REVIEW: Hear N’ Aid – Stars (1986)

HEAR N’ AID – Stars (1986 LP, Japanese CD)

It is hard to believe that this monumental album, a piece of rock history, was only issued on CD in Japan! Finding a domestic LP or cassette isn’t hard (I’ve owned it on all three formats including CD) so hunt your record shops.  I know Wendy Dio has a CD/DVD reissue lined up, hopefully including the full album, single edit, and the video and interviews.  If you’re reading this Wendy…

At the time, all funds went to starving people in Africa, hence the name Hear N’ Aid.  The inspiration was something fairly obvious:  No heavy metal people outside of Geddy Lee was involved in the numerous famine relief projects of the time!  (Geddy sang a lead on the excellent “Tears Are Not Enough” (1985) by Northern Lights, but nobody metal could be seen in “Do They Know It’s Christmas” or “We Are the World”.)

“Oh, you knoooow that we’ll be there!”

Showing the world that heavy metal bands and fans aren’t a bunch of assholes, Jimmy Bain and Vivian Campbell of Dio came up with the concept for Hear N’ Aid.

The main track, “Stars”, by Hear N’ Aid is a tour-de-force. Written by Bain, Campbell and Dio, this is essentially an epic extended track with a soft intro and heavy verses, and tons of guests. They assembled virtually every major metal singer who was willing and available to take part. That means you will hear Quiet Riot singers Kevin DuBrow and Paul Shortino (still with Ruff Cutt at the time) singing together for the first and only time in history! Rob Halford, Don Dokken, Eric Bloom, Geoff Tate, Dave Meniketti, and Dio himself all take lead vocal slots too.

When the guitar solo kicks in, prepared to be blown away. With Iron Maiden guitarists Dave Murray and Adrian Smith playing backing harmonies, you will hear the monstrous talents of George Lynch, Yngwie Malmsteen, Vivian Campbell, Craig Goldy, Neal Schon, Buck Dharma, Carloz Cavazo, Brad Gillis and Eddie Ojeda all taking a few bars. No charity track had ever attempted to assemble not just singers, but guitar players, on one track before.

All this is backed by drummers, bassists and keyboard players from Dio and Quiet Riot. There are more backing singers than I can name, but most notably, Derek Smalls and David St. Hubbins from Spinal Tap. Of course.

The rest of the album is filled out by songs donated by bands who couldn’t take part in the song, but still wanted to help the starvation situation in Africa. Therefore you will get a live “Heaven’s On Fire” from Kiss, from their Animalize Live Uncensored home video. This is the only place that the audio track was released on. There is an unreleased live “Distant Early Warning” by Rush, and rare ones by Scorpions and Accept as well.

Tracklist:
1.Hear ‘n Aid – “Stars”
2.Accept – “Up to the Limit” (live)
3.Motörhead – “On the Road” (live)
4.Rush – “Distant Early Warning” (live)
5.Kiss – “Heaven’s on Fire” (live)
6.Jimi Hendrix – “Can You See Me”
7.Dio – “Hungry for Heaven” (live)
8.Y&T – “Go for the Throat”
9.Scorpions – “The Zoo” (live)

5/5 stars

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17 comments

  1. This is cool! You’ve talked about this before, but it’s great to have it up in your pages. And I gotta say, those metal guys were brave, letting Stabby be in there. Bet he had to pass through a metal detector on his way in to the sessions. I can hear them around the catering table, “oop, here he comes. Don’t turn your back on him…”

    You know, in my mind, he’s turning into this dude (just replace the saw with the knife):

    Anyway. That’s a HUGE line-up. Friggin’ unreal.

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      1. Also: I couldn’t help but think it’s an okay song, but couldn’t it be perceived as they were taunting the people they were trying to help? I mean “We’re stars!” But you’re not! Sucks to be you, starving people!

        Look, I know that wasn’t the intent, they probably meant that we are all stars. Isn’t that special. But the thought crossed my mind, as I was listening, and watching them in their studio with their expensive equipment and guitars and hair….Anyway. Ignore me. They meant well.

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        1. And yes, the same can be said of all those feel-good benefit songs.

          Also: Notice they don’t do things like this anymore? Think there’s a reason? I blame Bono. He is single-handely solving all of the world’s problems, so other musicians don’t have to do benefit singles like this. Damn you, Bono, you selfish prick!

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        2. Yeah I never really understood the purpose of the chorus “We’re stars, we’re stars” in a charity song…I don’t know. There’s one line specifically about them being rock stars, which is the line, “But singers and songs can never change it alone, we are calling you calling you…”

          So that inclusive part about “calling you” I guess makes the “stars” all of us. At least that’s how I choose to see it, because the other way is just kind of dumb.

          “We can be strong we are fire and stone, and we all want to touch a rainbow”. No idea what that has to do with starvation in Africa, but you knew Dio would slip a “rainbow” lyric in there somewhere!

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      1. No, I’ll bet he was playing with little knives, then. You know, stabbing the wings off flies and stuff. It always starts small. But he’ll always have been stabby. And the neighbours from back in the day would have said “but he was always a quiet, salt-of-the-earth kind of guy. Never bothered anybody, kept to himself…” Yeah sure.

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  2. I bought it for the cause as well as it was a cool compilation and hey how many songs does anyone own that has a 4 minute solo with about 20 guitar players….
    Kudos to Dio….

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  3. I always get a kick out of watching Blackie Lawless think he is a big part of the ensemble. Almost as big of a douche as Tate.

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  4. We have the same recollection because this is what we truly love … Dio … Priest … Queensryche … Y and T …. Nugent … Spinal Tap … Blue Oyster Cult and the rest…. I remember feeling a sense of pride as a Metal fan back then that this was done. I do wonder how much cocaine was at that session though … ha

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    1. Well you had Vince Neil there…Kevin DuBrow…Chris Holmes…Mick Mars…all of Dokken…I would assume mountains of the stuff!

      You never hear about Ronnie doing that kind of thing, so I’m sure it was all in the bathroom.

      I was proud too. Shame this never got the notice it deserved, even just for being a great song.

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