Some great songs, some good songs, some weak songs
L.A. Scene | Indian Trail, NC USA | 10/24/2004
(3 out of 5 stars)
"Pat Benatar's 1986 album, "Seven the Hard Way" was an album that would mark the last of her major hits. The album was Benatar's seventh release (thus the title - "Seven the Hard Way"). Benatar had put together a string of solid albums during the 1980s that would yield several successful and well-known singles. These albums were: "In the Heat of the Night" ("Hearbreaker", "I Need a Lover"); "Crimes of Passion" ("Treat Me Right", "Hell is For Children", "Hit Me With Your Best Shot"); "Precious Time" ("Promises in the Dark", "Fire and Ice", "Helter Skelter"); "Get Nervous" ("Shadows of the Night"); "Live From Earth" ("Love is a Battlefield"); and "Tropico" ("We Belong"). This album "Seven the Hard Way" would bring three more successful singles. Throughout her career, Benatar always remained true to her hard rock roots. On her previous studio album, "Tropico" - Benatar showed signs of moving toward a Top 40 artists while not abandoning her Rock and Roll roots. On "Seven the Hard Way", Benatar's Top 40 direction with hard rock roots will continue. In addition, Benatar explores some other areas that will eventually continue in her post - "Seven the Hard Way" career. The result is mixed - this collection has its ups and it has its downs.
Pat Benatar is one of the great female rock vocalists of all time. Taking nothing away from her vocal abilities, Pat has been aided by some terrific songwriting and guitar work from her husband, Neil Geraldo. (I think Geraldo is one of the music industry's most underrated guitar players). On this album, what you will notice is that Pat will shine on the best written songs. On the weaker songs, even Pat's vocals with some terrific harmonies cannot elevate these songs.
I think "Seven the Hard Way" sometimes gets an unfair rap. The Top 40 success of the three singles released ("Invincible", "Sex as a Weapon", and "Le Bel Age") are definitely more on the "pop" end of the spectrum than many of Benatar's previous releases. However musically, these songs are solid and each show some merit. The first single "Invincible" was actually a theme song from the movie "The Legend of Billie Jean". The only thing negative about this song is that commercial radio in the 1980s overplayed this song quite a bit. There are a lot of good things about this song. I love the drums that kick off the song - followed by Neil Geraldo's guitar. Once again, the often overlooked Neil Geraldo shines on guitar as he has in the past. Of course, Benatar is the star of the song. She brings the same passion and intensity that she has brought on her previous songs.
One of my personal favorite Benatar songs of all time is the second single that was released - "Sex as a Weapon". This song features some outstanding guitar work by Pat Benatar's husband Neil Geraldo (or Giraldo). Benatar's vocals show incredible range as well as she talks from the female perspective about a male exploting Sex. I was surprised that this became my favorite since this wasn't a Benatar or Geraldo penned song. The third single that was released was "Le Bel Age". This one, like "Sex as a Weapon" is one of my personal favorites. Benatar's vocals are in as good a form as you will hear on this song. Geraldo's guitar is on its "A" game. This song has a very unique sound to it - one that makes it difficult to describe in words. The best way to put it is the song has a retro feel set to some very 80s music (this is evidenced by the music video that was set in a 60s nightclub - even though Richard Beltzer is in it!).
The retro theme comes to the forefront in the song "Walking in the Underground". This song has more of a supper club feel than "Le Bel Age" - although it does have a harder Rock finish. This is a song that show signs of things to come in Benatar's career - exploring future directions. Future -post "Seven" Benatar tunes such as "True Love" and "So Long" (from the album "True Love") have almost a Jazz/Supper Club like feel to it - while "Crazy" (from "Gravity's Rainbow") brings a blues like feel to it.
Another underrated tune on this album is the finale - "The Art of Letting Go". This song maintains Benatar's Hard Rock edge. It has all of the trademarks of a good Benatar song - solid harmonies and excellent guitar work by Geraldo. After the 5 songs mentioned above, the album's remaining tracks get weaker. "Big Life" has a good rock edge, but it is a short track and it doesn't really get me too excited compared to other Benatar tracks. "Red Vision" is the weakest track of the collection - I don't even think Geraldo's guitar work can save this particular track. On "Seven Rooms of Gloom" - while I don't think it is one of the better tracks of the collection, I like how Benatar uses the spoken word vocals (she should do this more often, she's very good at it - similar to what she did on "Love is a Battlefield"). As for the rest of the song, there isn't anything else that impressses me that much. "Run in the Raindrops" is an example of a Benatar song where she has excellent vocals, but the excellent vocals aren't good enough to elevate that particular song.
