In the 1980s, this female quartet made a big splash in the heavy metal rock industry. Composed of vocalist Janet Gardner, guitarist Jan Kuehnemund, bassist Share Pedersen and drummer Roxy Petrucci, Vixen combined their rough and tough, bad-girl image with catchy guitar riffs and traditional rock overtones.Before calling it quits at the end of the decade, Vixen released two solid albums, a 1988 self-titled effort and the 1990 follow-up, Rev It Up, which produced three mild hits, "Bad Reputation," "Love is a Killer" and "How Much Love."
In 1998 Vixen reunited, adding guitarist Gina Stile and bassist Maxine Petrucci to the lineup. They released a CD, Tangerine, on the CMC International label.
Not to be confused with the Yorkshire, England-based Vixen, this glossy, female US rock quartet evolved from Genesis, the band formed by guitarist Jan Kuehnemund (b. St Paul, Minnesota, USA) in the mid-70s. Changing the name of the band to Vixen in the early 80s, the early line-up featured Liza Carbe on bass. The band which appeared in the 1984 movie Hardbodies comprised Kuehnemund, Janet Gardner (b. Juneau, Alaska, USA; vocals), Pia Koko (bass; wife of Steve Vai), Tamara Ivanova (rhythm guitar), and Laurie Hedlund (drums). Further line-up changes saw the recruitment of bass player Share Pedersen (b. Glenco, Minnesota, USA) and drummer Roxy Petrucci (b. Detroit, Michigan, USA; ex-Madam X). The band now had a wealth of musical ability and a strong visual image, and finally landed a recording contract with EMI Records. Their debut album included material by outside writers, most notably Richard Marx and Jeff Paris, and launched the band in the USA. Marketed as the female equivalent of Bon Jovi, they specialized in four-minute pop-rock anthems and the occasional obligatory power-ballad, with memorable choruses, including the two US Top 30 hits, "Cryin'" and the Marx-composed epic "Edge Of A Broken Heart". Rev It Up was largely self-penned, and included the minor hit "How Much Love'. Petrucci would later work with Lorraine Lewis (ex-Femme Fatale) in a new all-female outfit. Petrucci and Gardner reunited in 1997, and with the addition of Gina Stile (guitar; ex-Poison Dollys) and Rana Ross (bass) completed a tour of the US. Gardner, Petrucci and Stile then recorded 1998"s relatively sedate Tangerine, and embarked on a promotional tour with the addition of Maxine Petrucci on bass.
Tangerine the new rock album by Vixen is a hard-rocking record filled with catchy melodies, aggressive rhythms, powerful vocals and dynamic guitars. The songs are neither showy, nor too simple, and the band's musicianship is of the highest quality.
A decade ago, Vixen was enjoying success on radio and MTV playlists when musical differences and different musical climates interfered. "We never made a conscious decision to break up," admits vocalist Janet Gardner, "I think the choice we made was to take some time away from everything." That "time" turned out to last about 7 years, but it was not wasted. All the girls separately continued writing and playing and honing their respective skills. It was during this hiatus that drummer Roxy Petrucci met a New York guitarist, Gina Stile and the women started talking about putting a band together. The seed for a Vixen reunion came about when Roxy and Gina began the search for a vocalist. "Fate has a familiar face and voice," claims Roxy, "there was no one else I considered approaching." "The minute we played together," explains Janet, "we all said “how could this have been any other way?'". So Vixen was reborn. They didn't have to look far for a bass player. Roxy's sister and former bandmate, Maxine Petrucci, was the immediate unanimous choice.
