Home Albums Boxset Review -The Runaways – Neon Angels On The Road To Ruin

Boxset Review -The Runaways – Neon Angels On The Road To Ruin

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Review by Rob Broom for MPM

Excellent value CD box set from Cherry Red bringing all The Runaways releases together in one package.

The Runaways are one of those legendary bands from the 1970s, often cited as an influence, yet like the Velvet Underground before them (and Diamond Head later), at the time, the band never really got the sales or the proper break to turn them into superstars.

The reasons behind that are not really part of the this review and this super boxset comes with a 24 page booklet that gives you the highlights and history along with some great pictures. Suffice to say theres a degree of notoriety and sleaziness hanging around which at times overshadowed the recorded output! However, here at Metalplanetmusic we shall let the music do the talking, so on with the review!

Unsurprisingly, CD1 is the bands debut, simply titled ‘The Runaways’ and the album kicks off with what has become the bands most well known song – ‘Cherry Bomb’. The rest of the album thumps along nicely, this is a solid debut for the time. It is pretty obvious where the influences for the band are to my ears – British 70s glam, such as Slade and The Sweet, plus Susie Quatro (particularly the look) along with a bit of Kiss, Foghat style boogie and the New York Dolls thrown in for good measure! There’s an interesting cover of Rock N Roll (originally by the Velvet Underground and written by Lou Reed), but other songs of note include ‘American Nights’ and the seven minute ‘Dead End Justice’ which certainly showed some punk attitude and has some real originality about it.

Follow up (and CD2) ‘Queens Of Noise’ takes those influences along with lessons learned and contains the musical push forwards. The band are playing to their audience and the album contains some great tunes, including the title track and ‘Neon Angels On The Road To Ruin’. There’s another 7 minute song in ‘Johnny Guitar’ and songs such as ‘Take It Or Leave It’  and ‘California Paradise’ have a great beat to them.  Its all straight forward rock and roll, and perhaps that didn’t help some of the reviews at the time, even though – according to the booklet – Queens of Noise became the bands best selling release.

Outside the USA however, in countries such as the UK and particularly Japan, the band were far more enthusiastically received and and that leads us nicely to CD3.

Originally only released in Japan, ‘Live In Japan’, kicks off with ‘Queens Of Noise’ and proceeds to rock the house down to an audience of screaming Japanese fans. There are several covers, including ‘Wild Thing’ and ‘Rock N Roll’ (also found on the first album) and a number of songs not on any studio albums, such as ‘Gettin’ Hot’ and ‘I Wanna Be Where The Boys Are’. The album closes with the Joan Jett penned ‘C’Mon’. Behind the scenes though, the pressure was beginning to mount, and Jackie Fox (bass) and Cherie Currie (vocals) left the band.

CD4 gives us the bands third studio album ‘Waitin’ For The Night’. Joan Jett had now stepped up to take on lead vocals as well as rhythm guitar and she also contributed much of the song writing. Personally speaking, ‘Waitin’ For The Night’ is the best of the bands studio work, its got a harder edge to it, while songs such as ‘Wait For Me’ carry a great tune. It shows a real progression from the first two albums. Guitarist Lita Ford also contributes and in particular, ‘Fantasies’ really shows her hard rock leanings with some terrific guitar work. Its a doom laden and brooding piece that must have been fantastic to hear live. The title track and the punk sounding ”You’re Too Possessive’ round the album out in contrasting styles.

By the time of CD5 and the final studio album ‘And Now…The Runaways’ the band were falling apart. Dominating manager Kim Fowley had already gone, but despite the problems the band managed to pull together a decent enough album although 4 of the 9 tracks are covers. Of these, the version of ‘Mama Weer All Crazee Now’ (originally by Slade) is a lot of fun. Lita Ford contributes the 6 minute long ‘I’m A Million’ and highly catchy ‘Little Lost Girls’. Joan Jett pens ‘Takeover’ and ‘My Buddy And Me’, while not to be outdone, drummer Sandy West writes and sings lead vocals on ‘Right Now’. However, despite the expanded musical exploration and more shared out writing on this album, the band now decided to call it a day.

Individually the band members went on to varying degrees of success. Joan Jett had tremendous success with ‘I Love Rock N Roll’ and original founder member Micki Steele was part of the Bangles. Lita Ford worked with Ozzy Osbourne and a number of other rock artists. Jackie Fox is currently producing a board game based on becoming a rock star which sounds intriguing!

If you are curious about The Runaways there is no better place to start than this excellently priced package. It really gives you an opportunity to hear how the band progressed musically over their short and tumultuous career.

Perhaps, more importantly, it is not just a fitting testament to the bands legacy, but a wonderful way to inspire all those teenagers out there to the idea of picking up instruments and having a go at putting a band together.

At the time in the late seventies as well as The Runaways we also had the whole DIY attitude of punk and the New Wave of British Heavy Metal movements, where everyone was trying to form a band (even I had a go – vocals and writing – much better at the latter!). Today, we seem to have too little of that spirit, but there are some great bands out there working hard and writing exciting relevant rock music – The Ramonas, King Kraken, American Jetset and Starbenders to name but four.

In conclusion, if you still have that rebel spirit of youth, go buy ‘Neon Angels On The Road To Ruin’ now and play loud so everyone can hear and join in!

Out Now! A comprehensive 5CD clamshell box set of pioneering all-female rock band The Runaways, bringing together all five of their studio albums in one package for the first time. 👉cherryred.co/RunawaysNeonAngels

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