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Album Review

Angel – “Live Without a Net” [Retro Album Review]

It was “do or die” when Casablanca Records released Angel’s Live Without a Net in February 1980. Forty years later, the double-live set remains a celebrated slab among pop/rock purists.



Their defensive game had been strong all season long. However, their offensive game had been less effective. But now, it was “game on.” The “visitors” were up by three — fourth down, and the “home team” had possession of the ball. Yes, Angel were well within field goal range, but with only seven seconds remaining on the clock, they had to “go for it”— everything was on the line…

Boasting a massive stage production and an eye-catching, white satin-draped glam image, Angel once was described as the “good guy version of KISS.” The band reportedly had been discovered by co-founding KISS bassist, Gene Simmons during a 1975 D.C. club appearance. They ultimately were represented by legendary KISS manager, Bill Aucoin. They even were signed to KISS’ label, Casablanca Records. But after five long years and five impressive albums, they hadn’t yet won a “championship ring.” Simply put, Angel needed a major breakthrough. 40 years ago this month, they were set to appear in the feature film, Foxes. They’d also just released the “do or die” double live record, Live Without a Net. The time for that much-needed breakthrough was NOW.

Produced by Eddie Leonetti, Live Without a Net delivered all “thriller” and no “filler”—kicking off with a rib-cracking triple-threat—the Rainbow, Lake & Purple-inspired epic “The Tower,” crashing into the KISS-caliber “Can You Feel It,” then into the Raspberries-flavored “Don’t Leave Me Lonely.” And the crowd goes wild!

But therein lied what arguably was the band’s biggest dilemma. Given the array of stylistic influences, Angel faced something of an identity crisis. Were they a prog band? Were they a pop band? Were they a glam band? Were they a rock band? The answer to all was—yes. As a result, marketing the band properly had proven problematic.

However, kids like me “got” Angel completely. To us, they were impeccable musicians creating incredible songs—infectious, sticky-sweet, arena-sized anthems that sound as fresh today as when they were released originally—back when the band graced the pages of Creem and Hit Parader during the mid and late “70s. And for us, Live Without a Net served as the ultimate Angel souvenir.

With the roaring crowd positioned prominently in the mix, Live Without a Net was such an authentic live collection, the unique fragrance of homegrown weed mixed with Boons Farm wine practically rolled off the grooves.

Frontman Frank DiMino was a charismatic ringleader from start to finish—hitting every death-defying note, while encouraging fans to stand up, scream, shake their asses and clap their hands. If you feel like coming up here a little bit closer, then you come on up here and do that too!

A publicity photo of Angel around 1980.

Punctuated by Felix Robinson’s rock-ribbed bass solo, “Over and Over” made for one of the record’s many noteworthy moments, along with “On the Rocks”—the nine-minute 1977 staple highlighted by Gregg Giuffria’s Made in Japan-meets-Close Encounters keyboard solo. Poster boy guitarist Punky Meadows gave a heartfelt tip of the hat to Aerosmith during his “Space Man”-style solo on the fist-pumping “Rock & Rollers” and Barry Brandt’s heart-stopping solo on “White Lightning” was mighty, indeed.

Other stand-out tracks include the remake of the Mott the Hoople classic “All the Young Dudes” and the disco-driven album closer, “20th Century Foxes.”

It was a golden era of rock and roll—a time when everyone from KISS and Seger to Frampton, REO and the Nuge all were breaking bad with chart-busting double live collections. Live Without a Net was expected to change the game for Angel in a similar fashion—but they were tackled at the ten-yard line. By 1981, they’d disbanded officially.

40 years later, Angel remains an influential force—inspiring untold legions of pop/rock combos. Truth be told, it would have been virtually impossible for the ‘80s arena rock explosion to ever have been ignited without the Angel blueprint to light the fuse. In 2020, Angel continue to record and tour, with founding members, DiMino and Meadows leading the charge. And their logo still looks the same—right side up or upside down, Whoa, dude!

Live Without a Net Track Listing:

Disc One:
01. Tower (5:02)
02. Can You Feel It (4:07)
03. Don’t Leave Me Lonely (4:00)
04. Telephone Exchange (4:08)
05. Ain’t Gonna Eat Out My Heart Anymore (3:27)
06. Over and Over (5:02)
07. Anyway You Want It (2:55)
08. On the Rocks (9:18)
09. Wild and Hot (3:19)

Disc Two:
01. All the Young Dudes (4:35)
02. Rock and Rollers (8:03)
03. White Lightning (8:35)
04. Hold Me, Squeeze Me (3:28)
05. Got Love If You Want It (4:07)
06. Feelin’ Right (5:56)
07. 20th Century Foxes (4:45)

Run Time: 80:56
Release Date: February 1980
Record Label: Casablanca / Mercury

Christopher Long is an author, show biz analyst, TV / radio contributor, award-winning musician and entertainment personality. Referred to once as “the rock and roll Erma Bombeck,” Long is known for his conversational, common sense writing style and passion for sharing his unique perspectives on pop culture. Raised in Missouri's rugged Ozark Mountains and on Florida's sunny Space Coast, Long currently lives in Cocoa Beach. (