Lee Aaron was out of the gates in ’92 with her first greatest hits CD called Powerline. The single was “Peace on Earth” originally from 1991’s Some Girls Do album. Check out what Lee had to say to Steve Anthony on MuchMusic’s Hostess Sneak Previews.
GETTING MORE TALE #735: Quite Possibly the Worst Music Video I’ve Ever Seen
Vigilants – “Run For Cover”
Recording music videos from the TV as a kid was a fine art. My method was to keep the machine on “record-pause” as videos were playing. Then all I had to do was un-pause and I’d be able to start recording almost immediately. I’d lose maybe a second of video. Then I’d pause again at the end, waiting for the next “good song”.
The Pepsi Power Hour was an amazing way to discover new (or old) bands. By recording the videos, I could hear the songs over and over. If there was a new band I was curious about, I’d take a chance and hit record. If I didn’t like the song or band, I’d just rewind and record over it. The Power Hour would play virtually any kind of metal. Their intro had Slayer’s “Angel of Death” as the theme music! From Poison to Cro-Mags, they would play it. Venom were regular favourites.
One afternoon in 1986, I was recording away when J.D. (John) Roberts announced a new band coming up, called Vigilant. (Over the years I’ve seen it spelled as Vigilants and Vigilante, but I will continue to use the spelling as it appeared on TV that day.) I recorded it — decent enough hard rock song — and I kept the video because their labelmate Lee Aaron had a cameo in it. Lee Aaron was and is Canada’s Metal Queen, so I thought the band must be OK. But dear God, what a video. What a horrendous video!
Let’s break it down.
We got the asshole record exec who won’t give a band a shot. We have Lee Aaron at reception, and a stripper entering the offices! What could this be about?
The stripper plays the record exec a tape, and then suddenly enters: more strippers! How many? Who knows, but you can play “count the strippers” with your friends if you like. The song is playing, but we still haven’t seen the band.
It’s well over two minutes before the band burst into the room, guitars in hand, to play along to their song. The fashion of the day: checkers, stripes, tassels, and tight tight pants. Pants so loud that Jon Bon Jovi himself wouldn’t have been seen in them. The bassist has one of those narrow body basses that were trendy at the time. The drummer? He doesn’t even show up until the 3:00 mark. Poor drummer! The point of course is that the strippers have far more screen time than the guys in the actual band, the hallmark of the stinkiest of the 1980s. Sulfer-stinky!
The plot thickens when a roadie enters, with a flash bomb. He’s going to blow up the band! But then, Lee Aaron pulls the old switcheroo. And the roadie, though good at plugging in flash bombs, doesn’t seem to know how to unplug them. Guess who gets blowded up! Not the band or the strippers, I’ll tell you that!
Don’t worry, it’s a happy ending for everybody. Including the lead stripper, it’s heavily implied….
Please enjoy (?) the music video for “Run For Cover” by Vigilant (or Vigilante, or Vigilants) featuring Lee Aaron. The song actually wasn’t that bad. The verses were nothing to write home about, but the bridge and chorus are pretty good! Generic as hell, but it was the 80s. (Oh, and check out the funny MuchMusic bumper before the actual video, featuring Loudness singer Minoru Niihara!)
Respect to Lee Aaron! She’s persisted through the decades with a multi-faceted career, including her early metal roots. What she really needed was some kind of compilation CD that captured it all. 1992’s Powerline is a good compilation but some of Lee’s most interesting work came after. Radio Hitz and More… fills in some of the blanks from the past 20 years. You can only get it via Lee’s website as a promotional item. I bought a T-shirt and got the CD with it, signed and personalized.*
Even if it haunted her career at times, “Metal Queen” is a damn fine song. Period, end of sentence. Today we can see that “Metal Queen” had it all: killer quintessential riff, howling vocals and a searing solo. Few metal singers could touch Lee Aaron’s ability. While the fans knew she could do more than metal, she absolutely owned it on “Metal Queen”. Hail to the queen.
Lee eventually shifted into a hard rock mold. “Whatcha Do to My Body” was a big hit, and it’s next in radio edit form. It delivered big hooks and didn’t require any song doctors. Lee Aaron and her longtime guitarist John Albini wrote it and were rewarded with loads of MuchMusic video play. However the two did collaborate with an outside writer on “Powerline” (1987) and that outside writer was surprisingly former Rainbow singer Joe Lynn Turner. “Powerline” is a bit light and heavily reliant on keyboards, sounding a little like Heart.
