Another double feature for y’all boys and girls. First the Record Store Tale, then the review…
RECORD STORE TALES Part 177: Hot On the Heels of Love
The record store had begun selling Brent Doerner’s Decibel, the first solo album by the ex-Helix guitarist on consignment. My buddy Chuck hooked me up with a copy. I opened it up, and lo and behold — another buddy of mine, and one of my best customers, was playing guitar in Brent’s band! I have talked about Shane Schedler in the past, he was a great guy and I was glad he had hooked up with Brent.
I met Brent at a Helix gig at Molly Bloom’s, told him about how I knew Shane from my store, and this led to our first interview, which I published a while ago on this site. I did numerous other writing jobs for Brent over the years as well.
Anyway, we shot the shit for a couple hours, just talking about music. He was very passionate about songwriting, particularly lyrics. Sometimes he would come up with a catchy song title or interesting phrase, and try to write lyrics around it. He was heavily influenced by the lyrics of Burton Cummings, from The Guess Who.
“I like the fact that Burton Cummings kind of sang in riddles,” said Brent. “You could listen to the song 100 times and try to pick the meaning out of the sentences. And therefore, it doesn’t have a high burnout factor. When I’m writing, that’s the big challenge. I don’t want it to have a burnout factor.”
“I worked really hard at getting unique titles…I want unique titles so I can have unique songs,” he told me.
Chatting away, Brent told me of some future song ideas. “I really want to write a song called ‘Hot on the Heels of Love’,” he said. At first, I was quiet, and kind of confused. Brent seemed to be waiting for my reaction.
“Brent,” I said, “You already have a song called that.”
“No I don’t,” he answered, and then paused. “Really?”
“Yeah you do. It’s on one of the Helix live albums,” I told him, trying to not embarrass him!
“Really? Which one?” he asked me.
We were in his basement, sitting at this beautiful bar. He had a small CD tower down there in the basement, with a complete selection of every Helix album he’d ever appeared on. I studied the tower and spotted the album I was looking for: Live! In Buffalo, which was recorded in 1983 but not released until 2001.
“Right there…Live! In Buffalo,” I said, “you have a song on there called ‘Hot On the Heels of Love’, that you sang, but as far as I know Helix never recorded a studio version of it.”
Brent grabbed the CD and looked it over. Sure enough, there it was. “Hot On the Heels of Love” is track #9.
I guess this shows that a good song title is a good song title no matter what. But it was also the first time that LeBrain schooled a member of Helix! (It was not the last time!)
Onto the review!
HELIX – Live! In Buffalo (2001 Dirty Dog Records, recorded September 29, 1983)
Right from Vollmer’s first “Let’s rock!” at the beginning of this CD, Live! In Buffalo kicks you in the face and doesn’t stop until the end. Only one ballad (and barely a ballad at that, when performed at this volume), this concert sounds like it was a real sweaty affair. Helix were at the top of their game in ’83, hot on the heels of No Rest For The Wicked and “Heavy Metal Love”. This album is loud, there are no overdubs, this is a pure rock concert with no frills. The music is broken up with the occasional (breathless) intros by Vollmer, but then it’s right back into the high-octane rock. Incredible to think this album was recorded in the middle of the day!
Sometimes I’ve felt that a good bootleg is much better than a well-recorded live album. There’s no fakery on a bootleg, and there is no fakery here. This was recorded for a radio broadcast, and miraculously the tapes were in good enough shape to release as a CD.
Helix opened with the title track from their current album. “No Rest For the Wicked” is pounding, Fritz Hinz on the skins, pummeling them into submission, Brent on backing vocals while Vollmer seemingly shreds his own vocal cords. This version is faster and heavier than the album version, as is every song on Live! In Buffalo. Even a melodic rocker like “Let’s All Do It Tonite” has more bite.
Brian’s on stage raps are from the Paul Stanley school of thought. For example, “White Lace & Black Leather”.
“This next song is about those ladies that you meet that got lots of class. Lots of class…elegance. When it comes to etiquette they’re at the top of their class…you’ll never find them with the fork on the wrong side of their plate. You dare never tell a dirty joke to this lady because she’ll get up and leave the table. But you get that same lady home, that very same night, get her back to your place, get her behind closed doors…she’ll turn out to be a moaner every time! This is called ‘White Lace & Black Leather’!”
Elsewhere, a grizzled “Ain’t No High Like Rock and Roll” combines catchy licks with a driving melody. A lot of these early Helix songs are among the best tunes they ever wrote. Yet unfortunately, they are seldom if ever played anymore. Thankfully, this album exists to remind us how great Helix can be.
Historically, this is also cool for a couple reasons. One, some of these songs had yet to be recorded on a studio album, such as “6 Strings 9 Lives” and “You Keep Me Rockin'”, which would turn up on the next album. As mentioned in the above Record Store Tale Part 177, one tune was never released on a studio album at all. That is Brent Doerner’s “Hot On The Heels Of Love”, sung by Brent (don’t forget he also sang “Billy Oxygen”, one of Helix’ first hits from the debut album). It is a gritty fast rocker, with a memorably galvanic riff.
There are some other live offerings out there by Helix, such as Half-Alive and the promo-only Live At The Marquee, but this one blows them all away even though it was just for a radio broadcast. One of my favourite live albums, and one of my favourite Helix CDs.
NEXT TIME ON RECORD STORE TALES:
Part 178: Some really kooky movie makers…