April Wine – The Nature Of The Beast (1981)
Welcome back to YDCS! We have another deep cut this week, but don’t worry, because after a few weeks of lesser-known albums we’ll be back to a more recognizable act next week. Before we do that though, I’d like to introduce you to April Wine and their ninth album, Number Of The Beast. April Wine were a Canadian rock act that were the slow burners of 1970s rock. They always bubbled under mainstream popularity, and despite releasing their first album in 1971, it would take 10 years for them to have their first internationally certified platinum album and commercial breakthrough.April Wine didn’t do anything genre-bending with this album, but they did add another solid rock album to the catalog of classic rock. That reason itself is why many people haven’t heard of April Wine; they were one group with one popular album in a sea of groups with multiple successful albums.
Not only were April Wine lesser-known, they were behind the sonic curve. Listening to Nature of the Beast, you’ll notice that they didn’t adapt well to the changing times in the 1980s, which is why their music sounds so similar to hits from the 70s. Early 80s music is often defined by increasing use of synths and layered harmonies to build a depth of sound. This album features a predominantly 70s sound with big power chords, simple song structures, and a traditional three-piece instrumental section. The end result of this was a good album for 1976 released in 1981, and a sort of gasping breath for the dying 70s rock sound. A lot of the album tends to run together and is generally middle-of-the-road rock music, but there are a few songs worth listening to. That’s why I decided to highlight this album this week. I knew that I liked a few April Wine songs but was ultimately disappointed with the rest of the album. The same thing happened during the Night Ranger review where there were a few big hits but the rest of the album was filler for the singles. Give the album a listen on your own and let me know what you think!
Dad’s Thoughts- The Breakdown
All Over Town: We’re starting off the album with a solid track, “All Over Town.” This is one of the most 80s-reminescent songs on the album, only behind “Caught In The Crossfire” for that honor, due mostly to the fact that both tracks were heavier on synths than the rest of the album. As far as “All Over Town” goes; it’s a solid song that won’t change the world but worth putting on a classic rock playlist to fill it out with a different band. Dad’s Rating 5/10
Tellin’ Me Lies: Put politely, “Tellin’ Me Lies” is boring. This is the second song that doesn’t really hit the right notes. When your album opener is weaker, you need a really strong second and third song to make up for it. The third track delivers, but this is the second of a number of songs on the album that are just okay classic rock. Like I said for “All Over Town,” all of these could be thrown into a classic rock playlist for filler, but that’s all these 5/10 rated songs are, album filler. Stop wasting vinyl and put some good music down on it! Dad’s Rating 5/10
Sign Of The Gypsy Queen: This is the best song on the album and an actual hit on traditional classic rock radio too! “Sign Of The Gypsy Queen” has a lot going for it with beautiful, soft vocals and a shredding solo that would be right at home in any power ballad. For folks who have never listened to April Wine before, “Sign Of The Gypsy Queen” is a track that you don’t want to miss out on. Dad’s Rating 8/10
Just Between You And Me: What’s the best song to follow a pseudo-power ballad? An actual power ballad of course! “Just Between You And Me” is a practically perfect power ballad, reaching for the highest highs with a soulful, pining chorus and not-too-overdone instrumentation. Balance between rocking out and playing to a slower side is key in constructing a power ballad. April Wine struck that balance perfectly with this track. Dad’s Rating 8/10
Wanna Rock: I like “Wanna Rock” because it harkens back to the early days of rock in the 50s with a consistent, single-note guitar line, but it also goes beyond that. April Wine took that familiar sound and put a modern twist on it by incorporating a heavy guitar sound and letting that run wild. This is a unique track, even for an album like this. Dad’s Rating 6/10
Caught In The Crossfire: “Caught In The Crossfire” is another song that listeners familiar with April Wine might have heard before. It’s one of the better songs on the album and also one of the most 80s songs on the album. The heavy synth use and vocal delivery almost make this sound like a Cars song. Check this one out! Dad’s Rating 7/10
Future Tense: We’ve got a solid rocker here, April Wine’s bread and butter. Again, they never pushed the direction of music but they did toe the line. There’s not a whole lot to talk about on “Future Tense” since it’s a middle-of-the-road rock track. Dad’s Rating 5/10
Big City Girls: It’s at this point in the album when I’ve realized that Nature Of The Beast suffers from some of the same critical flaws that albums from other acts like Night Ranger have. They’re a good rock group, but every song starts to sound the same, and not in an exciting way. My comments for “Big City Girls” are a copy/paste of what I said for “Future Tense.” Dad’s Rating 5/10
Crash and Burn: Now we actually have something exciting with “Crash and Burn!” You get a really cool howling guitar intro that wouldn’t be out of place on a Rage Against The Machine album and an interesting drum pattern with actual syncopation! This is a good track for folks looking for a heavy metal sleeper hit. You might have never heard it before, but this is a solid one. Dad’s Rating 6/10
Bad Boys: Somehow, “Bad Boys” is slightly more interesting to listen to than “Future Tense” et al. I think it’s the cool solo that switches between instruments so that everyone in the band gets a turn to show off. The rest of the song can be lumped into a middling pile with “Future Tense,” “Big City Girls,” etc. Dad’s Rating 5.2/10 (But only a 0.2 pt bump for a cool solo)
One More Time: No more time. We finally made it to the last song and it’s a snoozer again. Turn the album off at “Crash and Burn” and save yourself seven minutes of listening time. Dad’s Rating 5/10
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