On March 15, 1994, Motley Crue delivered their self-titled album – their first and only release with singer John Corabi.

Two years earlier, Corabi was hired to replace original singer Vince Neil. At this point in their history, Motley Crue had become one of the biggest-selling bands on the planet. Still, things were falling apart behind the scenes (depending on who you ask, Neil was either fired or quit).

Bringing in Corabi was designed as a type of reset – a new chapter for the band as they moved into their next era. Instead, their lone album together crashed. Motley Crue went out on a much-maligned tour – downsizing from arenas to clubs and theaters. Meanwhile, their record label, Elektra, who had ponied up $25 million as part of a new deal, was furious that Neil was gone.

Yet lost in the fervor surrounding the album was one important fact: it’s actually pretty good.

‘Motley Crue’ Deserves Better

Sure, Motley Crue may not boast the kinds of classic hits that filled Girls, Girls, Girls and Dr. Feelgood, but you could easily argue that those albums would have failed in 1994 as well, given the changing sound of rock. Instead, the Corabi-led Crue made the boldest creative change in the band’s history, switching up their sound to a heavier, more aggressive (and ultimately modern) style. Unlike many of their glam metal brethren, who spent much of the ‘90s stubbornly complaining that the previous decade’s music was better, Motley Crue genuinely evolved.

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The shift played to the new vocalist’s strengths. Corabi’s powerful, gritty sound was a stark departure from Neil’s high-pitched squeals. On tunes like the emphatic opener "Power to Music," Corabi’s vocals cut like a knife.  Echoes of Soundgarden and Alice In Chains can be heard on tracks like "Loveshine" and "Welcome to the Numb" -- proof that Motley Crue was willing to embrace new influences. Meanwhile, "Misunderstood" remains one of the most beautifully complex compositions in the band's repertoire.

Watch Motley Crue's Video for 'Misunderstood'

Corabi’s presence was also evident in the songwriting. The singer collaborated with Nikki Sixx on the album’s lyrics, opening up broader topics for a band that had long been regarded as nothing deeper than a strip club soundtrack.

Several critics praised the Crue’s new frontman. The Los Angeles Times noted that Corabi’s voice was “voice is meatier and more appealing than predecessor Vince Neil's,” while Rolling Stone complimented his “impressive high-range yowl that’s never nasal.”

Listen to 'Power to the Music' by Motley Crue

Despite positive reviews and the band’s bold ambition, Motley Crue was dead on arrival. Longtime fans didn’t accept the group’s change in direction and the younger grunge audience dismissed the band as an ‘80s act – despite their obvious attempts to change with the times. The final nail in Corabi’s Crue tenure was an ill-fated U.S. tour in which the band was unable to sell out venues half the size of what they were used to. The message was clear: Motley Crue would not be accepted without Vince Neil.

How John Corabi Was Fired From Motley Crue

Years later, Corabi remembered the conversation when the band’s manager told him he was fired. “He said, ‘Here’s the deal, dude. No disrespect to you, but this isn’t what the record label paid for,’” the singer recalled. “His words were, ‘I don't give a fuck if Paul McCartney was fronting this band – It's not what they paid for. They want Vince Neil, or they’re doing nothing.’ I understood that. And, you know, that was that.”

By 1997, Neil was back in the band. His return did little to fix Motley Crue’s problems. Their next album, Generation Swine – which was more in line with the classic Crue sound – was derided as a poor imitation of the band’s ‘80s heyday.

READ MORE: Motley Crue Albums Ranked

Meanwhile, Motley Crue was cast aside, disappearing into album purgatory. In the years since its release, the band has completely ignored the LP's material, never playing any of the songs live or including them on greatest-hits compilations. Most consider the album a blemish on the band’s history, and if it weren't for Corabi’s solo performances, the material would likely have been forgotten entirely.

Still, listening to Motley Crue decades later, the album more than holds its own. The songs are forceful and dynamic and somehow don't feel dated despite the passing of time. Motley Crue is certainly not a perfect album, but it's the best thing the band has done since the '80s came to a close -- it deserves a better legacy.

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Gallery Credit: Matthew Wilkening