Personnel: David Alford (vocals, drum); Paul Shortino (vocals); Chris Hager, Amir Derakh (guitar).
Recording information: The Record Plant, Los Angeles, CA.
After rising from the ashes of several failed San Diego hard rock bands in 1983 (including the pre-Ratt Mickey Ratt), and contributing a few ear-catching tracks to the L.A.'s Hottest Unsigned Bands compilation, the earliest incarnation of Rough Cutt proceeded to be plundered by everyone from Ozzy Osbourne (who snagged guitarist Jake E. Lee) to Ronnie James Dio (who pinched keyboardist Claude Schnell). It was therefore something of a spare-parts band, virtually unrecognizable from the original, but still championed by Dio (and managed by his wife Wendy!), that finally wooed a recording contract from Warner Bros. and released this eponymous debut in 1985. Keep in mind that these were mostly excellent spare parts, though, including Mickey Ratt veterans David Alford (drums) and Chris Hager (guitar), up-and-coming shredder Amir Derakh, and, most important of all, singer Paul Shortino, whose voice was amongst the most soulful and powerful of the era. Even Judas Priest producer Tom Allom was commissioned to help Rough Cutt's chances at success, but the results were still somewhat mixed. Album bookends "Take Her" and "She's Too Hott" joined the hard driving "Cutt Your Heart Out" as clear standouts by conquering certain formulaic songwriting tricks with loads of irrepressible energy. But despite their satisfyingly anthemic choruses, tepid counterparts like "We're Never Gonna Die," "Black Widow," and "Dressed to Kill" simply begged for a little more emotional fire and tempo. Another potential sleepwalker, "You Keep Breaking My Heart," narrowly escaped this fate purely on the strength of Shortino's especially impassioned performance, but the same couldn't be said for Rough Cutt's cover of Janis Joplin's "(Take Another) Piece of My Heart," which was somehow reduced to a plodding mutation of the Troggs' "Wild Thing." And what decade was this after all -- the `60s? Anyway, of the remaining cuts, would-be arena anthem, "Kids Will Rock," fell about as flat as a pancake, and the all-important power ballad, "Dreamin' Again," though competent enough in theory, was absolutely dwarfed by the decade's towering monuments to cheese -- notwithstanding a Ronnie Dio co-write. In sum, although Rough Cutt's first effort bulged at the crotch with cock rock pedigree and professionalism (and even above-average intelligence by normal hair bands of the day, let's be fair), its polished grooves were just a tad too civilized to attract the typical meathead consumer of the 1980s en masse. ~ Eduardo Rivadavia