I wish record companies would let bands be who they are instead of trying to change them. There are many examples of this but I ran into one recently that reminded me that creating music and the music business are two separate entities that should probably never interact.
I am a fan of a fairly obscure heavy metal band from the 80s called Raven. I wore out my cassette tape of their album All For One. Recently I was at a flea market and found this vinyl copy of their The Pack is Back album. I wasn’t familiar with this one and the cover is . . . disturbing, but it was the 80s and metal bands were wearing . . . well let’s forget what they wore in the 80s. Being a fan of the band and still having a vinyl collection I bought this for a few dollars. I was excited to get home and put it on my turntable. Yes, I’m old. I still like hearing the needle drop onto the grooves of a record.
The first song played while I cleaned up a bit and I wasn’t thrilled with it. It wasn’t horrible but there was something wrong. It didn’t sound like Raven. Second song, not much better. It was a cover of Gimme Some Lovin’ by the Spencer Davis Group. By the time side one was over I had heard a horn section and way too many catchy melodies for this to be a heavy metal record.
After using Google to dig up some information I discovered that the record company wanted the band to make their sound more “commercial”. The result? A bad record followed by bad reviews and bad sales. Good job Atlantic Records.
Raven was not a pop band so why did you try to make them into one? If you worked for Vertigo in the 70s would you have said to Black Sabbath, “You know lads, your records aren’t selling as well as they used to. We’d like you to do a cover of the Partridge Family’s I Think I Love You. You know, be a bit more commercial.” What if
Columbia had said to Judas Priest, “Could you
write a song about falling in love under a waterfall while holding a puppy?
Three puppies would be even better.”
Let musicians be who they are. If they progress naturally into different genres they can make it work, but forcing them to play songs that aren’t their style never works. In this case, the pack was not back and Atlantic Records should refund my $4. Betty at customer relations said that’s not going to happen.