REVIEW: Helix – Smash Hits…Unplugged! (2010)

HELIX – Smash Hits…Unplugged! (2010 Helix Records)

Smash Hits…Unplugged!, the first ever acoustic release by Helix, was certainly a release that deserved more attention.  While Helix have continued to make albums (and good ones, too), many of them have been ignored by the media in general.  While an album such as The Power of Rock and Roll kicked as much ass as Walkin’ the Razor’s Edge, it went largely unheard.  Smash Hits…Uplugged! was a more accessible version of Helix, but it still failed to garner the attention it deserved.  I do hear “That Day Is Gonna Come” from this album on the radio from time to time, but this album is too good not to be heard by masses.

This, to me, was the real “classic Helix lineup” reunion album. Unlike Vagabond Bones, you can actually hear Brent and Daryl singing. Daryl Gray in particular contributes a lot to this album, including singing, bass, guitars, and more exotic instruments such as bodhran. All five Helix members participated, including Kaleb Duck with his first Helix album. Old friends such as Sean Kelly and Cheryl Lescom also dropped in.

Every song on this album was a hit somewhere or another, and every song on this album had the potential to be a hit once again. Vollmer sang his butt off as always.  Some of these arrangements are startlingly original. Particularly “Gimme Gimme Good Lovin”, which shines with great harmony vocals and mandolin courtesy of former guitar slinger Brent Doerner. This excellent, energetic version is followed by a great single-worthy take of “The Kids Are All Shakin”. The ballads are also well done, in particular the shoulda-woulda-coulda-been hit “That Day Is Gonna Come” and their cover of “Dream On”.

It is a new cover version that really blew me away. Vollmer sings his very best on “Touch of Magic” originally by the late great James Leroy. This long forgotten song is a wonderful tribute to Leroy, an under-appreciated Canadian singer and songwriter from the 1970’s.  His original version of “Touch of Magic” was a #6 charting single.  While I can’t say that Helix have topped or equaled him, it is a nice tribute and let’s leave it at that.

Really in total honesty, every version here is great — I can’t say much more than that. I found some arrangements, such as “Rock You”, to be pretty standard, while others to be more adventurous especially in instrumentation. A sprinkle of fiddle here, some 12-string there, and you get a rich unplugged album much more interesting than most major bands’.

Pick up Smash Hits…Unplugged! by Helix. Not only do you know all these songs already, but you’re supporting a band that really deserves it.

5/5 stars

More HELIX at mikeladano.com:

EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEWS:  Brian Vollmer (2012) + Brent Doerner (2007)

CONCERTS:  The Power of Rock and Roll CD release party 08/18/2007, London Ontario

REVIEWS: Best Of 1983-2012 + “All I Want For Christmas is the Leafs to Win the Cup” single
+ 30th Anniversary Concert DVD + “Good To The Last Drop”/”S.E.X. Rated” cassette single
+ Live! In Buffalo + No Rest for the Wicked

RECORD STORE TALES: Part 2: Gimme an R! + Part 234: Wild in the Streets

7 comments

  1. Where’s the Love for Helix here??!!!
    Anyways I have said it before and I will say it again…..u gotta give Vollmer total respect and I have and will continue to do so just for the fact about Helixs Razor Edge show here in Tbay back in early 85….
    It’s good he’s still cranking out product yr after yr and this is pretty good actually ….
    If anything just buy the dam thing cuz it’s supporting a guy who believes in his craft!
    Respect man….

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    1. And they keep going! Vollmer’s rehearsing for a new album and European shows right now. The guy won’t stop. He even said recently that he will probably drop dead on stage in the middle of Rock You because he’s not stopping.

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    1. Hey Clint! Thanks for the comment, Helix do indeed rule.

      I try to post reviews nearly every day, my focus is to “eventually review everything I own”. Which will never happen…but I keep trying! LOL

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        1. Hey Clint, I sure do remember Bootsauce. I was just humming “Scratching the hole in my Levi’s” on the weekend.

          And yeah I spent 12 years working in Kitchener area record stores and have written basically every story you can imagine that happened in those days. Met lots of cool people thanks to the store including Helix!

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