Review: Skid Row The Atlantic Years 1986 – 1994

Review: Skid Row The Atlantic Years 1986 – 1994

BMG (December 3rd 2021)

Reviewer: Jason Hopper

Atlantic Records has tapped Skid Row to be the next band worthy of its ‘The Atlantic Years’ series. Recent artists to get a similar treatment were Overkill and Ratt. This is a five disk (or vinyl) set that includes Skid Row’s first three full length albums, the EP ‘B-Side Ourselves’, and the Japan-released live EP ‘Subhuman Beings on Tour’.

Right off the bat, if you don’t have any Skid Row CDs or are looking to get this collection on vinyl, this is a must pick up collection, if for nothing more than their first two albums, which are staples of the hard rock/metal genre. For everyone else, it really depends on what albums you’re missing or whether on not you want to be a completist. I do not believe the CD box set has been remastered. I listened to audio files of the self-titled album from this collection and from the 1989 original release and did not notice a difference.

I’m sure most people reading this have heard the Skid Row albums if they are a fan of the band, but I’ll submit a quick summary of those albums. I was a fan from the beginning and when Skid Row arrived on the scene with their self-titled hard rock album, it made the group one of the last big bands to catch the wave of 80s rock popularity and lead singer Sebastian Bach to be arguably the last famous frontman of said scene. The album sold 5 million copies and even people who are not into the 80s hard rock scene know some of the songs off of this release.

As fantastic as that release was, Skid Row decided to buck the trend and went quite a bit into metal territory with their follow-up ‘Slave To The Grind’, an album that was an integral part of my senior year of high school and a personal favorite. The fact that they released the title track as a single when all other bands were pushing ballads shows how adamant they were about showing they were more than just a hair metal band.  I think they saw the winds of change coming and did their best to survive the impending crash.

B-Side Ourselves’ is just a covers EP where every member picked a song they wanted to cover.  It’s just a stop-gap between albums to keep the band name out in the public. Certainly an interesting mix of covers from bands like KISS, Judas Priest, and The Ramones. I think all of the bands listed have better songs than what was covered on the EP, but it certainly sounds like the band is having a blast.

Then there’s ‘Subhuman Race’, an album that divides the fan base. Some saw it as a natural progression while others believe the band overthought the musical shift of the times, preferring aggression over catchy melodies. I’m in the latter camp. I listened to that album looking for salvation from the crappy popular music of 1995 and did not find it with this release. I’ve long since rid myself of the cassette. Since I only listened to it once 26 years ago, I checked it out again here. I found there were some songs that I did not give a chance back in the day that sound surprisingly good. ‘Bonehead’ ‘Into Another’ ‘Iron Will’ and the title track are reminiscent of the ‘Slave To The Grind’ era, more so than I remember. Everything else still leaves me cold.

Finally, the one release I had never previously heard was the live EP ‘Subhuman Beings on Tour’. While it’s great that three of the six tracks feature songs from ‘Slave To The Grind’, I wouldn’t call the EP essential. The biggest issue I have is that the album is not played straight through live. It’s cut tracks, with audience fades at the beginning and end. Strangely, track one ’Slave To The Grind’ fades out with 10 seconds left as the band begins what I believe is ‘Piece of Me’. A very strange fade that should have started earlier. Not sure why they decided on an EP when they could have just recorded a few more tracks and put together a whole album. All that said, I did prefer the live version of ‘Delivering The Goods’ here than the version found on ‘B-Side Ourselves’. It’s slightly more energetic.

It’s a shame that they left off some tracks from the band, especially ‘Forever’, a leftover track from the debut that was featured on the Skid Row best of compilation ’40 Seasons’. If you have not heard that song and you love Skid Row, seek it out immediately. Technically the exclusion of these songs leaves this set incomplete.  It would have been better to include something not previously released, even if it meant the inclusion of more unreleased live tracks, which I am sure are lying around somewhere. The debut album was recently digitally released with live tracks and those could have been part of this collection. As stated earlier, this is a collection to be sought out for completists, those who want the album on vinyl, and those who don’t have a majority of their releases.