lionheart

REVIEW: Lionheart – Hot Tonight (1984)

LIONHEART – Hot Tonight (1984 CBS, 2008 Kreshendo reissue)

Are you fan of Iron Maiden?  The early stuff, circa their first LP?  If so, read on — but don’t get your hopes up.

If you’re a long-time reader, you may remember Lionheart from Record Store Tale Part 133: Die For Love.  A used copy, a Japanese import, came into the store in 1996, and I stupidly passed on it.  The story went:

“$20 used, but with my discount more like $15.  Still, I ended up passing on it.  I only really liked the one song, and I had other stuff to buy that week including the new Scorpions and King’s X.  So, I made a judgement call and threw it on the shelves.  I put a sticker on it that said “Dennis Stratton ex-Iron Maiden” and it sold in a couple weeks.

What I forgot to mention in that Record Store Tale was that some customer who claimed to be a “huge Iron Maiden fan”, who had “all the albums” didn’t know who Dennis Stratton was.  He saw the sticker on the disc and claimed we had it wrong.  Little did he know, he was shopping in the store managed by LeBrain.  And LeBrain was not wrong.

Yes, Dennis Stratton was in Iron Maiden for a little while.  He played on the legendary first album, and Lionheart was hyped as a “New Wave of British Heavy Metal” supergroup because the guy that was in Def Leppard before Rick Allen (Frank Noon) was also in Lionheart for a little while.  There were stupid amounts of lineup changes before and after the album, which also featured Rocky Newton who later ended up in M.S.G.  The singer was a hearthrob named Chad Brown who had a voice, though not a particularly unique one.

Their debut album release was a keyboard-inflected 80’s rock record with lots of attempts at concert-ready songwriting.  That means lots of synth.  The drums are hot, echoey samples and the keyboards are ubiquitous.  It’s all very sterile and smacks of ambitions unachieved.  There are attempts at Queen-like harmony vocals, but underwhelming attempts.  They were clearly trying to write songs with epic qualities that would impress the musically inclined.  The opening track “Wait for the Night” has shades of Phenomenon (particularly a song called “Kiss of Fire”), another “metal” supergroup from around the same time.  Phenomenon however had Glenn Hughes singing.  Chad Brown can sing, but his voice doesn’t have enough character.  He sounds exactly like a guy singing in a Foreigner tribute band, or perhaps Coverdale-Lite.

The best song is, by far, the single “Die For Love”.   The music video is legendary cheese.  I love videos where bands have to embark on some kind of adventure.  Remember when Queensryche had to defeat the Queen of the Reich?  Or Grim Reaper vs. a man-beast in “Fear No Evil”?  (For more on this subject, check out Record Store Tales Part 206: Rock Video Night.)  Lionheart had something like this for their “Die For Love” clip.  I know if I ever need somebody to rescue a damsel in distress from a weird creepy doctor, I’m picking the rescue team with no shirts under their jumpsuits!  Look at Dennis fucking Stratton!  He takes a dude out with a kick, while riffing on his guitar.  Talk about multi-tasking; where do you see this kind of skill set today?

Unintentionally funny video aside, “Die For Love” wins as a song.  With an unforgettable chorus, backed with a memorable riff and great performance, the track gets full marks.   Just like a stopped clock must be right twice a day, everything clicked on “Die For Love”.   For most people, it won’t make buying the album worthwhile.  Given my history with the song, and then letting the Japanese import slip through my fingers in ’96, I don’t regret buying this album for one song.

Even the title track, the decent and hard rocking “Hot Tonight” doesn’t save the album.  Ultimately, when you put the album away and try to recall how the songs went, they have completely evaporated.  Only “Die For Love” and parts of “Hot Tonight” and “Nightmare” still linger in my memory banks.  No focus.  Everything on this disc has been done by someone else, only better.  Whether it be Styx, Night Ranger, Whitesnake or any of the other bands that Lionheart sometimes sounds like, it’s all been done.

