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.
Part 7.5 in my series on Ace Frehley, sorta! Plenty of Ace related coolness here. For the last part of the Ace series,12 Picks, click here.
A World With Heroes – A KISS Tribute for Cancer Care – A 40th Anniversary Celebration
Cancer sucks. Kiss rules. Agreed? Buy this CD.
Mitch Lafon executive produced this sucker, and I suspect that means a hell of a lot of work. I have never in my travels discovered a cooler Kiss tribute album. Do you really need to buy another Kiss tribute album? Do you? Yes, you do. Why? For the following reasons:
Profits benefit the Vaudreuil-Soulanges Palliative Care Residence in Hudson, Quebec.
Obscure track selections.
Rare Kiss related gems, such as two Peter Criss Band demos with Phil Naro.
Superstar performers including Mark Tornillo of Accept, Russ Dwarf, Don Dokken, Bonfire, Sean Kelly, Vinny Appice, L.A. Guns, Doro, and many more.
Members of the Kiss family including Eric Carr, Peter Criss, Frehley’s Comet (minus Frehley), Bob Kulick and Phil Naro.
I can’t say enough good things about this compilation. Upon first sight, it had enough rarities from artists I liked, as well as Kiss obscurities, to make it a must-have. Hearing it, I’m blown away repeatedly. It is a heady brew of hits and deep, deep cuts. Since there are 51 tracks in total, I can’t go into too much detail. I’ll point out some personal favourite moments.
I’m a huge fan of the Revenge album, and I’m a huge fan of Accept. Hearing Mark Tornillo do his thing through “Spit” was awesome. I think the man’s vocal cords must be made of steel or something for him to sing like that. I also loved “Sure Know Something”, although I don’t know Chris Buck & Anthony Cardenas Montana. It’s a slinky version, very true to the original but with a Rod Stewart vibe. Jeff Paris does a pretty authentic “Shout Mercy” and I give him full points for doing a Monster tune, the newest Kiss song on A World With Heroes.
I’ve loved Brighton Rock since I was a kid, but I never expected them to unplug “Creatures of the Night”. This twist takes a moment to get used to, but their haunting arrangement is very original and cool! “Larger Than Life” from Alive II is revisited by Brian Tichy and friends, and they do it pretty straight to the original, almost lick for lick. It’s great. I love that Ron Young from Little Caesar sings “Little Caesar”, a nice wink and a smile there. A band called Shredmill contribute their original song “Outerspace”…which was later covered by Ace Frehley on his Anomaly album (giving himself a writing credit). Shredmill’s version is more Danzig, where Ace’s was more Ace.
On the second CD, surprises and highlights continue. Ron Keel and friends from Tesla and Cinderella knock it out of the park on “Rock N’ Roll Hell”, with a nod at the start to Keel’s own “The Right To Rock”. Rick Hughes of Quebec metal masters Sword helps blow the doors off “The Oath”, a favourite from The Elder. The L.A. Guns guys (Phil Lewis included) tackle the difficult “Master & Slave” from Carnival of Souls, and it smokes. They do it authentic to the grungy original but with Phil’s snarky vocals.
As a Killer Dwarfs fan, I’m always pleased to hear Russ Dwarf’s nasally twang, and he turns in a decent “Hard Luck Woman”. (Meanwhile, another bunch of L.A. Guns guys did their own version on disc one.) Bonfire contribute a live version of Paul Stanley’s unreleased song “Sword & Stone”, from their Live at Wacken CD. I don’t really know who American Dog are, but I love that they covered the Paul Stanley version of “God of Thunder”, not the Gene Simmons take from Destroyer. They do it the speedy rocked-up way that Paul originally demoed. Jim Crean does justice to “Magic Touch”. He’s almost Joe Lynn Turner style on this one.
The second CD ends with two takes of “Beth” (Chris VanDahl sounding like the hoarse Peter Criss on Alive II, and Phil Naro). This is in addition to Michael Lardie’s (Great White) version on disc one. Naro’s is easily the best of the three.
