THE AMBOY DUKES: TOOTH, FANG & CLAW (1974)
1) Lady Luck; 2) Living In The Woods; 3) Hibernation; 4) Free Flight; 5) Maybelline; 6) The Great White Buffalo; 7) Sasha; 8) No Holds Barred.
The Amboy Dukes finally reach the end of their transmutational career with this record — upon completing it, Nugent officially disbanded the group and embarked on a three-month deer-killing spree, a bloody intermission that formally separates «Ted Nugent & The Amboy Dukes» from «Ted Nugent, Solo Madman». But since Tooth, Fang & Claw is very much just Call Of The Wild Vol. 2, there is a substantial difference, too.
This is the last time Uncle Ted flirts with an itty-bitty bit of artsiness, coming in the form of two consequent instrumentals: 'Hibernation' and 'Free Flight'. The former is just as long as 'Below The Belt' on the previous album, but much faster and much more relying on speed runs from Ted's fingers, happily bursting out in seemingly endless waves. The latter also runs fast, but is more riff-based, centered around an equally happy, memorable melody. But as loud and energetic as these guitarfests are, they are not at all «heavy», and the sweaty sexual aggression that Ted would start cultivating so hard in just a year is nowhere in sight.
It is much more evident on vocal numbers, such as the opening 'Lady Luck' and the closing 'No Holds Barred'; the former, in particular, is classic Nugent — not one, but several crunchy and evocative riffs, lyrics that leave no doubts about the directions of Uncle Ted's mind, and a heavy as heck, macho as muck atmosphere that, in 1974, Ted was still learning to borrow from his predecessors (Steppenwolf, etc.), but of which he would soon become the ultimate priest. Great tune! As recommendable for sissies as 'Parsley, Sage, Rosemary & Thyme' is for bodybuilders.
'Lady Luck' and the instrumental rampage are the chief reasons why I believe this record to be almost as satisfactory as Call Of The Wild, but there are other points of interest, including:
— 'The Great White Buffalo', a Nugent classic and one of the very few Amboy Dukes-era survivors that made it into his regular set — an environmentalist tune, mind you, blaming the stupid white man for the fate of the buffalo. (Come to think of it, I can understand Uncle Ted's rage at the stupid white man — exterminating all the buffalo before Uncle Ted got there! Now all Uncle Ted's got left are these puny little deer things). The important thing about the song is not its lyrics, though, but rather the quirky little riff, built around several loop-like flourishes that Ted bravely reproduces in each bar of the verse melody;
— 'Maybellene': Chuck's prime chestnut is updated here for the 1970s, with everything bigger, louder, faster, and dumber than it used to be, but that's to be expected. The funniest part of it is Ted imploring the drum guy to "Hit me... hit me... hit me!" in the very end, like a junkie screaming for a shot, then, once the desired hit finally comes — a relieved "Ah, thank you!". That funny old Mr. Nugent, eh?;
— 'Sasha': a rather mediocre acoustic-folk ballad, but it's a NUGE-APPROVED acoustic-folk ballad, his first one, actually — and it's about his newborn daughter, so cut the caveman some slack for a little sentimental tenderness, something like the first time ever. After all, even loincloth-clad primordial hunters could have a weakness for babies.
Strange as it is, I would not say that, at any point during the album, Ted feels like he is tired of his current direction, or feeling under pressure from some atavistic obligation to inject a shot of «art» into whatever it is that he is doing. Tooth, Fang & Claw is not a great hard rock album, but it's fairly solid, so Nugent's final decision to concentrate on one and one thing only in the future really comes off as a surprise. Believe it or not, there used to be a time when Uncle Ted kept trying different things from time to time — if anything, none of these records sound as cartoonish as whatever followed. Of course, Ted's cartoons are one of a kind, too, but still, there is something about his Amboy Dukes past that brews up a little nostalgia. Thumbs up to commemorate this yearning — oh, and for all the swell guitar runs, too, of course.
Check "Tooth, Fang & Claw" (MP3) on Amazon