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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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REVIEW: Def Leppard – “Wasted” / “Hello America” (1979 single)

Part 4 of my 4-part series on early Def Leppard singles!

DEF LEPPARD – “Wasted” / “Hello America” (1979 Vertigo/Phonogram single)

My initial thinking regarding this single was that I didn’t need it; both songs are available on On Through the Night.  Then I found out that these single versions of “Wasted” and “Hello America” are earlier, non-album recordings.  Rick Allen was in the band by this time but On Through the Night had yet to be recorded.  This immediately put the single on my radar as a must-have.

On Through the Night was produced by Tom Allom (Judas Priest) but before settling on him, Leppard tried out Nick Tauber due to his history with Thin Lizzy.  (He also produced Sheer Greed by Girl, the band that featured future Leppard alumnus Phil Collen.)  Tauber worked on the earlier, folksier Lizzy, not the later version of the band that rocked out such classics as “Jailbreak” and “Bad Reputation”.

The story goes that the record label was unhappy with Nick Tauber’s results and put a halt to his work on the album.  He had finished four songs:  These two, plus “Rock Brigade”, and “Glad I’m Alive” which both remain unreleased.  The label released “Wasted” as a single while recruiting Tom Allom to start over on the album.

“Wasted” boasts one of Leppard’s all time greatest riffs, if not the greatest.  You can see how this song has remained a cult favourite all these decades later.  This earlier version isn’t as adrenalized (pardon the pun) as the later album version, but there’s otherwise nothing wrong with it.  I think Allom’s album version is safely still the definitive one.  The two tracks are not that dissimilar, just Allom’s more in tune with the current heavy metal sounds.

The B-side, “Hello America”, would become a single in its own right the following year, in its guise as an Allom track.  This might be one that I prefer in its Tauber version.  Allom added a synthesizer riff to the chorus of “Hello America” that I always felt dated the tune.  While this version is not as manic or electrified, it does have the bare unadorned chorus.  There are bonuses to both versions.

It’s kind of funny to hear how shaky Joe Elliott’s voice was back then.  He grew into a powerful screamer by the High ‘n’ Dry album, which is my favourite period of Def Leppard.  They were all young back then, but Joe was clearly not as confident nor in his control of his voice in 1979.

Still, as a purchase, as a single, as a collectible, I am very happy with this.  My only regret is that I didn’t find one with a picture sleeve.

4.5/5 stars

REVIEW: Def Leppard – The Def Leppard E.P. (1979)

Part 2 of a 4-part series on early Def Leppard singles!

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DEF LEPPARD – The Def Leppard E.P. (1979 Bludgeon Riffola)

I’ve been slowly, slowly working towards a complete Def Leppard collection.  This is one of the last items from the early years that I still needed — The Def Leppard E.P.  This is a 7″ single,  33 1/3 RPM however, and never have these recordings been released on a Def Leppard CD.  This first EP had Frank Noon on drums.  He was just a fill-in, and a month later Def Lep replaced him with a 15 year old Rick Allen.

I have been wanting this one since I was a young fella.  Def Leppard was a band I was obsessed with back in highschool.  They are in fact the band that really kicked off my collecting, as I described in one of the first Record Store Tales.  “Ride Into the Sun” was the B-side to the “Hysteria” single, and it has long been a personal favourite of mine.  What I found out later was that this B-side was actually a re-recording of one of the very earliest Def Leppard songs, pre-On Through the Night!

The self-produced 1979 version of “Ride Into the Sun” is a bit different, not as fast or heavy, and containing a different pre-chorus.  It’s still a great, fun Def Leppard song from their brief “NWOBHM” period.  “Getcha Rocks Off” is a Van Halen-style shuffle, a cool tune that really cooks, with hot solos and a couple smoking riffs.   This recording was briefly available on Lars Ulrich’s NWOBHM compilation album.  A heavier live (?) version of this song is available on the On Through the Night album.

Side B was taken up by a 7:50 epic track called “The Overture”.  This song too was re-recorded by Tom Allom for the debut album (that version is just called “Overture”).  Perhaps this song is as close as Def Leppard has ever been to a metal band.  It riffs solidly along with some primitive dual guitar hooks.  There are ample solos, pounding drums, and different sections and tempos.  It’s like Def Judas Maiden.  Or something.

