Slaughter on 10th Avenue
23 May 1974
by Ben Gerson
Mick Ronson's debut album, Slaughter on 10th Avenue, does not portray David Bowie's ex-guitarist as an artist who is ready to stand on his own. Some of the songs seem offered half in jest; others are aimless or undernourished. By co-writing only two songs, Ronson tells us little more about himself than we knew from his work as a backing musician. Much of Slaughter offers little more than space-filling, as if Ronson and his cohorts knew that he had all the earmarks of stardom and the one impediment to its attainment was the formality of getting an album out.
'Love Me Tender' is a strange choice to begin a solo outing, but Ronson carries it off with great aplomb. It is a triumph of guitar playing and arrangement - but lacking in personal expression. He manages, as Hendrix did with 'The Star-Spangled Banner,' to turn the ludicrous into the majestic. Ronson introduces his surprisingly lusty baritone on this cut. Unfortunately, he uses it afterward as an effect: Ever the auxiliary musician, he does not know how to guide a song with his voice. 'Pleasure Man' is all effects, roaming the landscape in search of an idea. Bowie's lyrics to 'Music Is Lethal' are too dramatic and literary for this essentially earthy musician. Two delightful tracks, 'Growing Up and I'm Fine' and 'Hey Ma Get Papa' (which sounds like Gilbert and Sullivan), are also authored by Bowie, suggesting that Ronson is still at his best when he depends on his former employer.
Richard Rogers's ballet music, 'Slaughter on 10th Avenue', is the album's centerpiece. Because it is an orchestrated track with no vocals, Ronson is back on his own turf. Had he let this beautiful piece run a full side, he could have eliminated the filler and in the bargain and given Barry White a run for his money. Instead, we have an album which is sometimes good, sometimes bad and generally pointless.