No doubt a dig at her disenchantment with Chrysalis Records who had been demanding she record an album every nine months, Pat Benatar's `Seven the Hard Way' also refers to the fact that this was her seventh album in six years (her fifth being the live album that included studio recordings of `Love is a Battlefield' and `Lipstick Lies'). And if, as the title indicates, frustration fuelled the recording, that is great thing because it is ten times the record its predecessor, the limp and under-written `Tropico', was.
The only thing that prevents `Seven the Hard Way' being the best recording of her career at that point is the two pop songs that start it off. Returning again to Billy Steinberg, who had written songs for all her studio records except her debut, `Sex As A Weapon' is infectious pop in total step with its times. And the second track, `Le Bel Age', also from corporate songwriters, is relatively fluffy as well. Both are the sort of songs that disappear after you have heard them like fairy floss. The rest of the album, though, including Holly Knight's `Invincible', is excellent edgy emotional rock.
The remaining songs are all written by two band members - guitarist/husband Neil Geraldo, who also produced it, and drummer Myron Grombacher. With its hysterically amped 80s rock production, Benatar sings as though she is making her way through a combat zone of explosive drum and synth effects, searing razor guitars, scorching brass and lyrics straight off an emotional battlefield. This is where Benatar's vocals are the best, not in the wafting MOR no-man's land of `Tropico'. She sings with passion and more than a little aggression. There is even a fantastic, bombastic cover of the Holland/Dozier/ Holland track, `Seven Rooms of Gloom', made famous by the Four Tops.
`Walking in the Underground' and `Run Between the Raindrops' are the gorgeous softer end of this set, with jazz and 60s girl group undertones respectively. `Big Life' is a bitchy hard driving rocker, the kind at which Geraldo excelled. `Red Vision' is a grungy, new wave-ish durge straight out of the apocalypse. And the closing `Art of Letting Go', while more restrained, nevertheless ends the record in style.
This was the sort of emotional rock that Benatar could sing with stunning conviction. Extremely underrated, and notable for her absence at the song-writing end, it is definitely one of her best. It's a shame there is only nine songs, though.