Damn Yankees formed in '89 though only Nugent (a Michigan native) actually qualified as a Yankee (Shaw was from Alabama, Blades from California and Cartellone hailed from the plains of Nebraska).
The group released their self-titled debut a year later. That the album was guitar heavy was not a surprise. But the vocal duo of Blades and Shaw was. The pair sang on the group's biggest single, the ballad, "High Enough." It was "Sister Christian" all over again. Aside from being a pop and A.O.R. hit "High Enough" found its way into a handful of movies (Gremlins 2:The New Batch, Nothing But Trouble and The Taking Of Beverly Hills).
The group embarked on a year-and-a-half world tour which coincided with the Persian Gulf War (not that they were in any way responsible). That afforded the ever patriotic Nugent to unfurl U.S. flags and speak his mind about the war. Since that war was fairly popular and deemed necessary, Nugent didn't draw much attention. So it was time for the experienced archer to take it up a notch. During a Colorado concert Nugent fired a burning arrow into an effigy of Saddam Hussein (the Iraq dictator who would go on to even greater infamy in the Iraq War a decade later). Nugent was arrested and fined. Political statements aside, shooting arrows with thousands of people standing around presented unacceptable safety hazards.
On a roll, Nugent participated in MTV's Rock The Vote, encouraging viewers to re-elect George Bush and defeat that rascal from Arkansas, Bill Clinton.
Damn Yankees issued "Don't Tread" in '92. Another power ballad, "The Silence Is Broken," a Top 10 A.O.R. hit, being the most memorable though the title track got used as part of that year's Barcelona (Summer) Olympic Games.
With the possibility of a Styx reunion occupying Shaw's time the group brought in Damon Johnson to work on their third album. But their label decided to pass on the effort and it remained unreleased.
Nugent revived his solo career and Shaw and Blades formed Shaw Blades but their '95 effort "Hallucination" failed to register. Three years later, Nugent, Shaw and Blades reunited with the idea of finally releasing that third album. But a combination of dissatisfaction with the material by both the band and their label, kept this one on the shelf as well. Tracks from these sessions did appear on member's subsequent solo efforts.
To have the best chance of success a supergroup needs to be a band of equals. Matching Shaw and Blades makes sense. But Terrible Ted is a wild card. Did he tire of being the center of attention (unlikely)? Or did he just want to hang out for awhile and play guitar? One can only wonder.
Call it the Jack Blades effect. Damn Yankees lacks Nugent's manic macho bravado or even the theatrical gloss that put Styx on the map. They are far closer to Night Ranger. Blades and Shaw can play and sing and there's no questioning Nugent's talents. The songs are competent if not terribly creative or original - a little cookie-cutter. Anybody who is dredging up Warhol's "Fifteen Minutes Of Fame" (a title of a song on "Don't Tread") is obviously short of ideas.
"High Enough" is the high point of the group's debut. The title track and "Rock City" are better than average and the OK "Mystified" gets a boost from Nugent's wicked solo.
"Don't Tread" is more of the same. "Don't Tread On Me" wants to be a surly Rocker and almost makes it. "The Silence Is Broken" is the big drama ballad but it's not the set's best. That honor belongs to the boogie-infused "Double Coyote." Now if there were more songs like that, Damn Yankees might have had a future.