Helix’s fifth album was an important one. They were following the “big hit” album (Walkin’ the Razor’s Edge) and there were expectations. The band collected another batch of original material and hit the studio with producer Tom Treumuth again.
1985’s Long Way to Heaven is the second album with the “classic” Helix lineup: Brian Vollmer, Brent “the Doctor” Doerner, Paul Hackman, Greg “Fritz” Hinz and Daryl Gray. All but drummer Fritz contributed songs, with Vollmer, Hackman and Doerner leading the pack.
The two singles were the opening tracks. “The Kids Are All Shakin’” is a catchy for American radio play. It has always been a damn fine song.
Down in New York City,
All the way to L.A.,
Boys and girls are gonna shake it,
Yeah, each and every day.
There’s also a reference to a fan letter from Poland that was a big deal to the band at the time. “Kids Are All Shakin’” is a great rock and roll celebration, but the single version with additional keyboards is better.
The other single was the hit acoustic/electric ballad “Deep Cuts the Knife” written by Hackman and Bob Halligan, Jr. To this day it remains one of, if not the very best ballad Helix have done. It has atmosphere and bite, and a killer vocal performance by Brian Vollmer.
There are good tracks after the first two, but nothing quite as memorable. “Ride the Rocket” (Vollmer/Halligan) is fun but silly. I’m sure you can guess what kind of rocket Brian is singing about when he says “Reach in the pocket”. Other decent songs include the title track, which has a great chorus melody, and the heavy-as-fuck “House on Fire”. There’s also another ballad called “Without You (Jasmine’s Song)” that is worthy of praise.
There is nothing wrong with any of the other tunes, and some have some pretty cool moments. “Don’t Touch the Merchandise” has a nifty a cappella section that proves what great vocalists the band are. It’s just that none of the other songs really have a lot of staying power in the brain.
Long Way to Heaven was one of those follow-ups that was good enough, but always remain in the shadow of the more successful predecessors.