This “best of” collection from nuts and bolts rockers Tesla favorably bookends their more than credible career in the 80’s and 90’s. Guitarist Frank Hannon and raspy singer Jeff Keith are mainly responsible for the band’s gritty, earthy sound that holds up very well a dedcade or more later. The big ballad hits “Love Song” and the country-ish “What You Give” are here, alongside the stomping “Heaven’s Trail” and the band’s cold war theme song “Modern Day Cowboy.” Throw in their classic cover of “Signs” and you have a good view of an underappreciated “rock” band.
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I’m really more of a fan of bands from the 60s and 70s but Tesla makes a huge exception. I saw them at Moondance Jam in 2005 and just thought they were great. They blew my socks off and for good reason. In a time when the music was getting worse Tesla kept real rock n roll alive. This album is just outstanding. Every track is good and they rock and keep rocking.
Tesla is one of the most underrated bands of the era. It is a shame that they got lumped in with the rest of the bunch (Warrant, Poison, etc). Some of the glaring omissions are: EZ Come EZ Go, Cumin’ Atcha Live, 2 Late 4 Love, Freedom Slaves and Call It What You Want and many more. This is decent collection of their songs but if you are a fan I would recommend buying the first 3 albums. It would serve them well to put out Greatest Hits volume 2.
I’m ticked off that I didn’t realize how great this band was in its heyday. I was far too into the more cartoonish bands like Winger and Skid Row to pay much more than passing lip service to Tesla, whom I always liked but never felt compelled to buy any of their albums. I always figured that if they ever did a best-of I’d run out and get it, and that I did when their “Time’s Makin’ Changes” compilation came out. As is usually the case with compilations, they left out a couple key hits (“Call It What You Want” and “Hang Tough”), but overall this is a great introduction to a great band. Tesla’s music sounds a lot less dated today than many of those spandex-n-Aqua-Net bands, and that’s because their no-frills image also translated to their music. Instead of the heavily overprocessed thick drum sounds, guitar synths, and keyboards that bands like Def Leppard, Bon Jovi and Motley Crue used so extensively throughout the 80’s, Tesla’s production was much more stripped-down and organic, more in line with the sound of classic rock albums of the 70’s. I think it’s because of this that songs like “Love Song”, “The Way It Is”, “What You Give”, and “Call It What You Want” got played a lot more on classic rock stations during the 80’s/early 90’s than tunes by the more popular flavor-of-the-month hair bands. Tesla’s songs slid in between moldy oldies by Jimi Hendrix and Lynyrd Skynyrd a lot more congruously than your average Warrant or Slaughter song ever would. If you’re a hard rock fan whose tastes tend to lean more towards the Black Crowes than Poison, then you should check out Tesla. They were one of the decade’s best kept secrets.
Like many reviewers, I tend to downgrade greatest hits albums a bit if they leave off certain songs. While a few other songs could certainly have been included on this collection, to me this collection is great because it doesn’t leave out any of the biggest hits and represents Tesla’s entire career to that point.
Just to give a couple of examples of greatest hits collections that fall short:
1) Def Leppard’s “Vault” falls short because, while the biggest hits are all there, the earliest hard-rocking stuff is mostly left out. Their early career is short-changed on the collection, even though it sounds great overall.
2) Bob Seger’s first greatest hits compilation includes more of his softer pop stuff at the expense of some of his original harder classic rock. Again, the early classic sound is not represented well on the collection, even though it too is stellar overall.
Tesla doesn’t have that problem here. First of all, they have always rocked; you don’t hear them “selling out” to a more pop sound as their albums advance. In addition, they include at least two tracks off of each of the five albums represented here (including the live acoustic one). Each and every song is stellar–including the new (at the time of release) track “Steppin’ Over”.
This collection is a great summary of one of the best rock bands of the past 20 years. If you are younger and/or interested in learning more about this band, this collection is a great place to start. Check out stellar hard rockers like “Modern Day Cowboy” and “Heaven’s Trail” as well as great slower tracks like “Love Song” and “What You Give” (not cheesy ballads in the least). Also, the live cover of “Signs” can better be played on its own off this collection compared to the live acoustic album, where the songs flow together and the band talks to the crowd within the tracks.
If you are a longtime, true, hardcore fan of the band, however, you also owe it to yourself to own each and every one of their albums–including the stellar new one that came out this year. This is just a summary of this band’s career up to the mid-1990s. What a remarkably stellar career it has been!