"In starting to write the songs for this album," explains Gina, "our attitude was that this has to be right. It had to be right for our playing styles, right for the musical climate, and most of all, right within us. When something's good, you just know it in your gut, and that's how we all feel when we make music together." Janet feels that the songwriting she and Gina have done together shows the progress and growth the band has experienced. The songs show the diversity of the band's songwriting and playing abilities as well as the energy that is the very heart of Vixen's music. The songs not only come at you with a musical force, but lyrically tell stories about people we all meet in our daily lives. "Shut Up" the first single was written about those people - live and on tv - that we all would like to just yell at to "shut up". "Tangerine" is the story of the psychotic girl we all knew - perfect in high school who hasn't been able to keep it together as a grown up. The broader scope of the band's appeal is evident in the Beatlesque " I Give You Peace". The song is softer than much of the album, but even the more subtle songs could never be considered ballads.
While the music on the album is varied, there is the common thread that ties it all together. To the band, that thread is their personal agreement among themselves always to put their musical integrity before potential commercial success. On some levels, the girls, were excited that the current musical climate is so receptive to women artists. "Sure, we'd love to have a hit record again," admits Roxy, "But never at the expense of what we really think or who we really are. We easily could have gone in and made music that sounds like what's all over radio and the charts today, but that isn't who we are or who we want to be." "I'm not going to make the same mistakes this time, we made before," says Janet. "If this isn't going to be what all four of us want it to be, if it isn't fun, then we aren't going to keep doing it."
After seven years, "Vixen" is back and better than ever. Their first album was a self-titled affair which went gold in '88 and produced a couple of hit singles. They appeared in the movie "Hardbodies" and had an "MTV Unplugged" special, but soon after their second album was released, they split to persue other interests. Now with the somewhat different lineup of Janet Gardener on vocals, Gina Stile on guitar, Roxy Petrucci on drums, and Maxine Petrucci (Roxy's sister) on bass, they've come back on the scene and have created some wonderful music. When I heard the first song, "Page," I said "this is Vixen?". "Page" is really something. It's a slow, rough tune with lyrics that confuse you almost as much as the person it's being sung about is confused. Hope that wasn't too confusing a sentence, but if it is, you'll get an idea of how strange the song is. It's basically about someone who's stuck where they're at, and running around in circles unable to change their situation. Cool stuff. Next up is the title song "Tangerine." The press kit tells me that it's "the story of that psychotic girl we all knew - perfect in high school who hasn't been able to keep it together as a grown up." It's really a sad song dressed up in a slightly amusing package, though the writer comes off as being highly insensitive. Of course, who really liked those perfect girls in school anyway, right? "Peace" may be the most mellow song on the album. It's been described as Beatlesque, but I'm not sure I agree with that. The music in the soft spots vaguely resembles "The Beatles" if you're listening for it, but I wouldn't have just picked that term from the air while checking it out. It's a sad song that tells the tale of an abusive relationship. The quiet gets angry, but settles down again, just like a woman in that situation. When I listened to "Bleed" I could only think of how much the song sounds like "Morphine And Chocolate" by "4 Non Blondes." It's the only song I've really been able to compare to anyone else in particular. Of course it's not really the same theme or exactly the same music, but there are definite similarities between the two. There's nothing else particularly outstanding about the tune, but that struck me so much I felt I should mention it. "Shut Up" is a fast and furious tune that is probably pretty self explanatory. This one is really vicious toward all those arrogant people you'd like to force off the tv, out of your house, anywhere, because they just won't be quiet, and they intrude on you life. The music is bouncy in a rough, heavy alternative way. Very neat, though perhaps a slightly disturbing song. "Air Balloon" immediately caught my attention. Though not every sentiment in the song is positive, it's a very hopeful, somewhat slow and light song. I'd have to say it's my favorite on the CD, though it's a bit difficult to pick. There's also a hidden song on the CD entitled "Swatting Flies In Wanker County" which is a wonderful bluesy instrumental. Lots of change-ups with a whimsical feel. This is an awesome tune. I was amazed at how much I liked this album. It's got a variety of elements and styles within the music, and most of the lyrics are creative, or at least fun. There's a large number of songs that have to do with bad relationships that are difficult to remove yourself from, but even if you're not too into that subject, you'll still enjoy listening to this wonderful reunion
Thanks to Châu Minh Linh for submitting the biography.
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