CD Review

Quiet Riot Still Unleashing the ‘Rage’

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Quiet Riot
Quiet Riot
Quiet Riot, Now (l to r) James Durbin, Frankie Banali, Chuck Wright and Alex Grossi

When most people think of Quiet Riot, they think of the mid-80s heavy metal powerhouse quartet, famous for anthems like “Cum on Feel the Noize,” “Party All Night,” and “Mama Weer All Crazee Now.” But the band’s history is much more immense than that.

Originally founded in 1973 by legendary guitarist Randy Rhoads and bassist Kelly Garni under the name Mach 1, the band underwent several name changes before finally settling on their current moniker in 1975. Lead singer, the late Kevin DuBrow, and drummer Drew Forsyth rounded out the initial incarnation, and Quiet Riot proceeded to crank out two, late-70s records – notable for being issued in Japan only and extremely difficult to track down in North America.

It wasn’t until 10 years into the band’s career that the ‘classic’ Quiet Riot was born. With a lineup that now included DuBrow, guitarist Carlos Cavazo, bassist Rudy Sarzo, and drummer Frankie Banali, the foursome released their breakthrough record Metal Health in 1983, holding the distinction of being the first heavy metal album to top the Billboard charts.

frankie banali
Frankie Banali

These days, Quiet Riot’s one connection to that period is Banali, whose duties have now expanded to managing the band as well, a job he’s held for more than 20 years, in addition to his regular gig of leading the rhythm section behind the drums. And for a while, it appeared even that link was destined to be broken forever when DuBrow suddenly passed away from a cocaine overdose in 2007. With the band’s future in serious doubt as a result of the tragedy, Banali soon confirmed that he wouldn’t carry on without his close friend and long-time bandmate, essentially ending Quiet Riot.

Three years later, however, with the blessing of DuBrow’s family, Banali had a change of heart, ultimately deciding to resurrect the iconic group with a new lineup. The seven years since then have been challenging, with Banali going through a virtual revolving door of singers.

Until now.

Enter “American Idol” alumni James Durbin, who joined the band in March. The union follows other recent AI/band collaborations, such as Adam Lambert with Queen and Bo Bice with Blood, Sweat & Tears. So far, all indications are pointing to a successful relationship, according to Banali.

“I wasn’t a follower of the “American Idol” franchise, but when I heard they had a kid who, as they put it, was the ‘rock guy,’ I was fascinated by that because the show never had that before,” Banali told Royal Flush. “So I watched and saw his performance with Judas Priest and Zakk Wylde, and I was convinced he was a very talented individual. Then he went about his life and I went about mine without ever meeting.”

james durbin
James Durbin

In 2016, when the band was in between singers, Durbin was Banali’s first choice. The AI rocker had just signed a deal to do a residency in Las Vegas, which made it impossible for him to join the band. Durbin was always his top choice, and this year when guitarist Alex Grossi was doing a side project with the singer called Hollywood Scars, Banali reached out again. “It’s been a great fit ever since,” he said.

While a band with the longevity and a catalogue like Quiet Riot could certainly get away with resting on its laurels and abstaining from releasing new music, that’s not how Banali and co. roll. Out August 4, Road Rage, the group’s 13th studio album, is full of the infectious hooks and Riot-ous melodies that fans have come to expect throughout the years, along with a maturity in songwriting that’s sure to sonically please.

“Can’t Get Enough” and “Roll This Joint” are two of the key tracks on the record,” enthused Banali. “I think if you listen to “Freak Flag” and “Wasted,” those are the ones that have a connection to the Quiet Riot of the past. “Can’t Get Enough,” “Roll This Joint,” and “Still Wild” are very different. It’s a great Quiet Riot record in that it’s not cookie cutter, and we didn’t try to recreate the music that was successful for us in the past.”

No longer quiet with Durbin on board, comparisons to the charismatic DuBrow, an integral part of the Quiet Riot formula for so many years, were unavoidable. For those fans considering checking out the band on their current tour, Banali feels that no one will leave the show disappointed.

“Kevin was an amazing vocalist, he had an amazing range and he was an amazing performer,” remembered Banali. “He loved to be on stage and the similarities with James are that [he] also has an unbelievable range, which you need to have if you’re going to sing the Quiet Riot material. But he’s also a great stage performer, more than you would think for his age. So the similarities are there in that spirit but at the same time, this time around I didn’t want to get somebody to sound like Kevin.”

Banali added, “I wanted someone who could sing the songs and the people would be able to appreciate them for the quality of how they were sung but I also wanted somebody that could bring a part of themselves into the band and not lose themselves in the process of being in Quiet Riot, and James has hit all those marks. I tried the Kevin DuBrow karaoke along the way, and it just simply did not work.”

road rage
Quiet Riot’s 13th studio album Road Rage

And to the critics who feel Banali shouldn’t be using the Quiet Riot name, he had a few words. “Right from the point when I announced that I was going to put the band back together – and I never thought that I was going to – the criticism started, both from critics and from some of the fans,” he said. “A lot of them fail to realize that although the most well-known lineup of the band was what they call the ‘classic’ lineup of the band, there have been so many different members that have come and gone. A band should be like a family, and in the case of Quiet Riot, it certainly is and it certainly was. And families can be dysfunctional, families can love each other, families can get into huge arguments and all of those things were real with Quiet Riot. But when a member of a family dies, you don’t just break up the family. People think that they can tell me what to do, but unless you’ve walked in my shoes, you don’t have the right.”

On tour since January, the band will keep moving through at least February of 2018. “It’s been phenomenal,” said Banali. “Once we got James in the band, it definitely made a difference in how we perform live…and we continue to tour mostly every weekend with a couple of gaps here and there.”

How long will the Quiet Riot ride last is the question, and Banali has a very heartfelt, yet practical, answer:

“As long as the fans are there and they’re receptive and are willing to come to the shows and if they’re buying the records, the CDs, even downloads, to me, it’s worth doing. I’ve always contended that the reason I’ve had success with Quiet Riot and other bands is one, my dedication and hard work and two, the fans, because if the fans weren’t there, then you’re a band with nothing. The fans mean everything to a band, at least from my perspective . I don’t enjoy the travel but I still enjoy the experience of playing live so that’s why I always say I don’t get paid for playing, I get paid for traveling. I see no end in sight as long as the fans are supportive of Quiet Riot. I’m going to keep going as long as I possibly can.”

Road Rage track listing:

  1. Can’t Get Enough
  2. Getaway
  3. Roll This Joint
  4. Freak Flag
  5. Wasted
  6. Still Wild
  7. Make A Way
  8. Renegades
  9. The Road
  10. Shame
  11. Knock Em Down

Click here for Quiet Riot’s tour dates