Recording information: The Big Apple Recording Studios, New York, NY (11/1976-06/1977).
Photographer: Doug Mathewson.
If a line could be drawn that connected '70s hard rock superstars like Boston and Thin Lizzy with '80s pop-metal gods Def Leppard, it would almost certainly pass through Riot. The group's surprising debut was originally issued in Japan only, which could explain why this 1977 release isn't more widely admired by rock/metal fans outside of Asia. Rock City boasts tight production and songwriting, and a melodic flair that approximates artists associated with the New Wave of British Heavy Metal. A pop-driven arena rock vibe propels standouts like the Boston-influenced "Tokyo Rose" and "This Is What I Get." A few tracks with potential, like "Overdrive," are limited by repetitive choruses and the thin guitar tones of Mark Reale and L.A. Kouvaris. Despite these setbacks, vocalist Guy Speranza's bell-like voice and the Riot's conceptual ambition solidify Rock City. While bandleader Reale was hurting for the virtuoso resources of a Thom Scholz, everyone else making this kind of record was similarly afflicted when compared to Boston's studio innovator. When judged alongside other young American bands caught between Boston's pop, Aerosmith's boogie, and the coming metal revolution, Riot were quite accomplished, and Rock City is a limited, but commendable first effort from the New York outfit. ~ Vincent Jeffries