Man Woman, Four Barrel Heart of Love and Feel The Power.
However, given how visually provocative Twisted Sister has been since their inception, perhaps the most satisfying entry in this yearâ€™s batch of catalog titles is the Double Live two-DVD set (released July 26), which includes two legendary concerts from the band at two very different periods in their rocky history. The first disc, culled from a 1982 performance at the North Stage Theater on Long Island and originally filmed for commercial release by Secret Records to coincide with Under The Blade,, marked the end of the â€œClub Dazeâ€ era that helped define them as one of the NY Tri-State areaâ€™s biggest and brightest local metal acts. It is a stellar document of the Sister on the cusp of the breakthrough that skyrocketed them to mainstream stardom in 1984, and, in spite of all the frills and make-up, serves as a fierce testament to the groupâ€™s stage prowess as one of the hottest heavy metal acts of the early 80s. Disc Two, meanwhile, chronicles the groupâ€™s surprise reunion gig at the Hammerstein Ballroom in New York City as part of That Metal Show host Eddie Trunkâ€™s NY Steel Benefit Concert in support of the New York Police and Fire Widowsâ€™ & Childrenâ€™s Benefit Fund eleven weeks after the unthinkable happened down in the cityâ€™s financial district on September 11, 2001. And while the original members of TS, together on stage for a full set for the first time in over 13 years, looked like a bunch of aging Lawn Guyland dads up there, they nevertheless doled out their heaviest set, well, probably since that show at the North Stage, to be honest, ripping through songs they havenâ€™t played in ages, like Under the Blade, The Kids Are Back, Burn In Hell and a version of Weâ€™re Not Gonna Take It that really shows the teeth of the tune in a way they never really could in the 80s.
All four of these killer new rereleases serve as a keen reminder of just how essential Twisted Sister have been to the metal world these past 40 years. And considering that Dee Snider, Jay Jay French, Eddie â€œFingersâ€ Ojeda, Mark â€œThe Animalâ€ Mendoza and A.J. Pero are still in the throes of a reunion that brought them together a decade ago in the name of charity, it is great to know they are still out there making noise as one of Long Islandâ€™s most enduring hard rock treasures. (Ron Hart)