In 1988 I was living just off campus at Rochester Institute of Technology is Rochester, NY. This town actually had a pretty swingin' metal scene with some great metal clubs, the most popular of which was the Penny Archade. Uncle Sam were one of the more popular metal bands from the area. At the time I was working at Cavage's Records along with another long-haired friend from R.I.T. He just happened to be the new drummer for Uncle Sam, albeit a short lived stint with the band. Apparently his blonde hair and sweat pants didn't work with Uncle Sam's image. (see image above) In anycase, my friend scored me a new, sealed copy of this record as he had joined the band shortly after it was released. Uncle Sam were sleazy, American, bar metal with a huge punk influence. The band most certainly came out of the 80's, but have a big 1970's influence as well. Their sound was a combination of Black Sabbath, Alice Cooper, Motorhead, Iggy & the Stooges and the New York Dolls. Vocalist Scott Cesna has a raspy howl and feverish punk delivery that works well with the band's greasy rock sound.
The original, independent vinyl comes with a foldout, black and white poster of the band with the lyrics printed on the reverse side.
Pictured above to the left is a "censored" version of the LP. Unfortunately I can't post the front cover uncensored as it features the woman fully naked from the waist down. When the records were sold new in the stores, there was a round white sticker that hid the woman's private parts, as pictured above. With my original vinyl copy I simply removed the round sticker off the shrink wrap and strategically placed it on a clear record sleeve. The sticker stated:
The CD reissue contains two bonus tracks, a cover of The Monkees "Steppin Stone" and Tiny Bradshaw's "Train Kept A Rollin'", a song that has been covered by many artists over the years. Uncle Sam's version is somewhat similar to Motorhead's version, with a speedy punk delivery. The CD version also has a modified cover with a slightly more tanned woman wearing panties (pictured above), as opposed to being completely naked on the vinyl version.
Second full length album from Uncle Sam is more of the same nasty, somewhat heavy, rock and roll. "Letters from London" is a combination of early 70's Alice Cooper meets the New York Dolls with a slice of Iggy Pop thrown in for good measure. The production is still raw rock and roll but has improved over the debut. Unlike the growing trend at the end of the 80's of slick production and utra-technical musicianship, Uncle Slam stuck to raw, raunchy rock 'n' roll. They weren't about musicianship and studio tricks as much as they were about the rock and roll attitude and songs. The songwriting has also improved over the debut with a bunch of songs having those memorable, stick-in-your-head-like-glue choruses. The title track and "Whiskey Slick" both stand-out as tracks that easily could have been hits, had Uncle Sam had some major label backing. However, songs like "Dreams Of Money", "Red Shirt", "Ain't No Valentino" & "Lexington Blues" are all swingin' as well. Uncle Sam's sophomore release is a solid album from front to back. It's too bad this band was relegated to an underground phenomenon when other less deserving bands were given the big league spotlight. I would have much rather have seen this style of raunchy, punk-driven rock and roll taken over the charts in the 1990's as opposed to the stare-at-your-shoes, depressing grunge that actually was on the charts.