REVIEW: Helix – B-Sides (1999)

Scan_20150918 (5)HELIX – B-Sides (1999 Beak Records)

The occasion:  It was Helix’s 25th anniversary.  How about an album, and some classic returning band members, for a good time?

The title B-Sides here is misleading; a B-side is a track that appears on the flipside of a single, and is often not on the album. No tracks on this album appeared on the flipside of any singles, at least not these versions. However, the misleading title does not mar the excellent music contained within.

B-Sides contains songs written and/or demo’d for various Helix albums from 1990 onwards. Some of these have been re-recorded, such as “Love Is A Crazy Game”, which appeared as an acoustic version on the Business Doing Pleasure CD. This version is electric and is much heavier. I could imagine this version fitting right in on an Aerosmith album. “S.E.X. Rated” has also been re-recorded. It’s the only song that actually appeared as a B-side, but it’s not the same version as on that single.

Various versions of the Helix band appear on this album, but most interesting is the lineup on the bonus tracks. “Like Taking Candy From A Baby” and “Thinking It Over” are both from the sessions from Helix’s excellent first album (Breaking Loose), left unreleased until now. “Thinking It Over”, a terrific pop rock song, is a Del Shannon cover.  Helix worked as Shannon’s backing band during an early 70’s Canadian tour. There are also three songs by a reunited “80’s Helix”, and it’s great to hear that version of the band again.

In a way, it’s a shame that this album was given the title and terrible album cover that it has. Brian Vollmer and Co. could have simply put this out as the next Helix album, which may have given it the respect it deserves. From the ballads to the heavy stuff, this Helix CD has a bit of everything you already liked about the band, with a modern edge. Every song kicks, there’s not a weak track in the bunch. By the time you get to the bonus tracks, Helix have already pummelled your eardrums.

Helix fans absolutely need to hear this music; not B-sides but in fact some of Helix’s best stuff. Along the way, there are appearances from pretty much every major Helix member from the indi days to the mid-90’s. You will even hear songs written and performed by Paul Hackman, the late Helix guitarist who was tragically killed in a 1992 auto accident.  The major selling point of the disc was that three songs featured a reunion of the surviving members of the classic 80’s Helix.  With Hackman gone, that consisted of leader singer Brian Vollmer, guitarist Brent “the Doctor” Doerner, bassist Daryl Gray, and drummer Greg “Fritz” Hinz.

Personal faves:

  • “Thinking It Over” which my wife thinks sounds like Sloan.
  • “Devil’s Gate”, hard and hammering.
  • “You Got Me Chained”, with killer horn section.
  • “Take It Or Leave It”, moody and dark but catchy as hell.

Final bonus:  a booklet absolutely chock full of never before seen photos.  A real treat!

5/5 stars

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28 comments

    1. That’s right Geoff! They formed in ’74.

      In fact one of our close family friends, Donna, has a brother who was an original member of Helix — the keyboardist Don Simmons, back in 1974. There’s a picture of him in here among the scans. Blond guy with glasses. They replaced him with a second guitarist.

      Liked by 1 person

        1. No no…it’s a TPB joke. See this is why you need to get going on the series! You should endeavour to watch it before the next season debuts in the spring.

          I can’t find the clip for this joke but maybe Boppin can. Vollmer was in a deleted scene where Ricky just needed an R to spell “SUPERVISOR” on his new trailer. Meanwhile, BRIAN VOLLMER was putting his name on his car, and had two R’s available….

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  1. Good review Mike along with the scans..thanks….
    Cool that they were sitting on these tracks and such and actually for a independent act take the time to put a decent package together….other than the cover….
    Like I have said before Vollmer takes his craft seriously ……

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Why on earth did they call it B-sides then? I’d have called it ‘Treasure Chest’ and used a hugely busty pirate lady as the cover image, I’m subtle like that; they on the other hand may simply be a LOT classier!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The title and cover are not the best. Helix have done better there.

      I don’t know if the original keyboardist Don Simmons was still in the band on the Del Shannon tour but I think he was. If so it’s on my list of questions to ask him about. Working on an interview, I hope it pans out.

      Liked by 1 person

        1. The Helix guys have always had good things to say about the Del Shannon tour. One of their road crew was underage and couldn’t get into the bar. Shannon walked up to security and said, “That is my sound man, and if you don’t let him in there won’t be a show.”

          Liked by 1 person

        2. I don’t know if you would be able to access it from where you are, but the Helix singer Brian Vollmer wrote a book about 10 years ago filled with a lot of warm stories like that one. I reviewed it here a while back. If you ordered the book and lived nearby, Brian and his wife Lynda would hand-deliver the book to lucky fans, just in time for Christmas.

          The cool thing about this band is what Deke said earlier — he works so hard at his craft. He’s been doing this for 41 years, never ever stopping. He’s had something like 40 different band members over the years. He was flat broke. He certainly didn’t keep going for the money, it was for the music.

          Liked by 1 person

  3. That’s quite a story and a real testament to what it is to truly love what you do and live for your passion. I wonder hiw many artists starting today would take that path? I’m guessing not very many.

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