HONEYMOON SUITE – The Singles (1989 Warner)
In the mood for some good old fashioned Canadian AOR rock, but don’t know where to turn?
Easily solved. Just drive down to Niagara Falls and take a left at Honeymoon Suite.
The Singles compiles all their best tunes from the first three LPs (Honeymoon Suite, The Big Prize, Racing After Midnight). If you are a native of the Great White North, chances are you have already heard all 12 of these tracks. Honeymoon Suite have been radio staples ever since their 1984 debut single, “New Girl Now”. Even when they dropped off the face of the earth for much of the 1990s and 2000s, they got consistent radio play and gigs. T-Rev and I saw them at Lulu’s in the 1990s when they were supporting a live album. Even though singer Johnnie Dee seemed a lil’ tipsy they pulled out all the stops for an enjoyable gig.
When Honeymoon Suite kicked it off with “New Girl Now”, they tapped into a rock/new wave hybrid that earned them tons of video play in Canada. Derry Grehan was (and is) a fine guitarist, certainly one of the most respected in the Great White North. He gave the band the rock credibility they needed, meanwhile Johnny Dee had the pipes and the heartthrob looks. The 80s angst of “Burning in Love” landed them another hit, with one foot a little more firmly in the rock arena. Bonus points for the very 80’s chorus echo. “I am still (still! still! still!) a lonely man burning in love,” sings Dee, and you know many ladies swooned. The sound is not too distant from the Bon Jovi of the same period, burning up the clubs many miles away in New Jersey.
Filmed on location in Niagara Falls Ontario
“Stay in the Light” captures the same vibe, a keyboard-y tension with guitars providing the edge. A sharp rhythm and indelible chorus keeps “Stay in the Light” burning in your memory long after it ceased playing. “Wave Babies” is a bit hokey but that hasn’t kept it from airplay 30 years later.
Album #2, The Big Prize, edged their sound further into keyboard pop, which provided more hits but also turned some fans off. “Feel It Again” maintained the guitars without straying too far, but the ballad anthem “What Does It Take” was a full-on 80s pop ballad. The band had some serious firepower in the studio control room this time out. The success of the first album gave them a shot with Bruce Fairbairn, and a young engineer named Bob Rock. You can hear their impact in the improved sound of the drums, and the sonic clarity overall. The production values help make “What Does It Take” palatable, but there is too much syrup for some. “Bad Attitude” has some crunch but it’s overshadowed by those omnipresent keyboards.
Racing After Midnight returned rock to the forefront. There were a couple lineup changes including on the keyboards. The captain’s chair was manned this time by veteran Van Halen producer Ted Templeman. With him they recorded “Lethal Weapon” for the film soundtrack of the same name. Because it was written by Michael Kamen for a movie, we can forgive Honeymoon Suite for another soft rock ballad. The guitar laden “Love Changes Everything” was a more proper introduction to the new album. Derry has a chance to show off his enviable chops at the start, and has a good crunchy sound. One of Honeymoon Suite’s most memorable choruses made it easy to love. “Lookin’ Out for Number One” was equally powerful, especially when it comes to Derry Grehan’s impeccable shreddery.
Any good greatest hits album needs new material. The Singles had two new songs: big hit “Still Loving You”, and “Long Way”. For a big anthemic ballad, “Still Loving You” nails it with class. “Long Way” finishes it with a dark edgy acoustic vibe. These two tracks do not negate the album title The Singles, because both were released as singles.
Factor in some great liner notes and lots of band photos, and The Singles is a pretty easy purchase to justify.