Slade “Play It Loud”

No one can blame you if you dismiss Slade’s Play It Loud out of hand. After all, Slade was the original hair metal band, launching a thousand ill-begotten covers, their originals just as bombastic, screeching and spelling-challenged. Yet, the Slade catalogue is full of buried treasures; nearly every one of the band’s 70s albums contains at least one song worth the price of admission, from “Gudbye to Jane” to “How Does It Feel,” and in the case of Play It Loud, an entire album’s worth of great songs.

Released in 1970, Play It Loud is the band’s second proper album, and the first released under the name Slade; one previous album had been released under the name Ambrose Slade, yet another as the N’ Betweens. While the two previous albums had relied heavily upon covers and songs by outside writers, Play It Loud was composed almost completely by drummer Don Powell, bassist Jim Lea, and singer Noddy Holder. It’s Slade before they were all crazee, before the platform boots and shiny spacesuits, more early Deep Purple than Gary Glitter.

The name Play It Loud may be a sad predictor of the type of albums the band would release later on, but it’s apt nonetheless. You can’t help but want to play this one loud; on an iPod or tinny computer speakers, it’s impossible to appreciate the wallop Slade packs.  It’s rough, garage-y and artless – like a collection of the best songs culled from Slade’s later albums and B-sides.

The best tracks on the album are those written by some combination of Powell, Lea and Holder. The rollicking opener “Raven,” the Black Sabbath-esque “See Us Here” and solid rockers “I Remember” and “One Way Hotel” are Slade with more grit than glitz, but the unexpected tenderness of “Dapple Rose” and the bluesy “Pouk Hill” show surprising range and depth. A standout is the album closer “Sweet Box,” which rolls as much as rocks, showing Slade’s nascent talent for a great groove.

A few covers pop up, too, such as the almost-psychedelic version of  Mann-Weil’s “The Shape of Things to Come,” and Neil Innes’ “Angelina,” a boozy bar-room blues.

Both “The Shape of Things to Come” and band original “Know Who You Are” were released as singles, with “The Shape of Things to Come” getting the Top of the Pops treatment. Neither single went anywhere; despite being aligned with producer/manager/ex-Animal Chas Chandler, Slade seemed destined for obscurity. However, a string of singles – including “Get Down,” “Look Wot You Done,” and “Coz I Love You” – that combined the band’s hard-rocking sound with glammy, slick production and hideously bad grammar soon shot the band to stardom. Not surprisingly, from 1971 on, the band would become primarily a singles outfit, with most later albums built around a single already on the charts, and the straight-ahead, correctly-spelled rock of Play It Loud relegated to b-sides and album tracks. More’s the pity.

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“Sweet Box”

:) Original | 1970 | Polydor | search ebay ]
:D Reissue | 2006 | Salvo | 2fer | buy ]

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  • Frasse

    I like the sleeve cover. Something about it makes the album look like it could’ve been brand new.

  • plasticsun

    Slade – original hair metal? Nah – just great pop music.

  • My first rock show – 1975 – just five years after Play It Loud (also one of my first records – how could a juvenile delinquent not be attracted to the scruffy lads?) they were desperate and working hard as ever for a break in North America. That break would come eventually (more than Status Quo could ever say) and now you can be sure to hear them still at just about any good old hockey game. And that show in ’75? Had it all – sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll.

  • Len Liechti

    OMG, did we “serious” music fans here in the UK get tired of Slade in the 1970s! They clearly could and did play, but Noddy Holder’s glasspaper vocal delivery rapidly palled on this listener, and the gimmicks – the misspelt titles, the ridiculous clothes, the commercial manipulation! In the US, Glam seems to have retained a hard edge with bands like Alice Cooper and the New York Dolls, but here in the UK it was music for infants all the way, and Slade’s success as a singles outfit meant that they got lumped into the Glam/Teenybop arena with the likes of the Bay City Rollers (chokes) and the Osmonds (chokes again). Good musos like Marc Bolan and Sweet got suckered in and eventually lost the plot, and Bowie only just escaped because of his enigmatic character and brilliant talent. “At least one song worth the price of admission” wouldn’t send me running to the record store to score an album, but I’m prepared to concede that Slade’s earlier stuff had a rough and ready charm before they got subverted to The Dark Side.

  • Loz

    Just a few minor corrections. The singles were ‘Get Down and Get With It’ (not ‘Get Down’), ‘Look Wot You Dun’ (not “Look Wot You Done”) and ‘Coz I Luv You’ (not “Coz I Love You”). After all, if you are going to spell things wrong, at least try to get them right ;)

  • There was only one album prior to Play it loud. That was the Anbrose Slade ‘Beginnings’ album (also released in the USA retitled ‘Ballzy’).

    Play it loud indeed is a fascinating album, showing what they could have been capable of if they hadn’t made it to the Top of the pops studio and got mixed up in the dressing up competition. Their choice of cover versions was inspired and these early self.penned songs show a great deal of promise. Once Holder and Lea had cornered the writing and cut out Powell and the lazy Hill, it was terrace anthems all the way for a few years. Their next studio album, 1972’s SLAYED? would prove to be their masterpiece.

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