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Franke And The Knockouts - 1982 Below The Belt

ARTIST: Franke And The Knockouts
ALBUM: Below The Belt
LABEL: Millenium
YEAR: 1982
CD REISSUE: 1998, Escape Music, ESM 035


LINEUP: Franke Previte - vocals * Billy Elsworthy - guitars * Leigh Foxx - bass* Al Wooten - drums * Blake Levinsohn - piano, organ * Tommy Ayers - synthesizers

TRACK LISTING: 01 Never Had It Better * 02 Without You * 03 You're Just What I Want * 04 Anyway That You Want Me * 05 Morning Sun (Dream On) * 06 Shakedown * 07 Keep On Fighting * 08 Have No Fear * 09 Gina * 10 Every Little Bit Helps

Following the top forty success of the 1981 debut 'Franke And The Knockouts' and the top ten single 'Sweetheart', Franke and his Knockouts were under pressure to repeat the formula. With a heavy touring schedule most of 'Below The Belt' was written on the road, the bands record label giving the band 'three minutes to write songs' according to Franke Previte. Despite the strain the follow up was an improvement on the debut, and a more satisfying set of true AOR. Hits were still forthcoming, 'Never Had It Better' hit #38, while 'Without You (Not Another Lonely Night' placed at #24. That the album broke was a surprise as RCA refused to promote it until Millennium Records owner Jimmy Ienner signed a new deal with them.

The Songs
'Never Had It Better' was one of the songs written on the road, and went without lyrics until Previte improvised them on the spot at a show they were opening for Rick Springfield. The music is noticeably heavier with an influx of heavy riffing combined with lashings of organ, piano and synthesizers. With the obligatory big chorus, quite appetizing to say the least. 'Without You (Not Another Lonely Night)' quietens things down, more on the ballad side relying on massive backing harmonies and ever shifting chord changes. 'You're Just What I Want' is another biting AOR track, on the heavy side, something which appealed to Previte considering his past with heavy hitters like Bull Angus. The street anthem 'Shakedown' is heavy on synth-guitar interplay, giving Previte a chance to give his voice a workout Gillan style. 'Keep On Fighting' increases the hard rock aspect some more, while remaining in AOR confines thanks to a thrilling hook. A video was made for it, but went nowhere. 'Have No Fear' is more laid back, a bouncy little jaunt which could have been a hit also. It ends on another major AOR note with 'Gina', by this time the band unable to do no wrong. Michael Bolton's 'Gina' from 'The Hunger' has nothing to do with this one.

In Summary
Things were looking up for the boys, but after Millennium Records folded in 1984 things worsened despite another flawless effort, 84's 'Makin' The Point', the band eventually splitting in 1986 after MCA Records dropped them. Previte was outraged by the record labels insistence that they should sound more like Night Ranger. Thankfully we are left with three superb albums which define AOR in every sense, All of which have been reissued by Escape Music during 1998, 'Below The Belt' perhaps the pick of the bunch.

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#1 | Jez on June 13 2008 03:27:28
All of the Franke & The KO's albums come highly recommended, as all were pretty consistent throughout. The highlights of these being 'Sweetheart','Comeback' & 'Running In The Night' from the softer debut, 'Outrageous' & the magnificent 'Carrie Why?' from 'Makin' The Point' and this has 'Keep On Fighting', 'Never Had It Better', 'Just What I Want' & 'Anyway You Want Me'. Pretty much a perfect band for the AOR genre of the time and it all still holds up pretty well to this day.
#2 | rostoned on August 05 2008 13:27:27
The album peaked at #48 on THE BILLBOARD 200 Us album sales chart. The follow-up, and their best, 'Makin' The Point' didn't chart at all. Common story here where the best album of a band is the worst seller (see Tycoon, Player 'Room with...' etc)
#3 | JuniorNB on August 15 2008 15:24:26
I bought this LP in high school because of the ballad 'Without You (Another Lonely Night)'. although I still like that song, my favorite quickly became 'Never Had It Better'. What an awesome song! Side A was played into oblivion back in the day. Keep On Fighting and Have No Fear are also excellent. My favorite of the three F&TKO albums.
#4 | LALOROCK on April 04 2009 19:09:05
great and unforgetable album,memories come and go with these awesome melodies,without you is my favorite.
#5 | rkbluez on February 01 2012 11:32:38
Below The Belt is easily my favorite F and KO''s the best produced and hardest rocking of the three...Never Had It Better is a killer classic song...glad Escape music put out these gems.
#6 | reyno-roxx on February 01 2012 14:22:42
Agreed. 'Makin' The Point' usually gets the honours, but I've always considered this one to be the best by far.
#7 | super80boy on July 14 2013 00:41:44
Pure fantastic hook filled AOR that has a solid production job behind it. I like how this LP does rock out on a variety of tracks, like the Foreigner influenced 'Shakedown'.
#8 | gdazegod on February 27 2018 22:25:58
Essential AOR. Nuff said. salute

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