BY The end of the first side of this, the fourth LP from Riot, the thought occurred that it’s no good being simply adequate and satisfactory when making a record. Better, obviously, to be brilliant, but almost as good is to be duff, because either way you get noticed and perhaps remembered, whereas to make an album that neither offends nor impresses leaves you in the wilderness in 99 cases out of 100.
And that’s the way that about half of this LP, most of the first side sounds – ‘Hard Lovin’ Man’ Is In the rather hackneyed ‘Are you ready to rock?’ style, while ‘CIA’ is night time freeway music, though with a rather odd choice of subject. The title track would be OK were not overlong, and ‘Loanshark’ is played so fast as to remove any menace from an interesting lyrical idea, the overall effect being that of a hamster on speed who’s reached the end of his treadmill. The only above-average track on side one 1 s an unlikely cover of ‘When I Was Young’, a ‘Sixties hit for Eric Burdon, Which is a smart choice for revival.
Then It was time for the flipside, and things improved dramatically ‘Loved by You’ has a more subtle riff, is paced more realistically. displays some light and shade, and also has new singer Rhett Forrester playing harp and duelling with the guitars. The added touches of ‘atmosphere’ which suggest that it’s alive Cut (which it isn’t) add to the appeal and the only jarring feature is the incessant repetition of the title at the long fade. ‘Over To You is good because it’s not hysterical – hard rock rather than heavy metal, and the same goes for Showdown’ (not the ELO song, but closer to Breakdown’ by Tom Petty, with whom Riot have toured Stateside). ‘Dream Away’ has a complex rift and clever, if slightly risqué lyrics, before ‘Violent Crimes’ takes the LP full circle – too fast, too dumb.
Within four years or so. Riot have had three labels, and only Mark Reale’s remains from the line up which made ‘Rock City’. Fortunately, the newcomers have all been improvements on their predecessors, especially Reale’s guitar partner, Rick Ventura, who wrote most of the better tracks here. Forrester’s harp playing could eventually be an even bigger bonus, and with some care, Riot could soon be contenders – and because they’re above rather than below, average.
JUNE 1982 – Rhett Forrester Interview by Dante Bonutto
In Rhett Forrester, Riot’s newly acquired vocalist, the US music scene has produced a natural showman who, given time and the right degree of adulation, should soon be rivalling DL Roth in the precocious frontman stakes. His predecessor, Guy Speranza left the car of his own volition but had he not taken the leap a push would certainly have come. With sights set on the large arenas, the band decided they needed a singer who would both strengthen their image and allow them to handle a wider range of material. Rhett, a 25 old from Atlanta, Georgia, dot on both counts. The curled lip, the peacock-strut, the Kentucky fried drawl, he looks and sounds the part and has a voice that runs the gamut of expression on the bands new ‘Restless Breed’ LP, handling both the ballad ‘Showdown’ and the careering ‘Loan Shark’ with ease.
Prior to joining Riot, Rhett was playing the New York dubs with Rachel, a local outfit who achieved a degree of recognition before succumbing to financial pressure. Just three weeks after their demise he got his chance.
“It was weird how it all came down”, he recalls, slumping into a chair ‘in Riot’s Greene Street Studio in the Soho district of New York. “I was laying down a song for a movie called Vigilante’ at Backstreet Studio where Kiss’ ex-soundman works and as soon as he heard my voice he said ‘man, those guys in Riot are looking for a singer – you’re just what they want, here’s the number’. Now I already had a number for Riot through some friends but I didn’t want to call it in case it was bogus. So I compared the two, they coincided and I got in touch. The next thing I know, I’m here handing over my pictures, my tape and a video I had done when I was in Rachel and nine o’clock the next morning I get a call – I’m in! Three days later we started on the album.’
While Rhett has had a variety of part-time jobs, everything from working in a gas station to demolishing trees with a chainsaw gang in North Carolina, rock’n’roll has claimed most of his time over the past eight years. At 17, when he left the naval academy in Florida, his parents tried to coax him into a two year tennis scholarship but, free at last from academy discipline, young Forrester had other ideas.
“My old lady was hitting some tennis, my old man was going for golf and I was going for pussy. l went to check out a band one night and, as I had my harmonica with me, I asked if I could play in the breaks just to show off and stuff, they listened to me, asked me to sit in and offered me a job.
The following night Rhett bound himself in Jacksonville, Florida, puffing and blowing his way through a selection of Allman Bros/J. Geils covers. Then, when the band ditched their singer, he was pushed to the fore.
“That was the killer circuit, man. Five sets a night, seven nights a week, 50 weeks a year, just killing my throat, killing myself. Literally. I was beat up, stabbed, cut, blown up by my pyrotechnician, electrocuted three or four times to the point of no return and carbon monoxide poisoned after a 36 hour drive in the back of a truck”
Next came spells in Chicago and Detroit, the former with a band called Human, who made something of a dent on the local scene, and the latter with Blind Man’s Bluff, a group featuring a blind guitarist with whom he recorded a number of singles. At one point Joe Perry’s management got in touch but, when Joe opted for a singer/guitarist rather than a straight frontman, the merger fell through.
“I was upset at the time”, reflects Rhett, but I’m pleased it didn’t come off now. All my friends were calling me up saying ‘don’t you be getting into shooting up no junk and that cos we hear Joe’s a real coconut’. And I said ’OK. I’ll stick to my regular controlled madness.’
Early in his career Rhett used a small trampoline to propel himself across the stage and today he still displays all the restraint of a chemically activated cheerleader.
“I live rock’n’roll, man,” he points out firmly, ‘that’s my love, I’m a rocker!’
KERRANG! ISSUE 33 JANUARY 1983
Singles reviewed by Xavier Russell
RIOT: ‘Riot Live’ (Elektra 0-67969 A – Import).
Up until the arrival of this live six-track EP, I’d always found Riot poor live but excellent on wax. Guy Speranza was to blame methinks, though I much preferred his style of singing to that of new lad Rhett Forrester. You see folks, Guy just couldn’t cut it live while the horrible looking RF seems to have injected some new energy into the band.
Five of the six tracks have been culled from Riot’s most recent album ‘Restless Breed’, while the final cut, ‘Swords And Tequila’, my own personal fave, is lifted from the group’s finest LP ‘Fire Down Under.