But wait, that’s not all, folks. iTunes are selling a 51 track version of A World With Heroes, including 11 exclusives. Thankfully, you can buy these exclusives separately if you already bought the CD (like I did). Once again, highlights are many. Doro contributes a 2013 re-recording of “Only You”, which she had a previous hit with back in 1990. Russ Dwarf returns with an outstanding “God Gave Rock and Roll To You II”. There are two previously unreleased demos by the Peter Criss Band with Phil Naro. These feature Peter on drums, but believe me, you can hear that it is the Cat Man and no one else. In addition, there’s a third song from this period, but recorded by Phil in 2013. There is also a second version of “Larger Than Life”, this time by somebody called Robot Lords Of Tokyo. I don’t know who Robot Lords Of Tokyo are, but I love “Larger Than Life” and I have no problem with another version of it. This one’s done quite differently, and heavier too.
But wait! There’s still more! Pledgers who pre-ordered the CD got four bonus tracks. I missed the boat on these, and you can’t get them anymore. I’m bummed about that, but for the sake of completion, the four bonus tracks are:
‘Calling Dr. Love’ – Performed by: Crash Kelly
‘Comin’ Home’ – Performed by: Sudden Flames
‘Heaven’s On Fire’ – Performed by: The Feckers (ft. Irene Slade)
‘I Was Made For Lovin’ You’ Performed by: Alain Pernot
I’d love to have these, especially Crash Kelly, but alas. The project is still awesome and worth your coins. Especially if you’re a self respecting Kiss fan. Get it.
EDIT: I now have the tracks. Crash Kelly’s is awesome! Fun and awesome.
‘Psycho Circus’ – Performed by: DDRIVE (Phil Naro, Don Mancuso, Dave Sessions, Jt Taylor & Bobby Bond)
‘Spit’ – Performed by: Ken Dubman, Jimmy Callahan, Scott Metaxas, & Mark Tornillo
‘Deuce’ – Performed by: Bill Leverty, Kevin Valentine, John Regan, & Russ Dwarf
‘Sure Know Something’ – Performed by: Chris Buck & Anthony Cardenas Montana
‘Detroit Rock City’ – Performed by: Ron ‘Bumblefoot’ Thal, Rex Brown & Brian Tichy
‘Eyes Of Love’ – Performed by: Eric Carr, Benny Doro & John Humphrey
‘Shout Mercy’ – Performed by: Jeff Paris, Troy Lucketta, Eric Brittingham Jeff Labar
‘Creatures Of The Night’ – Performed by: BRIGHTON ROCK
‘Larger Than Life’ – Performed by: Rex Brown, Brian Tichy & Mark Zavon
‘Cold Gin’ – Performed by: Don Dokken & Tommy Denander
‘Love Gun’ – Performed by: Tony Harnell, Mark Kendall, Scott Snyder, Sean Michael Clegg, Kevin Valentine & Tommy Denander
‘Little Caesar’ – Performed by: Ron Young, John Regan & Tommy Denander
‘Hard Luck Woman’ – Performed by: Chris VanDahl, Stacey Blades & Adam Hamilton