The edition I bought is MSB001 of which 15,000 copies were made.  This edition unfortunately did not come with the picture sleeve.  The original cover was spoof of the His Master’s Voice logo, with a leopard instead of a dog.

I’m glad to finally have this Def Lep collectible.  It’s been a long time waiting.

4/5 stars

REVIEW: Def Leppard – “Hello America” / “Good Morning Freedom” (single)

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HELLO AMERICA FRONT

DEF LEPPARD – “Hello America” / “Good Morning Freedom” (1980 Vertigo/Phonogram)

“Hello America” was the third of three singles from Def Leppard’s debut album, the first two being “Wasted” and “Rock Brigade”.  Like many kids in the late 80’s, I first heard the song “Hello America” on Def Leppard’s video anthology, Historia.  It was a weird video, with Rick Allen’s drums up front and the band in behind!  Nobody would ever say that this was one of Def Leppard’s all time best songs, but it’s catchy with a driving riff.  Joe Elliot hadn’t really found his voice yet.  This is standard hard rock, but not outstanding.  The guitar solo by Steve Clark is quite excellent.

Please note, Leppard’s first single for “Wasted” had an alternate recording of “Hello America” on the B-side.  This is not that version.  This is the standard album version.

The B-side, like the A-side, was produced by (Colonel) Tom Allom who had also produced Judas Priest’s British Steel around the same time.  “Good Morning Freedom” was not on the On Through the Night LP, however.  This is an exclusive track.  Just over three minutes long, “Good Morning Freedom” is a good song, much in the same vein as the rest of Leppard’s music at the time.  “Good Morning Freedom” (parsed as “Goodmorning Freedom” on the vinyl itself) is very New Wave of British Heavy Metal in style.  It almost sounds like an Iron Maiden B-side from the same period.  The track boasts a driving rhythm, rock-solid riff, but also another shaky Joe Elliot lead vocal.  Not an outstanding song, but most definitely collectible.  The tune is credited to Elliot, Clark, guitarist Pete Willis and bassist Rick Savage.  It’s notable for its Rick Allen drum intro.

Not a bad single, comes with a picture sleeve, and rocks harder than their later material.

3/5 stars

Def Lep playing “Good Morning Freedom” in Vegas as part of Viva! Hysteria

Part 120: T-Rev Appreciation Day!

I was sitting here, trying to think of some new content to write.  Then it hit me:  T-Rev Appreciation Day!  

RECORD STORE TALES PART 120:  T-Rev Appreciation Day!

T-Rev, a past contributor here at LeBrain’s Blog, is a man whom I owe a lot.  Not only is he one of the best buds I’ve ever had (sniff) but he’s also responsible for getting me so damn many of my treasures.  Directly responsible.  Like, I’m not talking about stuff like, “Mike, you really need to buy some Oasis, Max Webster, and Steve Earle.  Oh, and while you’re at it, the second Four Horsemen album is awesome!” 

He did, in fact, turn me onto all four of those things.  But I’m talking more about the kind of situation where a combination of his eagle eyes, musical knowledge, and friendship scored me some discs!

Here’s two:

QUEENSRYCHE – Road To Promised Land aka ARRIVED!

This 1995  promo CD is a neat little greatest hits, going chronologically from the first EP to the Promised Land album!  The only exclusive track is a radio edit of “Damaged” but Trevor saw this one and gave me a call.  He knew I loved Queensryche, especially since I was going to see them with Tom that summer.

DIAMOND HEAD – Lightning To The Nations (original mix!)

T-Rev and I were both Metallica fans, and were both aware that they had covered numerous Diamond Head songs.  This, like the Queensryche disc, came into Trevor’s store.  While I wouldn’t fault him for snagging this one for himself, he deemed it slightly out of the scope of his core collection.  I’m glad he did, because this disc rocks!  And this is the original “Lars Ulrich approved” mix of the album, ripped straight from the LP.  Most CD editions were remixed, and the master tapes are now lost.  So this is a real treat and hopefully I’ll get around to reviewing it.   15 tracks, from the album itself plus B-sides and so on. 

I raise a glass to Trevor, surely one of the finest Record Store Dudes to ever grace a cash register!  My memories, and my collection, would be poorer without you.