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Ted Nugent - Ted Nugent: Album Of The Week Club Review

In which the Motor City Madman makes his solo debut, and the world is never the same again

Ted Nugent - Ted Nugent
Ted Nugent - Ted Nugent

Ted Nugent - Ted Nugent

Stranglehold
Stormtroopin'
Hey Baby
Just What the Doctor Ordered
Snakeskin Cowboys
Motor City Madhouse
Where Have You Been All My Life
You Make Me Feel Right at Home
Queen of the Forest

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“If it’s too loud, you’re too old!” declared the Nuge, as he destroyed eardrums across the globe on this, his solo debut. And it more than lived up to expectations. After carving out a niche with The Amboy Dukes, Nugent threw away all thoughts of subtlety and cranked it up louder than everything else.

This is an album dripping with classic moments, from Stranglehold to Stormtroopin’ and Motor City Madhouse. No prisoners were taken, as Nugent set out to prove he was the craziest mutha ever to wield a Gibson Byrdland guitar in anger – and he was, too.

"It is so spontaneous and uninhibited," Nugent told Guitar World in 2009, referring to the classic Strangehold. "The only thing we went back and overdubbed was Derek St. Holmes’ vocals and my two tracks of harmonised feedback, which come in and out of the entire song. All the engineers and everyone kept saying, ‘You can’t do that, Ted.’ And I said, ‘Shut the fuck up!’ Because I had the vision; I saw what the song could be, and I realised it."

Every week, Album of the Week Club listens to and discusses the album in question, votes on how good it is, and publishes our findings, with the aim of giving people reliable reviews and the wider rock community the chance to contribute. 

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Background

Ted Nugent, formerly an unheralded, under-appreciated member of The Amboy Dukes, a Chicago band most famous for their 1968 hit Journey To The Center Of The Mind, reinvented himself as a guitar-playing nutcase in 1975. 

After Tooth Fang & Claw, his final album with The Dukes in 1974, mega management team Leber-Krebs helped Nugent snaffle a solo deal with Epic Records, and his self-titled debut for the label ram-raided its way to No.28 in the US chart.

It was a quick start. Within two months Nugent had a gold record on his hands, and by 1986 it had sold two million copies, awarded double-platinum status by the RIAA.   

Other albums released in September 1975

  • Blues for Allah - Grateful Dead
  • Minstrel in the Gallery - Jethro Tull
  • Alive! - Kiss
  • Fighting - Thin Lizzy
  • Second Chapter - Danny Kirwan
  • Wish You Were Here - Pink Floyd
  • Crisis? What Crisis? - Supertramp
  • Fool for the City - Foghat
  • Wind on the Water - Crosby & Nash
  • In Trance - Scorpions
  • Extra Texture (Read All About It) - George Harrison
  • Caress of Steel - Rush
  • Another Green World - Brian Eno
  • Artful Dodger - Artful Dodger
  • Bandolier - Budgie
  • Face the Music - Electric Light Orchestra
  • Hotline - The J. Geils Band
  • John Fogerty - John Fogerty
  • Landed - Can
  • Masque - Kansas
  • Maximum Darkness - Man
  • Procol's Ninth - Procol Harum
  • X-Rated - Black Oak Arkansas

What they said...

"For anyone familiar only with the motor-mouth, kill it and grill it, God and guns, flag-waving, liberal-baiting, self-parodying, gobshite version of Ted Nugent, his debut solo album will come as an eye-opening testament to the fact that, at one time, he let his incendiary six-string skills do the talking with, as his sleeve notes have it, 'one guitar, eight Fender speakers and no toys in between to mess up the signal'" (Head Heritage

"A prime slice of testosterone-heavy, raging, unapologetic rock & roll, and along with the band's 1977 release Cat Scratch Fever, it is Nugent's best solo studio album. While the grinding opening track, Stranglehold, stretches beyond eight minutes and contains several extended, fiery-hot guitar leads, it does not come off as your typical '70s overindulgent fare - every single note counts, as Nugent wails away as if his life depended on it." (AllMusic)

