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Wednesday, August 3, 2011

The Amboy Dukes: Tooth, Fang & Claw


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


  1. So... I take it Ted's solo career is not completely worthless then? Any recomendations where to start, or should I just go for the chronological approach?

    1. Having been a lifelong Detroiter and bought most of Ted's albums, I have to say that George has it spot on.

      Ted Nugent (1975), Free for All and Cat Scratch Fever are all good. After that there was a slide.

      I saw the Penetrator tour and from what I had heard bought the album. They should have recorded the concert and published that, it was a lot better than the garbage on the record.

      I read somewhere that the best songs from all of Ted's '80's output would make one decent album. I'm not going to go that far. I bought them but won't recommend them. Why? I guess I couldn't stand the thought of Ted in the unemployment line.

      Any of the good songs from the '90's on will be derivative of his previous work. The bad songs, well, who knows where he pulled them from?

      Spirit of the Wild was an improvement, almost like Ted was taking music seriously again.

      Craveman had potential but needed the off the charts self indulgence reigned in. 25% of it could go and a good album might be found.

      The nadir is Love Grenade. Ted is always cringeworthy but here it's just... gag. No, even I didn't get that one.

      Shut Up and Jam is a good listen.

      George, I would never ask you to review any of this stuff. Therein madness lies.

      -Tom from Detroit

  2. Yes, go for the chronology. Pretty much all the 1970s are worth checking out. It was the Eighties and getting into politics that pretty much haywired the guy's brains (but he still plays a mean guitar).

  3. Back in the 70's, when I was a teenager, I listend every Tuesday to Betonuur, a Dutch hardrock broadcast on radio. As such I'm pretty familiar with Live Gonzo! from 1978.
    It's a complete bore. Sure Nugent knows how to play his instrument, but he is just the guitar equivalent of David Coverdale at his worst.
    If I were religious I would thank him on my bare knees those two never teamed up.

  4. David Coverdale would never team with the Nuge. Regardless of how anyone feels about DC, no one would ever accuse him of using Whitesnake to promote a hideous, right wing lunatic, Tea Party agenda. As far as I'm concerned, Ted Nugent is the unflushed shit stain on rock and roll. If there is a Hell, may he rot there eternally.

  5. First it was the Amboy Dukes, then Ted Nugent and the Amboy Dukes, with this album Ted Nugent's Amboy Dukes. Ted was taking over!

    On Detroit local radio had The Call of the Wild song was in rotation, this album had no songs on the radio. The Great White Buffalo made on the air when the live version came out.

    During this time I saw an Amboy Dukes concert at an Allen Park (Detroit downriver suburb) hockey rink.

    TN&TAD were playing 250 concerts a year in the Midwest and album sales were dismal. Turns out that DiscReet Records wasn't getting the albums into the stores, no one could buy them. Ted, being the All-American he is, sued. From what was in the Detroit papers then the result was the lawyers got rich and Ted was retiring from music to tend to his trout farms.
    Short lived retirement, he signed with Epic a few months later. After the Ted Nugent album he opened at Cobo Hall with Rush as the warmup band. Fun times.
    -Tom From Detroit