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'Rose Tattoo' (aka 'Rock'n'Roll Outlaw'), 'Assault And Battery', 'Scarred For Life', 'Southern Stars'
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Joe Geesin

joe geesin

rose tattoo

Australian rock band Rose Tattoo, with many an AC/DC connection including their original label and production team, have often been overshadowed by their Antipodean fellows.

Led by the charismatic and shaven headed Angry Anderson, their blend of blues, boogie, sleaze and hard rock (at least on their early recordings) was blistering, rocking, and very street influenced. More AC/DC than AC/DC, to the point where the sleaze had an almost punk tinge.

The band split in the mid 80s and have reformed since with Angry the constant force. Six former members, original and subsequent, have since passed away.

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Formed in the mid 70s, the band's eponymous debut was released in 1978 and subsequently released as 'Rock'n'Roll Outlaw' in some territories and the band then underwent several line-up changes. These are their first four albums, originally released between 1978 and 1984, and although there have been a number of expanded reissues they have long since been out of print and these nicely packaged reissues are more than welcome.

Originally formed in Sydney by slide guitarist Pete Wells, the former bassist for Buffalo, a number of line-up changes saw the debut feature, alongside Wells, singer Angry Anderson (replacing Tony Lake), guitarist Mick Cocks, drummer Dallas "Digger" Royal and bassist Geordie Leach (replacing Ian Rilen, who also appears on three of the tracks here). Anderson, Leach and Royal had been members of Buster Brown.

Rilen had taught himself to play in prison which added to both the street cred image and sound to the band; the band gave blues rock a punk attitude. Members of AC/DC were fans and this led to Rose Tattoo signing to Albert Productions, under the production helm of Vanda & Young.

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The debut album kicks off with 'Rock'n'Roll Outlaw', a rough, bluesy and sleazy number with hard vocals and some very neat slide guitar. 'Nice Boys' has an uptempo riff; think a bluesier Rolling Stones turned up to 11 and spun at 78rpm. Guns N' Roses covered the track on their 1986 'Live ?!*@ Like a Suicide' EP and there's a story to be told in the slower and very bluesy 'The Butcher And Fast Eddy'; a definite Angus Young and Bon Scott nod here.

There's uptempo tracks that really get you nodding and foot stomping. 'One Of The Boys' is definitely a highlight, 'Bad Boy For Love' again has an AC/DC rhythm but the power and pace give it an extra dimension. Four bonus tracks, including two live, bolster the set well, although there are many more available (the 1990 release had eight bonus tracks).

It would take three years before second album 'Assault And Battery' appeared, largely due to their constant touring. With foreign markets picking up on the band, the debut was retitled and pushed worldwide. A few comings and goings culminated in this being recorded by the same line-up, but an independent single released along the way is sadly not included.

rose tattoo

I've many a fond memory of 'Assault And Battery' as this was my introduction to Rose Tattoo. Opener 'Out Of This Place' is typical Tattoo, bluesy hard rock at its dirty and street fighting best.

There are several tracks that will draw an AC/DC comparison, but even at their most influenced Rose Tattoo were always at the sleazier end of rock 'n' roll. The title track is a real standout and should be on anyone's and everyone's playlist. 'Rock 'n' Roll Is King' has a solid riff that mixes AC/DC with a touch of Zeppelin.

Again a couple of bonus tracks, but a fraction of previous releases.

And if you think the album is energetic enough, their live performances were more so; their Reading performance saw Anderson draw blood while assaulting the amp stacks.

rose tattoo

With guitarist Robin Riley replacing Mick Cocks, 'Scarred For Life' followed. The opening title track is another classic with a great bass line but, like the album, the punk/street edge was toned down making the album a little more mainstream bluesy hard rock. Some slide guitar touches do keep things a little on the edge but it's not simmering like the first two.

'Can't Be Beaten' is a solid rock'n'roll number, and 'Juice On The Loose' nods to the earlier blistering blues. 'Who's Got The Cash' features some solid guitar work, a touch of slide, while 'Branded' nods to the Johnson era AC/DC. A fine and hard rocking album, again with a few bonus cuts.

The last album here, 'Southern Stars', was also the last album to be produced by Vanda & Young. Musical chairs too as Anderson and bassist Leach were joined by guitarists Greg Jordon and John Meyer and drummer Scott Johnston. While there are some blues and boogie of the earlier albums, this is a much more slick and polished affair, with AOR leanings.

The title track opens and has both an epic and radio friendly feel, the vocals solid but much smoother. The biggest loss is Mick Cocks, who lent much of an edge to the band, now missing.

'I Wish' was a fair hit and it's a very 80s mainstream rock track. Definitely an album to enjoy, in a more laid back sense. Not one bad track, some excellent guitar solos but nothing to hold a candle to the first two albums.

The band were put on hiatus after this album, partly due to Anderson's acting commitments, including Mad Max III. There were sporadic releases and reformations but it's these four albums that are always returned to. I did vow not to mention the Neighbours wedding theme and hit ballad 'Suddenly' from a subsequent Rose Tattoo album later rebranded as a solo release but I've just blown that.

Well packaged, well annotated, but having had much of the original catalogue and Repertoire's earlier releases pass through my collection, an ardent fan would feel a little short changed. Excellent, but far from definitive.

'Rose Tattoo'

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'Assault Tattoo'

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'Scarred For Life'

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'Southern Stars'

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