Despite some of the shortcomings of the last four songs I mentioned, there are still some good tracks on this collection. I also think that two of Benatar's strongest performances ("Sex as a Weapon" and "Le Bel Age") do make up for the weaknesses that are mentioned. Benatar fans will probably still get this collection - and the casual fan will probably still do well picking up this collection for the three hit singles."
Pat Continues Down the "Arty" Path, but Gives it a Rock Twis
Neptunian Spirit | Dayton, OH USA | 09/28/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This 1985 record heradled Pat's continued commercial decline (marked by the "only platinum" sales of "Tropico"), but found Pat & Co. continuing to forge ahead as artists. After the slightly successful, but confusing (for some fans at least) "Tropico", Pat found herself in a corner of sorts. The label wanted another record immediately & she found herself wondering which direction to continue. It was clear that Pat was proud of her rock roots, but had enjoyed the art detour that the "Tropico" project offered.
So, "Seven the Hard Way" was hastily assembled. Infused with the arty experimentalism of "Tropico", but the rock fervor of her previous four albums, "Seven" had a very spontaneous, yet slightly throwaway quality. This isn't a bad thing. Some of Pat & Co.'s freshest material came from this album, look no further than the first three tracks.
"Sex As A Weapon", "Le Bel Age", & "Walking In the Underground" all possesed what some would call her trademark rock grit, but was still showcasing the tight focus of her arty material. These to me are some of Pat's best songs in my opinion. The almost operatic quality of "Le Bel Age" to the underlying jazz smoulder of "Walking In the Underground" found Pat trying to find a middle ground, & doing it successfully.
The core of the record however finds the record's shortcoming's exposed. The three middle tracks tend to blend together, sounding like ideas or moreso polished jam sessions committed to tape, which gives the mid-section a bit of a sagging quality. Good ideas mind you, but ones that never really reach fruition. Pat recovers with the surprising uplifting soul infused "Run Between the Raindrops" which ranks as one of her most endearing ballads. Which moves me to my next point: Pat's voice.
Pat always sounds so enthused & really into the material she is given. I really like how she understands how to manipulate her voice to make it emulate emotion without sounding too dramatic. She captures anger, love, passion altogether in an almost seamless whole.
Overall, "Seven the Hard Way" finds Pat & Co. able to put together a rather strong album under hectic circumstances, which resulted in some of their freshest material. Even with the weak mid-section, the other songs still manage to up this typical 'four star' album to 'five star' status. The follow-up 1988's "Wide Awake In Dreamland" had more of a planned 'arena rock' vibe to it. I highly recommend this to 1980's music freaks, rock fans, & pop fans because there is something here for everyone.
This is one of my all-time favorite Pat records, along with "Tropico", "In the Heat of the Night", & "True Love". Definitely prime choice Pat Benatar. Remember! Don't buy the combo pack of "Tropico/Seven the Hard Way" the songs are edited from their fuller album versions!"
A Great CD!!
G. Carter | Temple Hills, maryland United States | 08/12/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"When this lp came out Pat couldn't do nothing wrong as far as I was concerned!! this cd ROCKS!!! It's one of my Favorites!! Pat's voice is so strong and Neil guitar playing still moves me!! everytime i listen to this cd it takes me back to 1985 a year i miss!! Pat & Neil thanks for this one!!!"
Darren | Jersey Shore, NJ USA | 10/18/2003
(4 out of 5 stars)
"This is one of Benatar's most underrated albums. Having generated the commercially successful singles, Invincible and Sex as Weapon, it's criticized by some as being another commercial sellout. Listening to the rest of the tracks, it's clear that this album offers much more musically and lyrically than the 'poppy' radio friendly singles that were produced.Other than the two commercially oriented singles, there is some great songwriting found in the collaboration between Myron Grombacher (Pat's long time drummer) and her guitarist-hubby, Neil Geraldo."