The songs included from Lee’s “rock” period are all pretty much hits in Canada. “Hands On” followed “Watcha Do to My Body” in regular video rotation. “Sweet Talk” and “Sex With Love” were singles from another big Lee Aaron album, Some Girls Do (1991). The title track “Some Girls Do” is here and very Van Halen. Two of Lee’s most stunning ballads are included too. “Barely Holdin’ On” could be her best song, period. “Only Human” was from the 1987 pop rock era, but is a strong ballad regardless. Only a few notable singles are missing. The always likeable Disco-dis “Shake it Up” is too hard to find out there in the wild. Another big ballad, “Peace on Earth” is missing in action. However the space does not go to waste.
In 1996 Lee Aaron resurfaced with a new band called 2preciious. The lineup included Lee and the three Dons from Sons of Freedom! A strange combo to be sure, and the alternative-flavoured album they came out with didn’t make waves, though it got decent reviews. “Mascara” is edgy acoustic rock, completely unlike Lee’s previous work. There’s even a rare European-only track called “Concrete and Ice” which is a bass-heavy 90s groove rocker. Great stuff; it’s unfortunate it didn’t gain traction, because with Alanis Morissette being so big at the same time, perhaps Lee could have tagged along.
The next stage of Lee Aaron’s career was her entry into the jazz world. 2000 saw the release of her album Slick Chick, and in 2004 there was Beautiful Things. Tracks from both are here, including the instantly likeable “I’d Love To”. It’s a little jarring to hear “Handcuffed to a Fence in Mississippi” in the middle of a bunch of rock tracks, though.
This compilation is great for gathering together a bunch of Lee Aaron’s diverse hits, but that’s not all. Track 18 is a little bonus for collectors. From Sweden Rock, it’s killer track “Baby Go Round” originally from Emotional Rain. This live version is available nowhere else, which is like catnip for collectors.
77 minutes of music, for free? How do you spell N-O-B-R-A-I-N-E-R?
*If ordering, check before assuming they still offer signed CDs.
RECORD STORE TALES Mk II: Getting More Tale
#331: Where Do You Buy Your Music?
Where do you buy music? I put together an informal survey of where my music has come from over the last 12 months.
DISCOGS – What a great way to fill up on old 12” and 7” singles that I am missing. Not a great way to fill up on uber-rarities. For example, I cannot pay $63 for Tenacious D’s Jazz EP which has only one track. I cannot pay $58 for Iron Maiden’s “Virus” single on 12” vinyl which has two rare Soundhouse Tapes on the B-side.
AMAZON – The lion’s share of my music comes from here. Whether it be a new release or a reissue of something in a deluxe format, Amazon is my go-to store. The prices are fair and the shipping is free for all orders over $25, which is all my orders anyway. Also great for gift-giving when your family has created their own Amazon wishlists. And if you don’t want to buy new titles, Amazon has plenty of marketplace sellers who deal in affordable, good condition used CDs. You just have to check out their ratings, like you would on eBay.
ENCORE RECORDS – The newly relocated Mecca of music shopping in Kitchener. It was even better when Encore was located just around the corner from the great comic book store, Looking For Heroes. Then I could kill two birds with one stone (or as Ricky might say, get two birds stoned at once). Their selection of new and used is awesome. Any deluxe reissues that I don’t get from Amazon can easily be found there. T-shirts, oddball releases, singles…this is the place to go in the area. At least, this is where I go!
CD JAPAN – I’ve been buying on and off from CD Japan for over a decade, but only in the last year have I really gone hogwild. (Thanks, Mitch.) When I can find Japanese versions of albums with bonus tracks for only a little more than the domestic versions, I’m in. These guys have never let me down. I’ve bought about a dozen discs from them in the last 12 months, none of which I would have been able to buy affordably anywhere else that I shop. My biggest score ever was my recent Thin Lizzy At The BBC box set. CD Japan price, brand new? $140. Discogs price, for US issue? $322.
SUNRISE – Now closed at Fairview mall. Too bad. I used to buy a lot of stuff there. They had great sale items. I stocked up on Zappa reissues there for $9 each!
