Countless bands are remembered for one thing: a song, an album or even involvement in a notorious event. It's unfair since bands are often more accomplished than they are given credit for and find that their catalog of accomplishments goes unrecognized. What's really crazy is when they are remembered for is something that is not indicative of the band. That's Extreme and their hit "More Than Words." It's ironic that with the name Extreme they are best known for a weak-kneed ballad.
Some groups are referenced due to members who have gone on to greater success. Here too, Extreme fits. Following Extreme's dissolution in '95 singer Gary Cherone joined Van Halen. Though Cherone was one-and-out with Van Halen, '98's "Van Halen III," and the album was one of the platinum band's few records to only go gold, it was probably one of the few times Extreme was mentioned in the late '90s.
Guitarist Nuno Bettencourt's solo projects and a stint fronting DramaGods wasn't exactly in the same league. Nor for that matter, does Cherone's pre-Van Halen theatrical turn as the title character in the opera "Jesus Christ Superstar."
Extreme began in the late '80s like a lot of groups. Essentially, it was the merging of two rival bands leading to a partnership between Cherone and the Portuguese-born Bettencourt. Drummer Paul Geary came from Cherone's band Dream and bassist Pat Badger was added a few months later. Badger, a Berklee College of Music student, was making custom guitars for a music shop when he met Bettencourt.
The group's self-titled debut landed in '89 and put them on the road. Driven by the acoustic ballad "More Than Words," "Extreme II Pornograffitti" sold over two million copies. Beyond the hit, the group blended Metal, Blues and Funk.
Though it peaked at #10 on the U.S. album chart, '92's "III Sides To Every Story" didn't have the impact of its predecessor. Grunge was 24/7 and Extreme was northeast, not northwest, nor did they come from a gray and gloomy place where it rained a lot. But the album charted higher in the U.K. and even did better "Extreme II Pornograffitti." Bettencourt's increased experimentation seemed to resonate stronger over there. At this point, the group was opening for Bon Jovi. And that's as good as it would get. Cherone then took his first stab at playing Jesus and Geary bailed, replaced by Michael Mangini. Bettencourt started his own, A & M affiliated label and Extreme contributed "Strutter" to the KISS tribute album, "KISS My Ass."
The '95 set, Waiting For The Punchline" came and went with Extreme disbanding shortly thereafter.
When legendary bands reunite the music press and the general public is salivating before even a rough-cut is leaked online. Not so much for lesser bands and in a way that might be better. Work under the radar until ready to go.
Extreme made comeback attempts in '04 and '06 but couldn't pull it off. Then, Cherone, Bettencourt and Badger with the addition of drummer Kevin Figueiredo, released "Saudades De Rock" in '08. In a business where who you know counts, Bettencourt had worked with Figueiredo in DramaGods and Satellite Party.
1992 III Sides To Every Story
1995 Waiting For The Punchline
2008 Saudades de Rock
Albums like "Saudades De Rock" can be real disasters. Recorded long after a group's prime and undertaken following false starts, it can be a chore to get the damn thing done. And that strain usually shows in the tracks. To their credit, Extreme doesn't display any frayed edges. Rather, they roll out the riff-driven crowd pleaser "Comfortably Dumb" and fly through the Rockabilly tainted "Take Us Alive" which plays like "My Baby Left Me" on steroids.
Surveying Extreme's back catalog, the best place to start is "Extreme II Pornograffitti." Aside from the surprisingly good "More Than Words" there's "Get Out The Funk," which has the title implies is a dose of Red Hot Chili Peppers styled action complete with synth horns. Extreme show their Metal chops on "It's A Monster" and use the acoustic mid-tempo song "Hole Hearted" to prove "More Than Words" wasn't a fluke. "Money (In God We Trust)," a swing at arena Rock is complimented by the power ballad "Song For Love." Add a piano and you'd have a Journey song - which is probably why it was released as a single.
Like it's predecessor, "III Sides To Every Story" relies on the downtempo material to put it over - "Stop The World and "Tragic Comic" - both minor hits. This set also contains Extreme's all-time best-ever track, "Rest In Peace."