Album review: Jim Dandy’s Black Oak Arkansas, Ready as Hell (1985)


By Steve Newton

Let’s get one thing straight: This isn’t heavy metal, no matter what the record company calls itself.

Heavy Metal Records is a new label–distributed by Quality Records–that seems to be trying to cash in on the fierce attraction that “heavy metal” has among youngsters these days. But of the five acts whose albums they’ve released so far–Jim Dandy, the Rejects, Pet Hate, DiAnno, and Wrathchild–only the latter can be said to be approaching what is commonly referred to as metal, and that’s only in the poppy glam/trash vein that bands like Hanoi Rocks and Motley Crue (on their first and best album) portray.

Anyway, on with the review.

Jim Dandy used to be the singer/frontman/raving loony for those seventies southern-rock fiends Black Oak Arkansas. With his ass-length blonde hair, skin-tight apparel, and a voice that was no such thing but more of a coarse, grating growl, Dandy was immediately identifiable on the hard-rock scene.

He looks and sounds about the same on his new album Ready as Hell, and for those who miss the dixie-fried boogie that Molly Hatchet used to wield (they’ve lost it lately) this record holds a few treats.

The opening title track is a real stomper, with dangerous solos from lead guitarist Steve “The Axe” Nunenmacher that recall Randy Rhoads at his frenzied best. The lyrics aren’t terribly inspired (“I’m ready as hell, I’m ready as hell, I’m ready as I can be…”) but the overall effect of the tune is dandy, if you’re feeling a bit brazen and brash.

The next track “Here Comes the Wind”, is also pretty cool, with slick violin and organ solos by the album’s co-producer Billy Batte. Unfortunately, things get real lousy real fast after that with “The Liberty Rebellion”, a nauseating little spoken-word tale about ultimate good and evil that leads into “Don’t Tempt the Devil”, a boring tirade on temptation and sin.

Cool it Jim, you don’t fit the preacher mold that well.

Side Two’s “Black Cat Woman” is another raging rocker, rowdy as “Ready as Hell”, with a hefty workout by drummer Jon “Thunder Paws” Wells. But again Dandy flags when he slows down and tries to get meaningful, as on “Fascination Alley”.

The album closes with “Denouement”, a classically tinged piano piece that shows Batte’s technical proficiency, but is terribly out of place on album that is best suited to southern-rock diehards and old Black Oak fans.


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