ITUNES – For exclusives only. I will never buy anything on iTunes that can be had physically. This year I purchased Mitch Lafon’s A World With Heroes EP on iTunes, and the odd bonus track here and there. That’s it. iTunes can fuck off otherwise.
And of course, sometimes you just have to buy music directly from the artist. Artists such as Lee Aaron and Helix have earned my dollars via their own websites this year.
EBAY – I have bought no music from eBay in over two years. When I’m looking for uber-rarities, this is a very expensive way to get them. A last resort only.
My old store – Although Aaron finds stuff he wants there all the time, I haven’t had any luck in the last 12 months. However that is simply because I have so many CDs. It’s not due to the quality of that store. They are excellent at selling good condition used items. I just haven’t found much this year. I’m sure I will again. I’m just very picky about which versions of items I want, and if I don’t find the exact version I just want to keep looking. I still recommend my old store to anyone looking for cheap, good quality used CDs.
Regardless of where I obtain my music, one thing is certain: The collection keeps growing, and growing, and growing. I am confident with 100% certainty that it will continue to grow, thanks to the fine vendors listed here!
METAL ON ICE – Tunes from Canada’s Hard Rock and Heavy Metal heroes (2013 Warner Canada)
Good Sir Aaron purchased this for me at his local establishment for the low, low price of $5. In Aaron’s review, he stated, “This is the best $5 I’ve spent on spec in ages. Bar none.” That’s mighty tribute from a guy like Aaron, who buys a lot of CDs on spec.
What is Metal On Ice? The talented guitarist Sean Kelly (Crash Kelly, Four By Fate, The #1 Classical Guitar Album) put together a book of rock tales from Canada’s best of the 80’s: Helix, Anvil, Coney Hatch, Killer Dwarfs, Kick Axe and more. To go with it, he also produced this EP. Metal On Ice, the CD, consists of remakes of Canadian heavy metal classics. For all but one song, he has the original singers from the bands singing lead vocals. For the one that he doesn’t, (Kick Axe’s “On the Road to Rock”) he has Nick Walsh from Slik Toxik. Then to top it all off, he and Walsh wrote a new song called “Metal On Ice” featuring vocals from almost everybody.
Many of these songs are radio staples. “Heavy Metal Love” is one of those Helix classics that has endured. Written by Brian Vollmer and the late Paul Hackman, I think it’s one of Helix’s best tunes, period. Vollmer’s pipes speak for themselves. Sean Kelly was in Helix, on bass, for a few months before Brian reunited the classic lineup. Playing bass on this version however is Helix bassist Daryl Gray. It’s a pretty authentic remake.
I found “Metal Queen” by Lee Aaron to be the most impressive track. I cannot believe Lee’s voice, powerful as ever! With the new production and guitars by Sean Kelly, “Metal Queen” has actually been improved. It’s still an old-school metal chugger, but you can actually hear the lyrics now! What is important is that Kelly has not changed the songs very much at all. His impressively tasteful playing is enough to make each one shine just a little more. Each solo is 100% appropriate to the classic songs.
A great example of this is the Headpins’ “Don’t It Make Ya Feel” featuring Darby Mills. He has captured the vibe of the original guitar tone, and the song is very authentic. Similarly, Nick Walsh does not deviate too much from George Criston’s lead vocals from “On the Road to Rock”. When Walsh screams the high notes, it’s perfect. Carl Dixon sings lead on Coney Hatch’s classic “Hey Operator”. Dixon nearly died in a car accident not too long ago; it’s great to hear his voice as strong as ever. How do these Canadian singers stay perpetually young sounding? Is it our cold, frosty air?
Russ Dwarf returns to remake the Killer Dwarfs favourite, “Keep the Spirit Alive”. This has always been my favourite Killer Dwarfs song, right from the very beginning. It’s absolutely wonderful to hear a well produced updated version. I admit that when I first got this CD, I went back and played “Keep the Spirit Alive” four or five times in a row.
Finally, there is the new original song “Metal on Ice”. This ode to the road features lead vocals from Dixon, Vollmer, Mills, Walsh and Aaron. I love the lyrics: “Hello Kelowna, goodbye Kenora, but we do it all tomorrow in Thunder Bay,” for example. It is these kinds of Canadian towns that has kept the rock alive through trends and changing winds. Walsh proudly proclaims that even though they may never make it to the top, they’re never going to stop.
