REVIEW: House of Lords – House of Lords (1988)

HOUSE OF LORDS – House of Lords (1988 Simmons Records/BMG)

Yes you read that correctly. Simmons Records. Did they ever put out anything decent?

House of Lords actually made a hell of a debut with Simmons Records in 1988. Nobody was calling them a “supergroup”, but most of the members had been around the block more than once. House of Lords evolved out of Giuffria, a pretty good AOR rock band featuring the keyboard stylings of Greg Giuffria. In fact there are several songwriting credits by ex-Giuffria singer David Glen Isley, giving clues to the genesis of this CD.

Lanny Cordola played guitar on the prior Giuffria LP, and continued on to House of Lords. Bassist Chuck Wright had a stint in Quiet Riot (in fact he’s back with them today). Drummer Ken Mary kept time during Alice Cooper’s metal phase. All they needed was a singer, and they found a great one in James Christian, who today is the sole remaining original member of House of Lords. They signed to Gene Simmons’ imprint, and got legendary producer Andy Johns behind the mixing desk. All the ingredients were in place.

MuchMusic were promoting the shit out of these guys, and so I dutifully picked up the cassette at A&A Records and Tapes in the fall of 1988.

The self-titled debut, though classy, didn’t have enough identity. Good songs throughout, no clunkers, but also nothing that identified House of Lords as something unique. And so, this great CD has remained largely unknown over the years.

The keyboard heavy opening on “Pleasure Palace” has less to do with Bon Jovi and more to do with the progressive rock bands of the 70’s. The production is pure 80’s, with the echoey drums and the hard to hear bass. It is what it is, and Andy Johns did a better job than most producers could have done in ’88. James Christian comes across as a full-lunged, well rounded singer. He’s able to sing with a little of blue eyed soul, and he’s capable of the screams too. The feature that actually sets the song apart is the keyboards, very gothic and European sounding, but not wimpy.

“I Wanna Be Loved” was the first single/video, an easy choice being mid-tempo with a shout-along chorus. “Oh woah, oh woah, I just wanna be loved!” Sure, sounded good to 16 year old me. Heaps of backing vocals thicken up the mix, and Lanny Cordola plays a tasteful albeit standard guitar solo on top. “Edge of Your Life” serves as a keyboard power-ballad, and a dramatic one at that. The musicianship is stellar and the arrangement is expert, but the standout performer is James Christian.

Since you need a bar room blaster for the dudes, “Lookin’ For Strange” fits the bill. Instruments aflame, and with obvious inspiration from the Van Halen shuffle of old, “Lookin’ For Strange” is nonetheless a ton ‘o fun. Ending the first side of the tape was “Love Don’t Lie”, another power ballad, this one a bit on the soft side. It was also edited down and remixed by David Thoener for a single release. This mix was used for the music video and can be found on reissues of the CD. The album version is the better of the two, since edits often sound…awkward.

Rock and roll resumes with “Slip of the Tongue”, a title that David Coverdale would use a year later. High octane, full speed ahead, this is House of Lords doing the shred. The musicianship speaks for itself and you can hear clear Whitesnake and Thin Lizzy influences. The fast pace sets up “Hearts of the World” very well via contrast. From here, the album becomes more progressive, dramatic, and bombastic. “Hearts of the World” is AOR perfection, choppy with caverns of keyboards and waterfalls of gang vocals. It all sounds so serious, but it’s hard to deny the quality of this song. “Under Blue Skies” follow this with bagpipes (!) and ELP-like keyboard horns. It’s another dramatic, melodic winner with progressive qualities. The outro has those “na na na na na” vocals that all but guarantee you’ll be singing along. “Call My Name” makes it three in a row, though it changes the forecast to sunny. Bright and positive, “Call My Name” is still a big sounding song, with the gang vocals and guitar shreddery that you’ve come to expect.

Cordola gets the chance to show a lil’ bit (a minute) of classical guitar chops as an intro to “Jealous Heart”, the last of 10 tracks. This is your typical album-ending breakup ballad: weepy hearts, melodramatic lyrics, powerhouse vocals…it’s a dead ringer for Journey! Good Journey, though. Since Journey were defunct in 1988, let’s forgive House of Lords for a little hero worship.

House of Lords is a good debut album. Is it great? I would have said so back in ’88 or ’89, but the production has caused it to age, not so well. That’s unfortunate because what House of Lords put out here was pretty remarkable hard rock.

4/5 stars

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24 comments

  1. I bought this one too because I’m a sucker for marble-effect LP covers and how could I resist a band named after the British upper legislative chamber?

