35 Years Ago: Angel Release ‘White Hot’
Angel should have been big. The ’70s glam rock / heavy metal band had all the right pieces, but somehow the cylinders were not firing properly to put them over the top. They hoped to change that with the release of 1978’s ‘White Hot’ — but it just didn’t quite turn out that way.
Discovered by Gene Simmons and signed to Casablanca Records, Angel took the glam ideal on their own path. Where Kiss twisted it into a comic book fantasy, Angel turned it into — well, they wore all white, sort of playing “Heaven” to Kiss’ “Hell,” as it were.
In 1975, the band released their self titled debut album, which was full of loud guitars, soaring vocals and catchy tunes like ‘Rock And Rollers,’ ‘On & On’ and the classic ‘Tower.‘ It should have made a splash, but alas, the waters were still. Angel delivered more of the same on albums two (‘Helluva Band’) and three (‘On Earth as it Is in Heaven’), but still nothing much happened.
The band were able to pick up momentum along the way, primarily based on their live shows, which featured glam rock theatrics over loud hard rock (and featured a giant talking “Angel” head, which was, you know . . . pretty cool). Ticket sales were steady, but album sales stalled. It was decided for their fourth effort they would streamline things and push their pop side (always at the core of their songs) to the fore.
‘White Hot,’ released in January of 1978, found the band struggling with a slight identity crisis. Though the bombast of Kiss was still big business, things were changing. New Wave was forcing (or inspiring, depending on the act) bands to cut back on spectacle and bombast, and trim things down to their roots. In the case of Angel, those roots lay in the pop music of the ’60s and early ’70s.
The album opener, ‘Don’t Leave Me Lonely‘ is as much power pop as it is hard rock. A perfect combination if ever there was one — just ask Cheap Trick or the Raspberries — in fact, ‘Don’t Leave Me Lonely’ has elements of some long lost Raspberries song, save for the cheddar and swiss keyboards of Gregg Giuffria. The band drive head on into a stellar rendition of ‘Ain’t Gonna Eat Out My Heart Anymore.’ Originally recorded by the Young Rascals in 1965 as their debut single, it was never a big hit for the band. Angel took the song and put their own stamp on it, but once again, it refused to climb the charts. Though it made it slightly higher than the Rascals version, the song deserved a better fate regardless of whose hands it was in.
Guitarist Punky Meadows (immortalized in song by none other than Frank Zappa) was all flash and grandstanding, but he was no slouch either, as evidenced on the tough little rocker ‘Hold Me, Squeeze Me.’ ‘Got Love if You Want It‘ has punch and power (after the lengthy keyboard intro that is — damn Giuffria!) while ‘The Winter Song‘ is suitably seasonal as it tries to warm the heart the cockles of the heart (and to quote Woody Allen, “Nothing like hot cockles”).
It seemed like the band were set for takeoff, but again, they were left on the runway. Were Giuffria’s keyboards just too bombastic? Was Frank DiMino’s soaring vocal style just out of fashion? Was Punky Meadows’ Cher-meets-Farrah hairdo (Cherrah?) too much for people? We will never know. Timing and luck are everything, and poor Angel, they seemed to have neither of those. They did, however, have the only logo in rock that reads the same upside down as right side up . . . so take that, Kiss!
Watch Angel Perform ‘Ain’t Gonna Eat Out My Heart Anymore’