A great sentiment on which to end a great CD.
Get them here: http://www.leeaaron.com/
RECORD STORE TALES Part 215: Mono
Today, I was listening to some old-school Dio, and I had a thought. A sudden thought that I wanted to explore:
“My taste in music was 100% solidified by that month in 1986 that I had mono!”
Yeah! I think it’s true! I was sick at home for a month (at least) too tired to do anything except record videos on the Pepsi Power Hour! I was inundated with a steady intake of incredible songs, in many cases for the first time. And because I still have the old VHS tapes, I know exactly what’s on them. This brief but intense period of my life was rocked by this soundtrack, over and over again:
Dio – “Rock and Roll Children”
Lee Aaron – “Shake It Up”
ZZ Top – “Rough Boy”
Thor (Jon Mikl Thor) – “Keep the Dogs Away”
Triumph – “Never Surrender”
Loudness – “Let It Go”
Spinal Tap – “Hell Hole”, the theme song that my sister and I dedicated to our old Catholic grade school!
These songs were first impressed upon me during that period, the visuals always cool and intriguing to me. Especially Lee Aaron. Ahem. Anyway. I watched these videos over and over again. I recorded the audio (in mono) (…hah, I made a pun!) to a cassette so I could listen to them on my Walkman. This came in handy at the cottage. We didn’t have a VCR or cable there, so the only way to bring my songs was to tape them from the TV.
That one intense period of being stuck at home with nothing but heavy metal heroes might have made me the LeBrain I am today. I’m glad something good came out of it! I couldn’t even go swimming that entire summer!
LEE AARON – Lee Aaron (1987 Unidisc Music)
Lee Aaron: Canada’s “Metal Queen”. It is a name she will never live down despite the credible jazz career. Try as she did to distance herself from the Metal Queen tag, Lee’s seems to embrace it more recently, even throwing a funky jazz-tinged version into her sets, as a mash-up with “Mysterious Ways” by U2! And it works!
In the late 80’s, Lee (aka Karen) was less comfortable than today with being the Metal Queen, and her 1987 self-titled disc is possibly the best example of this. All shades of metal were dropped; what was left is a mainstream pop rock record co-written with professionals such as Marc Ribler and Joe freakin’ Lynn Turner.
Growing up in Canada, you basically had two mainstream choices in female rock singers: Lita Ford, or Lee Aaron. That was all MuchMusic would play. OK, sure the odd Joan Jett track too, after her resurgence with Up Your Alley. That was it. Otherwise the Pepsi Power Hour was pretty much devoid of regular female rock heroes. There were the odd flashes in the pain — Vixen, Madame X — but Lee and Lita were the only two to get regular play year in year out. Lee of course had the trump card labelled CanCon in her deck.
I got this album for Christmas 1987, and I was so disappointed. The sound — plastic, turgid, processed, synthetic, with hardly any guitars. The songs — commercial pop designed to get played on the radio and not a hint of metal to be found anywhere. John Albini (now blonde all of a sudden?) is still her guitarist and co-writer, but there’s much less guitar on this album. There are also some truly awful, awful songs on here, most notably “Don’t Rain On My Parade”. I won’t tell what that rains smells like, but it don’t smell good.
The single/ballad “Only Human” is a decent song, very soft, but not too far off from stuff the Scorpions would do later on! (Lee actually sang backup vocals on “The Rhythm of Love” by the Scorps in ’88.) The best track is actually the pop keyboard rocker, “Powerline”. The guitar is not as dominant as the keyboards, but it does at least have some guitar. It has Joe Lynn Turner’s melodic sensibilities and songcraft, hooks galore, and a smashing chorus.
But then you get tripe like “Goin’ Off the Deep End”, “Dream With Me”, and…ugh. There was just no way, as a 15 year old, I was going to let anybody catch me listening to those songs. People might have thought I’d stolen my sister’s Tiffany tapes or something.
Turns out that Lee, despite that powerful voice, just wasn’t cut out to be a Metal Queen. She’s doing great as a jazz singer, and I think that’s just fine.