LEE AARON – Radio On! (2021 Metalville)
With a long career travelling landscapes of rock, jazz and metal, Lee Aaron has returned on CD with 12 new tracks that represent some of her best work to date. It’s called Radio On! and it’s an apt title. These are radio-ready tunes built for summer purposes. For best results, roll down those windows and hit the highway with Lee Aaron on your deck, loud.
Lee’s band with whom she wrote and recorded Radio On! include Sean Kelly on guitar, Dave Reimer on bass, and John Cody on drums. With a guy like Kelly contributing licks, you know you can count on some smokin’ guitar hooks and that’s exactly what you get on opener “Vampin'”. Hard hitting, but constructed with melody in mind. Lee is one of those artists for whom time has not passed. As she’s explored genres other than rock, she’s only gotten better and that shows on “Vampin'”. It belies the jazz records in her discography, but make no mistake, this is rock! Kelly’s solo break ensures it.
A collection of vintage-sounding riffs on the mid-tempo “Soul Breaker” lend it a melodic base. Lee uses that to springboard into hook after hook. Future classic potential. A memorable solo is like a maraschino cherry on top. Things turn slightly pop-punk on “C’Mon”, a brilliant single that will be lighting up stereos all summer long. Check out John Cody’s cool drum pattern and the jabbing stun-gun melodies that Lee delivers.
A diverse album this is, with “Mama Don’t Remember” sounding like a rocked-up roadhouse blues. You can picture a band playing this number in a seedy bar with dusty beams of light leaking through the walls. Then it’s the title track and the memorable hook “I wanna die with the radio on”. Me too, Lee!
“Soho Crawl”, backed by bouncy piano, rocks pretty hard in a different direction. Another road is explored on the dark “Devil’s Road”, with bass leading the way. Burning slow, laden with some of Lee’s finest words, “Devil’s Road” has the potential to be the kind of song that makes an album immortal, like a “Black Velvet”.
Picking up the pace, “Russian Doll” has the “Radar Love” rocking boogie, while Lee belts line after line of sticky sweet vocal candy. Kelly dives right into parts unknown for the wicked solo. Live, this is the song that will get people up and dancing. But this album doesn’t linger in the same places too long, and so the mid-tempo “Great Big Love” takes a different road. Opposites attract in the lyrics, and the music leaves lots of room for Lee to do her thang. Her lyrics just keep getting better. “It all comes down to chemistry, the science is in babe and science don’t lie.” There’s a swing and a country feel to it.
“Wasted” goes to dark territory. Serious subject matter, but wrapped gently in some of the most beautiful music Lee Aaron’s ever sung. All before it explodes punkily in the middle for a rousing chorus. Shifting into a funk groove, “Had Me at Hello” has some wicked rhythm. Lee’s playful words are an instrument to their own as the band jams on.
Finally closing on a piano ballad, Radio On! feels like a journey. The last leg is “Twenty One” which is likely to take you back in time. “Always in my mind, I’m 21.” It’s a vocal tour-de-force, ending an album full of ’em.
It’s worth celebrating any time a beloved artist from our past puts out a truly great album these days. For it to be one of the best albums of their career, that’s something very special. Respect to Mike Fraser for another perfect mix. Summer 2021 just gained another mainstay for its soundtrack.