"Despite being clearly a product from the 70’s hard rock scene, there are some elements that distinguish this album from your run of the mill classic rock album. Most notable is Ted Nugent’s guitar work. While technically not great, he has a great feel for the music, and plays interesting leads with innovative use of feedback and other noises." (Sputnuk Music)

What you said

James Praesto: Let me start off by saying that I am new to Ted Nugent’s solo stuff. Most of you hardcore Ted fans probably cringe as I admit that my first introduction to him was with Damn Yankee’s debut album back in 1990 (and now I made you replay High Enough in your mind – you’re welcome). Probably not the most representative work in his catalogue, right? Oh, well, there is a first for everything, and as such, I took on Ted’s first solo album with an absolute naivety as far as his musical talents go.

My first listen didn’t go that well. After a couple of long days of work, I finally put it on in the background while sorting through my 1,000,000 mails in my spam filter. As I found myself just not getting the generic rock at all, almost scoffing at the rinse-repeat of every riff on every run of the mill song, I stopped what I was doing, and thought to myself, “Hey, what if I am the one doing it wrong?” After all, what is perspective without context and reference? When was the album released? What did we listen to at the time? Where would be a good place, and when would be a good time to listen to this album? Is opening mail from Nigerian bankers, while wearing my Scooby Doo pajamas, really the ideal setting for a slab of unfamiliar rock’n’roll? No. It was time to take the rock on the road. 

So, second listen proved more successful. Driving along the endless beaches of Clearwater, Florida, with the windows down on a late summer night told me two things:

1. This album was a little more interesting than I had first given it the discredit for.

2. Florida fucking sucks. Like living in a hot swamp full of drunk drivers.

Through the very lengthy opener of Stranglehold, with its oh, so very jammy section in the middle, and during the much shorter songs that followed, I learned that Ted indeed stood tall to deliver some chops on his Byrdland, and that the backup band did not consist of a couple of slouches either, with a special shout-out to Rob Grange for laying down some decent and very fluid bass lines under the ever riffing guitar. I also really dig Derek St Holmes’s typical classic rock voice, as it has that smooth bourbon fire to it, without breaking up or losing steam.

After Stranglehold set the bar real high for the rest of the album, the songs that follow knock it right down again. You can’t fault Ted for his energy and rock’n’roll lifeforce, but the quality of the songwriting is just not there on Stormtroopin', Hey Baby and Just what the Doctor Ordered. It’s fairly straight forward rock with very little to remember it by. However, what was originally Side B on the album is much better, showcasing a set of songs that make me realise why so many feel that Ted was a power house rocker back in the 70’s. Motor City Madhouse has that feverish Radar Love pulse with that clever rattlesnake wagging its tail to the beat throughout. You Make Me Feel Right at Home is an odd number (senior citizen organ and all) that at first sounded very much out of place with the other ones, but on subsequent listens, it felt right at… well, fuck, you know. Queen of the Forest pretty much sums up the balls out swagger of this album, with ripping guitars and pumping rhythms. I wish the sides had been reversed instead, and with Stranglehold as a closer, as the music would have built towards the epic finale, instead of away from it, with a dip in the middle.

Even though I am a newcomer to the original recordings of Ted Nugent, I have not been blind to the debate of his musicianship and contributions to rock’n’roll. For various reason I was just never interested enough in that brand of rattlesnake rock to really investigate for myself before. Having given this first album a series of listens, in more or less successful settings, I can see why he gained some traction with his crazy energy and loud persona. Rock had finally started getting rowdy, with Kiss and AC/DC serving as a counterpoint to the classic bands of Zeppelin, Deep Purple and Sabbath, who had started to go experimental or taken wide turns away from their original comfort zones, so the time was right for a new player on the pitch. Ted dialled in that spirit of rock again on the hillbilly radio and drove it home to the masses. 

