… Mothers I’d Like to Funk, obviously – I’m not one of those crude chaps from one of those new countries.
I’d wanted a copy of Mother’s Finest Iron Age for 25 years before I ever stumbled across a copy, so this album had a hell of a lot of anticipation to live up to before I ever heard a damn note. I first heard of this little beauty from 1981 in a series of 4 booklets Kerrang! published in 1989 of the 100 best rock and metal LPs ever*, Iron Age was #90 and it just sounded intriguing, a multi-racial band from Georgia kicking out some really heavy-duty hard rock and funk, but never quite getting the breaks.
Mother’s Finest had two vocalists Glenn Murdock and the fabulous Baby Jean Kennedy, he’s really good but she just kicks it into the stratosphere like a cross between Tina Turner giving it loads on ‘Nutbush City Limits’ and Betty Davis, I kid you not. In fact the band as a whole are pretty splendid, Moses Mo on guitar and B.B on drums showing that skinny white dudes can funk it up** and Wizzard on bass guitar was a very fine player indeed.
From the robot punching its way through a wall on the cover, to the fist-in-your-face guitar sound, to the fetchingly puerile MF logo, Iron Age isn’t a subtle beast at all. Which is great. ‘U Turn Me On’, ‘Luv Drug’, ‘Rock ‘N Roll 2 Nite’, ‘All The Way’ – you get the picture? take your introspection elsewhere, it isn’t wanted here. What’s interesting is the sound mirrors this perfectly too, producer Jeff Glixman gives the album a really up front, tough and loud quality – to be honest it’s a bit much over the course of a whole LP, but it certainly works. Mother’s Finest already had four studio LPs in the can by the time they recorded Iron Age and this was the LP, with extra rock juice that was going to catapult them up to the next level.
Take ‘All The way’, where over a slinky riff Baby Jean pulls the pin on her sex grenade, spraying us all with saucy shrapnel^ – imagine a funkier, deeper sounding Van Halen fronted by a Nubian banshee and you’d be about half way there; which is a state Baby Jean is keen to tell us is not where she cares to be left. Ms Kennedy yowls about real men between the sheets, teasing and preening and dropping lines about ‘being man enough to take me all the way’. It’s just wonderful, try it.
Iron Age is one of those rare rock beasts which have a weak track as an opener, ‘Movin’ On’ sounds like a hospitalised Black Oak Arkansas, there’s a lot of power here but not enough of a song containing it. The quality needle takes a jump up on the first bar of the next track ‘Luv Drug’ and stays there for the rest of the side. I’m particularly fond of ‘Rock ‘N Roll 2 Nite’, which despite certain titular similarities is way better than that other song called that, the guitaring from Moses Mo is particularly biting on this one too (‘Rock and roll kids, rock and roll ladies / We’re gonna rock on through the 1980’s’).
Now there is some unexpected cookery advice on ‘U Turn Me On’, sung by Murdock in his best Billy Gibbons drawl – something about taking apple pie and making it all warm and welcoming … now I like dessert as much as the next man, but I can’t quite say it deflaccidates my donglebunny, ladies.
Another thing to really like about Iron Age is that there are no ballads, which is such a good thing to find in an early 80’s release. Possibly the closest is ‘Evolution’ which slows things down a notch, but without sacrificing one iota of power, Baby Jean really sing slings this sucker skywards over the top of a riff that sounds an awful lot like all the best bits of Y&T and Ratt to my ears, years early. Unfortunately for me you’ve had all the best tracks by then, the last four on Iron Age are a bit more samey, a bit less inspired. Don’t get me wrong though the band sound as committed as hell on each and every second and whilst I like the weaponized T-Rex I can hear on ‘Time’ and the fast choogling ‘Earthling’ which does boast some more stinging guitar from Moses Mo. Maybe it’s just a lack of real variation – ahh, maybe that’s why they put ballads in, normally.
Sadly Iron Age wasn’t the springboard the band needed to push them onto the next level of stardom, despite incendiary live shows and support slots with the likes of Sabbath, AC/DC, Nugent, The Who and Aerosmith^* it never quite happened – very sadly in the segmented world of US radio, they were just too funky for straight white rock stations and too rocky for black R&B stations. They ended up splitting and individuals ended up working with Molly Hatchet, Stevie Nicks and others, Baby Jean even had a track on the Breakfast Club soundtrack.
But spare your tears and just have a gander at Mother’s Finest in their prime, they really don’t make bands like this any more!
PS: I know the Rockplast footage is a couple years pre-Iron Age (Bronze? Stone?) but it just rocks.
*I think it was 1989. Physical Graffiti won, of course. It will surprise nobody but I used to tick them off as I bought them. It will still surprise nobody that I still do, I now have 67 of them- basically most of the ones I want, I can’t see myself springing for Michael Bolton’s Everybody’s Crazy Now any time soon.
**check out the live stuff, they haven’t a buttock between the pair of them.
^note to self, need a less dodgy metaphor before I even think of publishing this!
^*they had a reputation for blowing the headliners off stage, no matter how big, or who they were.