Tesla: Jeff Keith, Frank Hannon, Tommy Skeoch, Brian Wheat, Troy Luccketta.
Recorded at Fantasy Studios, Berkeley, California.
At a time when image was virtually everything, Sacramento rockers Tesla brought a refreshing balance of flash and substance to the late-'80s hair metal landscape; they may have played the poser game to a certain degree, but only as much as they had to in order to mask their blue-collar origins and slip their oftentimes quite adventurous and sophisticated songwriting under the overhanging clouds of hair spray that were dulling listeners' minds. Both of their first albums, 1987's Mechanical Resonance and 1989's career best The Great Radio Controversy, fared especially well thanks to this blend of brains and brawn (touring with Def Leppard didn't hurt), but as the '90s dawned and the specter of grunge loomed over the horizon, Tesla's more natural inclinations began coming into focus -- first via 1990's stripped-down Five Man Acoustical Jam (literally the template that sparked the entire "unplugged" craze of the next decade), and then on their third studio album, Psychotic Supper, which mashed a few convincing pop-metal hits with moderate stabs at the Black Crowes' roots rock purity. Nevertheless, though they may have been a tad confused about their overall direction, Tesla were certainly more aware and better equipped to cope with the flannel revolution, but their fate was unfortunately tied to their more flaccid contemporaries, and so there was little that their excellent fourth album, 1994's Bust a Nut, could do to salvage the situation. In fact, Bust a Nut's only major flaw was exuding a palpable sense of resignation in the face of impending doom. Otherwise, excellent songs like "Shine Away," "Need Your Loving," "Mama's Fool," and "A Lot to Lose" -- with their classic rock riffs, clever acoustic passages, and memorable choruses -- would have served the band very well in a less hostile musical climate. But, sadly, times had changed dramatically and their record label, Geffen, was clearly more interested in promoting Nirvana, ultimately convincing the members of Tesla to go on indefinite hiatus after the conclusion of their next tour. ~ Eduardo Rivadavia