By request of reader WARDY!
House of Lords put out an impressive debut but didn’t sell a lot of copies. When the second album rolled out in 1990, their guitarist Lanny Cordola was gone and in was new guy Michael Guy. Although Guy is credited on guitar, in reality the album was recorded with Doug Aldrich and a number of guests. Weirdly, thanked in the credits for “additional inspiration” is Nick Simmons, who was one year old at the time. Sahara was of course on Simmons Records.
It’s a different sounding House, less regal but with more hooks per acre. The opening number “Shoot” draws liberally from the wells of both Led Zeppelin and Motley Crue. “Chains of Love” is Coverdale-lite, with singer James Christian pouring on as much sass as possible, but without Coverdale’s sly nods and winks. Whoever is playing the guitar solo on “Chains of Love” laid down a killer.
The acoustic cover “Can’t Find My Way Home” (Blind Faith) is pretty true to the original minus the falsetto, and would have to be one of the better power ballads from a rock band in 1990. House of Lords turn a serious corner on “Heart on the Line”, which sounds like a title for a ballad. This however is a speed racer, a chugging riff powering a rock-corker, which turns Cheap Trick on the chorus. Unsurprisingly, it was written by Rick Neilsen. Brilliant playing and soloing on this one. Then they rip off a song title from Coverdale himself, “Laydown Staydown”. Winger-esque sleeze rock is all this is, not even touching the brilliance of the Deep Purple song that inspired the title.
A much more impressive track opens side two, “Sahara”. This is progressive hard rock, with drummer Ken Mary layering a tribal drum effect that would have been very ahead of its time in 1990. This too degenerates into something more Winger-like as well, but it jumps from that back into more progressive sections, keeping things balanced and interesting. The second slot on side two is predictably another ballad, a good one called “It Ain’t Love”. Not just the title, but the gang chorus reminds of Dokken. Some fine soloing resides here to sink your fangs into.
The lead single was another power ballad, “Remember My Name”, which the band did not write. As an impressionable youth in 1990, I hated this single. “Never lead with a ballad,” was my thinking. I had been looking forward to new House of Lords since the debut slayed me in ’88. I didn’t want the first song to be a ballad they didn’t write. I still don’t think it’s a very good track. And surely a mistake to include it on the CD right before another ballad. “American Babylon” redeems it, coming back with a strong push. “Kiss of Fire” nails it with the knockout punch at the end, a blazing smoker with powerful keyboards that remind us of vintage Deep Purple. Finally it seems House of Lords nailed a song that lived up to their inspirations.
Perhaps it was the rotating cast of characters on guitar, but Sahara drifts further from the sound that made House of Lords unique in 1988. The danger of grasping for hits while taking their sound deeper in the mainstream was real. Though it is still an entertaining listen, Sahara is very uneven which makes it a bumpy ride.