‘Outerspace’ – Original demo later covered by Ace Frehley on his Anomaly album – Performed by: SHREDMILL (David Askew, Jesus Mendez Jr, Jaime Moreno)
‘Goodbye’ – Performed by: IMPERIA & BOB KULICK (J.K.Impera, Matti Alfonzetti, Tommy Denander & Mats Vassfjord) – Additional Guitars by Lars Chriss
‘See You Tonight’ – Performed by: TODD FARHOOD & MYSTERY (Todd Farhood, Michel St-Pere, Sylvain Moineau, Jean-Sébastien Goyette, Francois Fournier & Benoit Dupuis)
‘Beth’ – The Grand Piano Version – Performed by: Michael Lardie
‘Tomorrow’ – Performed by: DRESSED TO CHILL (Matt Bradshaw, Rav Thomas & Rhys Lett)
‘Anything For My Baby’ – Performed by: SLAVES ON DOPE (Kevin Jardine, Jason Rockman, Seb Ducap & Peter Tzaferis)
‘Unholy’ – Performed by: Fred Duvall, Glenn Belcher, Mark Slaughter (Guitar Solo), Rob Zakojc & Russ Dwarf
‘Breakout’ – Performed by: Tod Howarth, John Regan & Kevin Valentine
‘Rock N Roll Hell’ – Performed by: Ron Keel, Troy Lucketta, Eric Brittingham & Jeff Labar
‘Nowhere To Run’ – Performed by: DRUCKFARBEN (Phil Naro, Ed Bernard, William Hare, Troy Feener & Peter Murray)
‘The Oath’ – Performed by: Rick Hughes, Chris Buck & Bob Richards
‘Master & Slave’ – Performed by: Adam Hamilton, Scott Griffin, Stacey Blades & Phil Lewis
‘Calling Dr.Love’ – Performed by: BURNING RAIN (Keith St John, Doug Aldrich, Sean McNabb & Matt Starr)
‘I Stole Your Love’ – Performed by: S.U.N. (Brian Thomas Tichy, Sass Jordan & Tommy Stewart) With Derek Sharp (Of The Guess Who)
‘Reason To Live’ – Performed by: Johnnie Dee & Derry Grehan of HONEYMOON SUITE with Michael Foster & Bill Leverty of FIREHOUSE
‘Hard Luck Woman’ – Performed by: Fred Duvall, Glenn Belcher, Rob Zakojc & Russ Dwarf
‘Forever’ – Performed by: Terry Ilous, Sean Kelly With Jeff Paris.
‘Sword And Stone’ – Taken From Bonfire Live In Wacken – Performed by: BONFIRE (Claus Lessmann, Hans Ziller, Chris Limburg, Uwe KöHler, Harry Reischmann)
‘God Of Thunder’ – Performed by: AMERICAN DOG (Michael Hannon, Steve Theado & Keith Pickens)
‘She’ – Performed by: RAZER (Chris Powers, Chris Catero, Jordan Ziff, Paul Sullivan, Eric Bongiorno & Chuck Alkazian)
‘New York Groove’ – Performed by: SLAVES ON DOPE (Kevin Jardine, Jason Rockman, , Elizabeth Lopez & Peter Tzaferis With Marty O’Brien)
‘Magic Touch’ – Performed by: Jim Crean, Phil Naro, Vinny Appice, Steve Major & Stan Miczek
‘Tears Are Falling’ – Performed by: Willie Basse, Bruce Bouillet, Scott Warren & Mike Hansen.
‘Rock N Roll All Nite’ – Performed by: Harley Fine, John Regan & Atom Fellows
‘Shandi’ – Performed by: Dani Luv, Scott Griffin & Matt Starr
‘Beth – Bonus Track’ – Performed by: Chris Vandahl & Scott Griffin.
