Stephen Pearcy overcomes the odds with rockin’ new solo album
Artist: Stephen Pearcy
Recording: View To A Thrill
Label: Frontiers Records
★★★ (3/5 stars)
A solo album offers its creator a chance for reinvention and exploration outside the parameters of a primary musical project, an opportunity to work with new players and ideas.
There’s little difference—except for the musicians—between Ratt singer Stephen Pearcy the solo act and his work in Ratt, his band of the last 40-ish years. Depending on your point of view, that can either be a good or bad thing. A View to a Thrill, Pearcy’s fifth solo album, is an 11-song collection of swaggering, three-minute-ish rock songs that could easily be straight out of Los Angeles’ Sunset Strip, circa mid-’80s. If you’re a fan of Ratt’s 1985 hit “Wanted Man,” you’ll like the slightly more anemic “U Only Live Twice.” The dynamic “Double Shot” is a rock-solid, mid-tempo headbanger, and in fact, the record’s overall energy, production (courtesy of bassist Matt Thorne, ex-Rough Cutt and co-writer of Ratt’s “Back For More”), subject matter and vibe is what you’d find on a classic Ratt album.
Pearcy’s aggressive, coolly snarled vocals, which helped propel Ratt ‘n Roll to multi-platinum mainstream success with catchy songs like “Round and Round” and “Lay It Down” and “You’re In Love” is still in fine form—despite a spate of unfortunate YouTube clips that emerged in late 2018 showing a very inebriated Pearcy attempting to sing—and even stand up—during concerts. It would be easy but unfair to throw shade at Pearcy, at least where A View to a Thrill is concerned; the front man has done himself quite proud on this, even if no boundaries were pushed nor talents tested.
Ratt was also always about the guitars—passing through the band’s portals were Jake E. Lee, Warren DeMartini, and the late, soulful and sweet Robbin Crosby. Pearcy solo is no different. And on A View to a Thrill, the guitar work is tasty, full and dirty, thanks to the work of Pearcy’s secret weapon, Erik Ferentinos, also of San Diego band Dragvolt. The melodic and dynamic “Not Killin’ Me” is a strong song (despite banal lyrics); the sweet guitar that ends “I’m a Ratt” is lovely, but it’s the riff-tastic rampage of the Zeppelin-inflected “Dangerous Thing” is a tune that really kills throughout, and begs for a video. (Speaking of, the end of “Sky Falling” could also be off Kashmir.) Closing out the record is “Violator,” the darkly spooky vocals not saving the song, with “Malibu” clocking in as another relative dud.
But despite few little (unnecessary) lyrical and musical nods to James Bond (obviously, the title was nicked, changed from Kill to Thrill), Pearcy has ultimately concocted a muscular, macho throwback of an album, as if the last 25 years hadn’t existed. Indeed, it’s been eight years since the last Ratt record, but A View to a Thrill fills that void admirably. Now, if we could only get Headbanger’s Ball back on the air.