    You’re a lot kinder to it than I am Mike. I just struggled to hear any musical vitamins, minerals or dietary roughage in this one!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I’m kinda with Mr 1537 on this one…I bought it as well since Simmons had a record label so I must buy right? Too much Pomp Rock I quickly moved on from it…dunno why but I agree with Joe I like the marble effect looking covers….all gloss though on what’s inside but I may be harsh here as I don’t even remember anything from it….
    Now I will click the vid and drink my Java!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. LOL 1537…

    Nice review Mike I woulda given this about a 3 matbe 3.5 at best but agree with most yer comments and think for its time HOL was a very strong debut. Thanks for reviewing this really looking forward to ya write ups for Sahara and Demons \m/

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Much Music promoted the hell out of these guys? I am here in 2016 to say I’ve never heard of them in my life! Maybe it’s because we didn’t get cable TV until I was about 16. Must’ve missed them.

    Anyway, we give thanks to Lebrain for bringing us the hard rock. A 4/5? Damn. And the hair! Hahaha whoa boys, the HAIR!!!

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    1. I don’t get it. What is this hair issue? Rock bands have always had lots of hair. Look at Led Zeppelin. Mid 70’s Rolling Stones. Deep Purple. Are they hair bands as well? Robert Plant had bigger hair than any of the guys in House Of Lords.

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      1. Looking at images of any of those bands vs. many of those ‘hair bands’ from the 80s, there’s a clear difference to me. Perhaps the 80’s look makes the difference. Hair product? These chaps look like they each went through a couple of tins of Braun Volume.

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        1. So, the difference is that the 80’s bands took care of the hair and the 70’s band just let it grow?
          Still the same amount of big hair, though.

          Liked by 1 person

        2. Same amount of hair, but maybe not as big. Plus, Led Zeppelin and the likes sounded great, didn’t they?

          For clarity, I’m not much of a ‘hair metal’ fan … I tend to think a lot of it is postured and lacks any real substance, so I like to look at the positives in those bands … in this case the hair (though I can’t believe I failed to mention the outfits!)

          But we all like different sounds and suchlike. And that’s cool …

          Liked by 1 person

        3. Hey, yellow and black can never be wrong. Never!
          Just to clarify, yellow and black are the colors my favorite team in Sweden wear… ;-)

          Liked by 1 person

        4. I have no clue, really. I know I read an interview with Michael Sweet where he explained that, but I just can’t remember…

          Liked by 1 person

  5. This is an AOR gem. I loved the Giuffria record Silk + Steel which featured Gregg and guitar player Lanny Cordola. Giuffria’s self-titled debut had Craig Goldy (later in Dio) on guitar and Chuck Wright on bass. That’s how I found out about this band early on.

    I bought this when it came out and even today, despite the typical 80’s production, I find it a high quality release. I’m with you on almost everything you wrote, Mike, except for the identity part. I do think they have their own identity and I think that is what made House Of Lords different to many other AOR bands. As you wrote, there is a progressive side to them and they also have a pomp influence. Remember, Gregg Giuffria was once a member of Angel.

    Half of this album – all the songs that have David Glen Eisley co.writes – were actually meant for the third Giuffria record that was supposed to be called The Pleasure Palace. The lead singer switch actually came from Gene Simmons. He didn’t think Eisley looked the bit and wanted a more good looking singer.

    Are you gonna review the follow-ups, Sahara and Demons Down, as well?

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    1. I remember reading an article in RIP Magazine after the second album — Chuck Wright had been fired, and Ken Mary was basically put on salary…I think Doug Aldridge was in the band at that time as well. Anyway bottom line, they re-negotiated the contracts so that Greg and James were the members, the rest of the guys employees, and got rid of Chuck. SOmething to do with a fist fight at a golf course. Chuck dropped Greg’s clubs…Greg punched him…just crazy stuff! I did like the album after with “Chick” and Sean McNabb, and of course Tommy Aldridge. Pretty cool to get Tommy in the band.

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        1. If memory serves think I had this on vinyl too, I was one of those cats super reluctant to make the move to CD, so have since lost tons of records and this woulda been oone of em because sadly havent senen it since. Did you keep your copy Phillip?

          Sahara was my preferred House Of Lords (that was the one featuring Aldrich) and Demons Down was a tasty last crack of the whip until the reformation. For all the cool the new records bave been none have quite captured the magic of those first three…

          Liked by 1 person

        2. Wardy, it was actually a guy named Michael Guy who played on Sahara. Guy left or was fired shortly after release and Adlrich did the tour. Which was weird since the two guys looked so similar, most people probably didn’t notice!

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        3. The thing is, Michael Guy never played a note on the album, or very little. He came in when the album was just about finished. There are a whole bunch of guitarists on that record. Aldrich plays on it, Gregg Impelletteri, Rick Nielsen… I’m sure there were a couple more of them.

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