Sound: Lita Ford has remained in somewhat of a reclusive state for the past 15 years, and understandably so. The metal queen of the 1980's settled down with Nitro frontman Jim Gillette and became a mother of two children, logical moves for someone who was watching a changing tide in the course of rock music. Within the past decade, of course, a variety of festivals extolling the virtues of 80's metal have arisen, and organizers for Rocklahoma landed the elusive Ford as a headliner back in 2008. Apparently wheels were already in motion to release a follow-up to 1995's Black CD, and the very patient fans are now about to get a long-awaited Lita fix.
The latest CD Wicked Wonderland is as much of a comeback piece for Ford's husband as it is herself. Gillette, who back in the day was known for his goblet-shattering high vocal range, is featured on pretty much every track on Wicked Wonderland, which is somewhat of an odd (although not shocking) choice on Ford's part. If you've heard the Berlin song Sex (I'm A) from 1982, you'll have an idea of Ford's new direction from the trade-off vocals between Ford and Gillette to the sexually charged themes. One or two songs of this nature would have been entertaining, but an album full of them gets slightly tiresome.
It does seem like Ford spent a good deal of time experimenting with various synth effects on Wicked Wonderland. While Ford deserves kudos for trying out some new styles, the album's rock vibe often is overshadowed by the computerized aspects. Love and Betrayal utilize some interesting vocal delay/echo on top of a driving guitar riff, and in many ways it works. But in the end it's refreshing to hear a song like Sacred, which is essentially the most stripped-down, straightforward rock offering on the CD. Beginning with a bluesy slide and cleaner vocals, the ballad showcases the talent Ford has without excessive help from effects.
For fans of Lita Ford in her heyday, Wicked Wonderland will likely leave much to be desired. Yes, there's the trademark riff work and sleazy lyrics, but the rock element is too often overshadowed by the computerized effects. The addition of Gillette was an interesting choice on Ford's part, and it works for about half of the material. By the end, however, you might be left wishing that the album could include at least one bluesy rock song (not including ballads) that isn't saturated by production techniques. // 6
Lyrics: Being familiar with Lita Ford's past work, you can't knock the woman for dishing out another helping of sex. After all, it's exactly that type of content that helped make Lita the queen of metal in the first place. At 51 years of age, it might be time to for a change, but she's in a position where she might feel the need to give the fans what they want and expect. If we don't have her past songs as references, songs like Piece (Hell Yeah) (32,' 24,' 36,' that's right; Long blonde hair and a body that's tight; Got my guitar, play it loud as hell; When the boys watch me play, their private parts start to swell) can seem a bit, well, ridiculous. And yet, fans have likely wanted Lita to resurrect the image and persona from the 1980's, which makes those over-the-top lyrics are oddly a wise strategic move. // 6
Overall Impression: Lita Ford is essentially trying to pick up where she left off, and in many ways she does accomplish this goal. Her attempt to modernize the sound with various effects is a bit excessive at times, and her husband's frequent appearances on the album are not always necessary. When she breaks out into solos like the outro in Bed or delivers a grooving riff in Push, you're reminded that this is indeed a woman who deserves a place in metal. Her comeback album will not likely earn rave reviews from critics or unbiased fans, but Wicked Wonderland does have its moments. This is an album that should be taken for what it is, which is essentially sleazy fun. // 7