‘Beth – Bonus Track’ – Performed by: Phil Naro, William Hare & Ed Bernard
‘No, I’m Not Afraid’ (Previously Unreleased Peter Criss Band Demo from 1991) – Performed by Peter Criss and Phil Naro
‘Wait For A Minute To Rock N’ Roll’ (Previously Unreleased Peter Criss Band Demo from 1991) – Performed by Peter Criss and Phil Naro
‘Back On The Streets’ (2013 Mix originally from Return of the Comet) – Performed by Richie Scarlet, John Regan, Tod Howarth, Arthur Stead & Steve Werner (The Comet Band)
‘Only You’ (2013 Recording) – Performed by DORO
‘God Gave Rock N Roll To You II’ – Performed by Russ Dwarf
‘I’m An Animal’ (2013 Mix originally from Return of the Comet) – Performed by the Comet Band
‘Let Me Go Rock N’ Roll’ – Performed by The Oddfathers
‘Surrender In The Name Of Love’ (Written by Peter Criss & Phil Naro) – Performed by 24K featuring Phil Naro and Mladen Alexander
‘Love Gun’ (Tommy Denander Guitar Solo Mix) – Performed by Tony Harnell, Kevin Valentine and Tommy Denander
‘Larger Than Life’ (2013 Remaster – Robot Lords Of Tokyo version) – Performed by Robot Lords Of Tokyo
‘Cold Gin’ (2013 Remaster from L.A. GUNS’ 1998 Wasted EP) – Performed by L.A. Guns
Harem Scarem didn’t emerge from the Toronto rock scene fully formed. Rather, they first appeared as an AOR pop rock group, assisted by pro writers such as Marc Ribler, Christopher Ward (“Black Velvet”) and Honeymoon Suite’s Ray Coburn. My sister Kathryn liked Harem Scarem because their singer’s hair made him visually resemble a lion! It would take them until album #2 to shed the outside writers and find their feet as a progressive pop rock band more akin to Extreme than Bon Jovi.
They did, however, create a buzz by selling loads of copies of their demo CD. This was a rare thing, since most bands released demos on tape. Very few had the resources to put together a CD, and this got them signed to Warner.
The result is Harem Scarem, a somewhat faceless but incredibly hooky pop rock record waiting for radio play. It spawned five singles, including the huge (Canadian) hit “Honestly”. “Honestly” might be most notable today for its video, a cheesy affair starring Judge Reinhold!
What makes Harem Scarem special is the vocal work of lead singer Harry Hess. The man has a powerful voice, and when teamed up with drummer Darren Smith, the result is a big thick layered harmony. The band was rounded out by bassist Mike Gionet, and virtuoso guitarist Pete Lesperance, who really didn’t get to properly show off his chops until album #2. He does shred here, but sparingly and somewhat buried in the mix.
The debut album is loaded with mid-tempo rockers and ballads. A few too many ballads if you asked me, side one of the album has three ballady tracks in a row. It was 1991, grunge had yet to appear, and a mixture of ballads and rockers was the tried and true path to radio and video play. The best ballad isn’t the hit “Honestly”, which I find incredibly boring, but the closing song “Something To Say”. It’s an acoustic winner, and features plenty of Pete’s enviable chops. Harry sings passionately; this is a song that fits in with the acoustic hits of the day such as “More Than Words” and “To Be With You”.
Rather than the ballads, I keep coming back to the rockers. “Hard To Love”, which opens the album, is one of those AOR tunes that Bon Jovi only wishes he could have written. “How Long” is similar, catchy as hell, a singalong rocker that begs the windows to be rolled down on a hot summer day.
The centrepiece of the album was “Slowly Slipping Away”, the debut single/video. Still a great song today, this straddles the boundary between rocker and ballad. Opening with acoustic guitars, it soon works its way into a killer chorus, with guitar hooks and powerful harmonies galore. This is the song that got me into the band, as soon as I heard it, I knew this band had something uniquely theirs to offer. Unfortunately it took them a while to fully expand upon their sound.
I saw Harem Scarem live at Stages in Kitchener early in 1992. They played most of this album, some new material, as well as a couple covers: “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” and “Crazy Little Thing Called Love”. They complained that the bar owners made them play covers, but it was “Crazy Little Thing Called Love” that underlined their potential. They absolutely nailed it and proved that they had a lot more to offer than the simple AOR of their album.
I signed up to be a member of the fanclub, and I still have my membership card. I’m glad I was on board from the ground up, since the band grew by leaps and bounds in the years to follow.
If you’re into AOR rock, with lush harmonies, ballads, and melody, then you need to add Harem Scarem to your collection, particularly since the band have recently reunited. If that’s not your thing, fear not: I have a feeling you’d be into their later material such as Mood Swings and Karma Cleansing. This band had a lot more to offer than just rockers and ballads.