But, and there is always a “but”, I can also see why he never made it bigger than he did. Within all that riffing, guitar-playing and rocking, it is very hard to find any memorable riffs. In a world where you can hum the ten most famous riffs from most classic rock bands, most people would be hard pressed to hum one single Ted Nugent riff. Try it. I did. Six of my pretty musically diverse rock friends could not think of any (well, one could hum the chorus to Cat Scratch Fever, so I owe him a beer). At the end of the day, it is not the craziness you channel that creates your musical legacy, nor is it the volume of your guitar – however decently played; it is the songs you write and their ability to resonate with the listener through time. I fail to see anything that would make Ted Nugent musically relevant within the context of so many other quality classic rock releases of the 70’s, based on just his songwriting skills. There are no Back in Black, Free Bird or Black Dog classics on here, and much of that is not due to any lack of instrumental prowess; just a lack of focused riff-smithing and memorable choruses. I am not necessarily saying that is wrong, just that it is the missing ingredient. As an album to cruise along the highway with, turned up to 10 with the sun beating on your bald head, why not? That is probably what rock should still be all about. Just don’t ask me to remember what I just heard.

Brian Carr: One of the major things I’ve discovered from the Classic Rock Album of the Week Club is that much of the appreciation of a given album is tied to a person’s history with it. I’ve discovered some tremendous albums from the club, and listened to a couple that had little that interested me. But what about those albums I’ve known for decades? I could just say how much I’ve always loved the album and be done, but reading some of the more detailed commentary (James Praesto) makes me want to listen with a more critical ear.

I’ve been a fan of Uncle Ted for a long time, and his self-titled album has been in my collection for decades. I always dug the songs and Derek St. Holmes has one of my favorite rock & roll voices - probably in my top ten. Hey Baby was a tune that always resonated with me - the bouncy groove, the vocals. When I listened to the album again tonight, I was hooked by Just What the Doctor Ordered. And no matter how many times I hear Stranglehold, it’s just too majestic to fall into “Brian Carr’s Pit of Burned Out Songs.”

However, I can absolutely hear flaws. The Nuge is never going to challenge anyone in the lyric writing department. From a guitar direction, he plays some interesting stuff, but there are moments where the guitar riffs sound like a teenager writing his first tune. Overall, Ted Nugent the album is representative of Ted Nugent the man: loud, in your face and uncompromising. “It’s so crazy, yes, you know but I like it.”

Maxwell Marco Martello: Here goes an awesome record that these days might get somewhat overlooked or underestimated because of Uncle Ted’s antics.

The whole band fires on this one. It wouldn’t be much of a stretch to say that this form of simplified hard rock will go on to become the basis of a huge chunk of the NWOBHM.

A clever trick is the emphasis on the mid and treble. Those cutting guitars are a trademark of mid to late 70’s heavy metal/hard rock. That dry sound aged a lot better that most of the 80’s reverb overkills.

There are also double bass outbursts here and there! And Derek St Holmes sings like a bad mother...

Maybe Stranglehold was a tad bit similar to Savoy Brown’s Hellbound Train in its intentions, but it remains one of the best openers and live centerpieces of its era.

A personal favorite is the Stones-y Snakeskin Cowboys, with its riff clearly inspired by Slow Death (Flamin Groovies).

Benjamin Kelk: Absolutely spectacular album from beginning to end. The writing on it is superb, the playing on it is stellar. Ted Nugent can shred. Seen him play live twice now and both times I was blown away. Politics aside, he is a phenomenal guitar player, and you shouldn't pass on an opportunity to have him shred all over your ear drums. Definitely give this record a spin.

Steve Jestico: This is one of my most favourite albums ever, bought it just after it was released on reading one good review Every track just blazes and Ted just shreds everything including your eardrums. Fuck the man's politics just cop an ear'ole of this album, turn it up to about 15 and rock! 10/10

John Edgar: The perfect 1970s rock album. Almost every red-blooded American young man owned this album. Track after track, this album rocks. It was that magical perfect pairing of guitar player and vocalist. When this was released (and for many years afterwards) politics did not enter into it's appreciation in any way whatsoever. Now, all these years later, it still stands up. I still spin this one several times a year. 

