From his blistering solo debut “Ted Nugent,” through albums like “Free for All” and “Cat Scratch Fever,” not to mention “Weekend Warriors,” “State of Shock,” and the bombastic “Double Live Gonzo,” Ted Nugent ruled the 70s. He not only ruled the 70s, he chewed that shit up and spit it out. By the time he entered the 80s, Nugent was a solid rock ‘n’ roll legend with a loud guitar and a louder mouth, depending on who you ask.
The 80s saw a little different approach in Nugent’s musical output. I’m not saying he toned it down or anything. Oh, hell no. That’s never going to happen. He did, however, do a little experimenting with the Nugentry we came to love in the 70s. For one, he started playing Paul Reed Smith guitars. He never put away his Gibson Byrdlands, of course, but he introduced those sleek Paul Reed Smith guitars nonetheless. He also fooled around with some keyboards. No wimpy keyboard, mind you. These were keyboard sounds worthy of a Nugent album. Translated, that means bad ass keyboards.
Nugent also played a role in an episode of “Miami Vice,” wrote two songs for the show, and co-wrote with Bon Jovi and Richie Sambora, demonstrating he was capable of hanging out with the popular kids in school.
Scream Dream (1980) This is the odd one out because it feels more at home with the albums Ted was doing in the 70s. “Wango Tango,” “Hard as Nails,” “Spit It Out,” “Don’t Cry (I’ll Be back Before You Know It Baby),” and the title track are just a sampling of the gems found here. “Wango Tango” is probably Ted’s battle cry.
Nugent (1982) This is, unfortunately, a largely forgotten Ted Nugent album. There really were not hits on it, and the album came and went in what seemed like the blink of an eye. Only the hardcore Nugent fans talk about it. It’s full of great songs. “No, No, No,” “Habitual Offender, “Fightin’ Words,” the sprawling ass kicker “Tailgunner,” and the call to kick terrorist ass (relevant now more than ever), “Bound and Gagged,” are all killer tracks. In fact, this is one of my favorite Nugent records. Not a bad song here.
Penetrator (1984) This is where the keyboard experiments began. Also, Brian Howe, a great singer who went on to do some killer albums with Bad Company, sang did some really good stuff on this album. Nugent’s songs started getting a little more melodic on the previous album. On this one, melody neat little ballad called “Take Me Homereally came to the forefront, both lyrically and in the guitar playing. There were also a lot of outside writers here, which may account for some of that. The Adams/Vallance penned “(Where Do You) Draw the Line is one example. Other examples include “Knockin’ at Your Door” and “Tied up in Love.” “Thunder Thighs,” “Lean, Mean R&R Machine,” and “No Man’s Land are more along the lines of the Nugentry you expect. There’s also a neat little uptempo ballad called “Take Me Home” that finishes the album off nicely.
Little Miss Dangerous (1986) The keyboard got a little heavier here (in a good ass-kicking sort of way) and Ted started squeezing out some harmonics that gave me chills. This is the album that has the two “Miami Vice” songs,” “Angry Young Man” and the title track, on it. Both are blistering pieces of rock ‘n’ roll madness. “High Heels in Motion,” “Savage Dancer,” “When Your Body Talks,” “Take Me Away,” and “Painkiller” are some of the other gems on this album. Hell, he even covered a Burt Bacharach/Hal David tune called “Little Red Book.” This might be a Nugent lost classic, kids. It’s that good.
If You Can’t Lick ‘Em . . . Lick ‘Em (1988) This jewel finishes off the 80s, and the title (also one of the song titles) pretty much says it all. “The Harder They Come, the Harder I Get,” “Skintight,” “Separate the Men from the Boys, Please,” and the ballad “Spread Your Wings” are some of the stand-out tracks. This is the album that features the co-write with Bon Jovi and Richie Sambora, a song called “That’s the Story of Love,” which is a killer track with a lot of hit single potential.