"The Best of Lita Ford" CD Review
"The Best of Lita Ford"
Release: Dreamland/RCA, 1992
Genre: Hard Rock/Hair Metal
Tracks: 11 / Run Time: 47:36
Guitarist Lita Ford first made a name for herself in the notorious all-girl hard rock band The Runaways, alongside Joan Jett and Cherie Currie. When the Runaways split up in '79, Lita launched a solo career, where she occupied a unique position as one of the few female axe-slingers in the notorious boys' club of '80s metal.
Lita's first two solo albums (Out for Blood in '83 and '84's Dancin' On the Edge) came and went without much notice outside of the die-hard headbanger community. After signing a new record deal and a new management contract with Sharon Osbourne (wife of Ozzy), Lita revamped her "one of the boys" denim and leather image via a series of slick, glamorous music videos which emphasized her, ahem, "natural attributes," and turned her music in a more commercialized direction. The timing was perfect for such a change, as her third solo album Lita was released at the height of the "hair metal" boom. Lita quickly struck platinum thanks to the hit singles "Kiss Me Deadly" and "Close My Eyes Forever" (a duet with Ozzy Osbourne, which hit #8 in the U.S.).
Two follow up albums failed to equal Lita's success and when the grunge rock revolution came along in the early '90s, Ford stepped aside in order to raise a family. The Dreamland/RCA label capped off Lita's big-haired, big '80s era nicely with 1992's The Best of Lita Ford career retrospective.
"Gotta Let Go" (1984)
The Best Of kicks off nicely with the catchy, raunchy anthem "What Do Ya Know About Love" (from 1991's Dangerous Curves) and wastes no time jumping to her Lita-era breakthrough hit "Kiss Me Deadly." I'm honestly rather burned out on that song after hearing it on the radio for so many years (ditto "Close My Eyes Forever") but I'll watch its cleavage-and-spandex-fest music video any day of the week.
"Shot of Poison" is pure pop metal ala Def Leppard with a catchy chorus that sticks in your head like glue, and the funky, synth-heavy turkey "Hungry" features a totally out-of-place horn section and a saxophone solo (!). The song is strange enough by itself thanks to its mix of clashing styles, but its accompanying music video, which features a soaking wet Lita in a leather cat suit flailing around an Alice In Wonderland inspired landscape, is simply bizarre.
The crunchy anthem "Gotta Let Go" is the only pre-Lita track to make the cut for this collection. Honestly I wish they'd included more songs from those first two discs, which were less slick and more "metal" sounding than her later work. "Larger Than Life" is another hard edged party rocker from Stiletto, which flows nicely into a reverent cover of the classic Alice Cooper ballad "Only Women Bleed."
So far so good, but unfortunately the album loses steam in its last few tracks. "Playin' With Fire" is a pedestrian melodic rocker that sounds like a Van Hagar leftover, and "Back To The Cave" (the unsuccessful third single from Lita) is just dull. (True story: I bought a 45 RPM single of "Back to the Cave" when I was a kid, strictly for the smokin' hot photo of Lita on the cover. Even then I thought the song was terrible, so I tossed the record and hung the sleeve on my bedroom wall.)
The disc comes to a close on a tear-jerking note with the heartfelt "Lisa," a ballad from 1990's Stiletto dedicated to Ford's mother, who had recently passed away.
"Kiss Me Deadly" (1988)
Summing It Up
The Best Of... is probably the only Lita Ford CD most people will ever need, since it's got her two most well known songs on it ("Kiss Me Deadly" and "Close My Eyes Forever"). Outside of those two "hits," I think that even the most diehard Lita Ford fanatics would agree that each of her studio albums had a fair share of filler tracks, so at least this collection cuts out most of the fat and gets to the good stuff, in spite of a few questionable or sub-par picks like "Hungry" and "Back to the Cave."
Whatever Happened to Lita Ford?
After an absence of more than a dozen years, Lita dipped her toes back into the hard rock scene in 2006 with a surprise vocal cameo on Twisted Sister's Twisted Christmas holiday album, in a duet with Dee Snider on "I'll Be Home For Christmas." She followed that up in 2009 with Wicked Wonderland, her first new studio album since 1995. Its modern rock/nu-metal vibe didn't sit well with fans of her earlier work, and Lita disowned the album only a few years later, claiming it was heavily influenced by her controlling then-husband (now her ex).
She returned in 2012 with Living Like a Runaway, and published an autobiography by the same title in 2016. Her most recent release is an odds-and-ends archive collection called Time Capsule, consisting of unreleased cuts from her personal vaults.
As of early 2020, Lita was hard at work on a new studio album, but no release date has been announced.
© 2020 Keith Abt