Per Ove Haukland: Top album from a great rocker and guitarist! But I believe that he fitted much better with The Amboy Dukes, and I really liked that band. But Ted Nugent is so good, that I'm willing to forgive him for giving up on TAD...

Riobert Dunn: From the opening groove and surprising sophistication of Stranglehold to the no nonsense rock and roll of Motor City Madhouse this was rock the way it's meant to be. Loud, crude, and unapologetically better for it. I will definitely listen to it again and will seek out more from the master of gonzo rock. And yes, Ted made me smile again.

Richard Cardenas: Most of us grew up getting hooked on rock because of the influence of someone older. As we aged, we developed our own tastes and came across records that blew us away and were significant to us. This is one of them for me. This album is imbedded in my DNA and is so important to me. Ted became too much of a nut for me but that, in no way, diminishes my love for this record.

Uli Hassinger: Doing this you you gave to appreciate that this is a tremendous record. No stinker, just great songs. Besides the well known classics I like the other songs as well especially Snakeskin Cowboys and Queen Of The Forest. Unfortunately the only studio album which reaches this class was Cat Scratch Fever. But Nugent live is the other side of the coin. Double Live Gonzo belongs to the best 20 live albums of all time and live the songs gaining much more energy and especially genius guitar solos.

John Davidson: What is most striking about listening to the album now is how slow and tame it is. At the time, Nugent was loud, fast and wild but this collection of songs is largely mid paced bluesy/country rock, filled with the usual lyrical cliches of the time. 

Standout songs for me are Just What The Doctor Ordered and Snakeskin Cowboys. Stranglehold has a good tune but dreadful lyrics. Motor City Madhouse and Stormtroopin' are decent enough but seem to have lost some of their power over the years. The rest of the album is competent but skirts pretty close to filler material.

In fairness there isn't really a bad track on the album but its not one I have any great desire to add to my regular playlists. 6/10

Keith O'day: One of the best rock guitar albums ever; saw him right after this album came out in 75 at the Long Beach arena in Southern California on a triple bill with Ted opening for Kansas and Blue Oyster Cult and gave a incredible 40 min. set; loin cloth and all!

Roland Bearne: Well adding some Uncle Ted sauce to the AOTW Club apears to be a bit like adding Habanero Sauce to a cheesecake (hmm...actually!) I used to listen to a radio show on WRTL when living in Luxembourg presented by snarling French madman called Francis Zégut.the show was called Wango Tango and he was my Tommy Vance. I was sort of vaguely aware of "Uncle" Ted so decided that buying a couple of albums might be in order. Cat Scratch Fever and Scream Dream duly purchased on cassette, I listened to them! Rough, silly, enjoyable, they got popped into the deck occasionally for years. Never heard this first one, wish I had. It's a really good rock album. Won't buy it though. Not because Ted is increasingly unpleasantly bonkers, I'm just not that interested any more. I'm off to put on Damn Yankees though. 

Mike Bruce: I adore this album. It's an ode to the riff, the whole riff and nothing but the riff. It's only when Ted strays from this mantra that he comes unstuck. Others are right, today it may seem tame stuff. Certainly compared to Ted's verbal hyperbole about his music at the time it doesn't quite deliver what he promised. 

But what could?

He gives us riffs, hooks, strut and swing. Shouldn't that be enough?

Richard Taylor: Ted Nugent’s first album simply smokes all the way. His Gibson Byrdland conjures classic rock'n'roll riffage with solos that slither and curl around your ears. This is rattlesnake rock at its best with fangs everywhere. An absolute essential classic.

Final Score: 7.72 ⁄10 (219 votes cast, with a total score of 1691)

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