2/5 stars

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Part 133: Die For Love

RECORD STORE TALES PART 133:  Die For Love

1996 was my first year of managing my own store.  In the very first weeks of business, in came this little gem, Japanese import, never seen it before.

The band featured Iron Maiden’s former guitarist, Dennis Stratton.  Dennis of course played on the first immortal Maiden platter and a few B-sides too.  The album featured one great single, “Die For Love”, which had one of the cheesiest music videos of all time.  Band must rescue blonde damsel in distress from horny-looking mad scientist.

It’s actually a really cool song, very commercial but solid and I’d been hunting for it for years.  Yet another treasure that fell into my lap.  Japanese import, $20 used, but with my discount more like $15.

Still, I ended up passing on it.  I only really liked the one song, and I had other stuff to buy that week including the new Scorpions and King’s X.  So, I made a judgement call and threw it on the shelves.  I put a sticker on it that said “Dennis Stratton ex-Iron Maiden” and it sold in a couple weeks.  It was after it sold that I regretted my decision!  I didn’t realize how rare the disc was, and I underestimated how much I liked that one song!

Thankfully it’s since been reissued.  Still, wouldn’t it have been nice to have that Japanese import?  Yeah.

Part 31: Quest For Music Videos!

Back in 1985 or so, MuchMusic was the window through which we discovered the vast majority of heavy metal.  For a while there, my sister had good taste in music.  Her favourite band was Motley Crue.  She was obsessed with their tall, tall hair.  I taped her the first two albums, Too Fast For Love and Shout At The Devil on two sides of a 90 minute tape.

Together, we watched a shitload of videos.  Our favourites were often the ones where the band seemed to be on some sort of quest, or adventure!  Some of these videos I haven’t seen in years, so forgive me if the memories are hazy…

Motley Crue – “Too Young To Fall In Love”.  It seems like some little kid is telling Motley Crue something important, and then they kick some ass.  My sister used to say to me, “I think that kid is telling Nikki Sixx to stand up.” 

Lionheart – “Die For Love”. You gotta see this one. Dennis Stratton, ex Iron Maiden. This evil guy in a white suit and a wheelchair has a pretty blonde girl captive! The band must come to the rescue! I hope their hair doesn’t get mussed! Good song though. Great song, even. SERIOUSLY funny video though, like those poses…the singer jumps around…they kind of dance-fight with the bad guys….

Queensryche – “Queen of the Reich”.  The Queen turned them to stone!

Thor – “Knock ‘Em Down”.  Thor (Also known of Jon Mikel Thor) was this musclebound metal singer, and his video was hilarious.  This evil space-witch named Pantera enslaves the population of the world below!  Thor, riding in his space ship (which is obviously a Millenium Falcon model with some battleship parts glued to it, and crewed by nothing but big-breasted women), beams down!  The evil space-witch shoots him with her red eye lasers, but Thor reflects it back with his mighty hammer!  The space-witch is defeated!

Dio – “The Last In Line”.  That video actually scared me a little, with the monsters leaking fluid and stuff.  I’m glad the kid got out of hell, although it looks like Dio has to stay.

Dio – “Holy Diver”.  Always the hero, Dio awkwardly weilds a sword that is obviously too big for his tiny frame.  But he does slay an ugly dude who doesn’t put up much of a fight.  Is that Jimmy Bain?  George used to say Vinny Appice is the guy forging the sword.  Is this true?

Grim Reaper – “Fear No Evil”.  The band ride into action on an armored APC (Asskicking Personnel Carrier), with spikes and tusks!  They must free the slaves of the evil minotaur.  Steve Grimmitt breaks the chains of the slaves with his bare hands! 

Armored Saint – “Can U Deliver”.  At least the beginning part, they seem to be looking for a sword in a desert!  A techno-coloured desert!

And of course, Kiss – “All Hell’s Breakin’ Loose”.  Gene doesn’t seem too impressed with Paul’s swordplay.  Vinnie looks less like a chick than in the previous video.  The post-nuclear holocaust seems to have somehow increased the size of women’s breases, if this video is to be trusted.