A remarkable album by a singular talent. Paul Laine came equipped with buckets of ability and a hell of a team. Laine wanted Bruce Fairbairn at the producer’s desk, and through sheer determination, that’s who he got. His debut album Stick it in Your Ear was compared to Bon Jovi, but Paul had more youthful innocence and exuberance. Similarities are inevitable, but you can hear the difference when he starts to sing.
If you want to play the comparison game, the long dramatic intro to the song “One Step Over the Line” is similar to Bon Jovi’s “Lay Your Hands On Me”. This tough little mid-tempo rocker gives Paul a chance to belt. The cool keyboard accents are from an era when rockers were unafraid of a little sweetening. It goes a bit Deep Purple during the long instrumental break — the track is over seven minutes long.
Things really kick into gear on “We Are the Young”, a legitimate rock anthem. Laine was just a kid, so when he sang it, he meant it. In the middle is a progressive rock keyboard break, proving Paul had many dimensions already. Then he goes all Robert Plant in the outro!
After two pretty epic tracks in a row, Paul’s big hit “Dorianna” makes its appearance. This irresistible little pop rocker is replete with organ intro (edited out of the single version) and shimmering guitar harmonies. Not to mention that chorus, which will stay in your head for the rest of the day.
A power ballad, “Is It Love”, represents that best that the genre has to offer. If you thought you’ve already heard every ballad that is worth hearing, then make room for one more. The power chorus nails it, and that backing piano must be a Fairbairn twist. This is followed by the most “Bon Jovi” of any of the songs, “Heart of America”. But only if Bon Jovi could sing like a screamin’ hurricane, because the truth is, this songs blows away any of Jon’s in terms of power. Corny lyrics, but what’s a kid from Canada going to write about?
“Main Attraction” opens a bit like Van Halen, showing off the shredding, and then breaks into a dash. It’s the least individual of the songs, sounding the most generic, but it’s not a bad tune by any means. Just the least impressive of nine pretty awesome tunes.
Things take a striking turn on the blues “Doin’ Time” featuring a jam with James Cotton on harmonica. Beginning authentically, Paul soon breaks into a wicked screamin’ blues. When James Cotton starts blowin’, the thing just goes to another level. One of the best rock-blues tracks you’re likely to find this side of Badlands.
A big anthemic ballad called “I’ll Be There” blows the nuts off anything Jon Bon has cooked up over the years. It’s more like Holidays In Eden era Marillion, two years early. But that’s just a preamble to the finale: “Break Down the Barricades”, a massive tune with enough hooks to feed an entire nation of hungry rock n’ rollers all their vitamins and minerals.
Stick it in Your Ear might be the last great debut album of the hard rock age. While the genre suffered from too much similar product on the shelves, and was destined to be supplanted by something more edgy, this is one album that deserved a shot. More so than some of its contemporaries by established bands entering slumps at the same time. This is simply a very special album that started Laine on a long career that continues today.