- Breaking Loose – 40th Anniversary Expanded Edition (originally 1979, 2019 Prog AOR)
- White Lace & Black Leather – Classic Hard Rock Expanded Edition (originally 1981, 2019 Prog AOR)
Helix have really done it this year. They have a new album (Old School) made up of some pretty excellent songs that were never completed before. On top of that, you can also get brand new reissues of their first two indi albums, Breaking Loose and White Lace & Black Leather. Those two albums have already been reviewed in full, so this time we will focus primarily on the perks of these new CD versions.
Both discs feature lyrics, rare photos, and liner notes by Brian Vollmer. All essential things for a reissue, so what else? Unreleased tracks, that’s what else. Good ones! The hell, Brian? Where have you been hiding this stuff? If anyone assumed thought Helix cleared the vaults with their B-Sides album, they were mistaken. Maybe Universal should have been storing their tapes at Planet Helix….
Breaking Loose features “Let Me Take You Dancin'” (not the Bryan Adams song), apparently the first song they ever recorded, at the behest of manager William Seip. You can understand why they didn’t put it out, considering the Disco revolution going around. It’s too dance-y for what Helix wanted to be: a rock band. With 40 years hindsight, it’s bloody brilliant. Full-on horn section blasting away on a blatantly commercial rock song with just a whif of surf rock. Nothing wrong with any of that in 2019. “Sidewalk Sally” is the very first Brent Vollmer/Brian Doerner composition and you can tell by Dr. Doerner’s trademark chunky riff. This song is strictly outtake quality, but it’s notable for historic reasons (and the pretty advanced drumming by Brian Doerner).
The second album, White Lace & Black Leather, has two interesting bonus cuts as well. Brent Doerner wrote and sang a killer tune called “When the Fire is Hot”, which is one of the songs submitted to Capitol that got them signed. It’s never been released. It’s a very unpolished demo, but with a serious stomp and stunning guitar solo. The final bonus track is an unreleased early version of “White Lace & Black Leather”, which was re-recorded for their third album No Rest for the Wicked. See, for the first couple Helix albums, you had to wait until the next record to get the title track!
A brief talk about the albums themselves: both are chock full of great, unpolished youthful rock. Helix were just learning how to make records, but they had more than enough original material. Between the key songwriters (Paul Hackman, Brian Vollmer & Brent Doerner), they had plenty of quality songs. “Billy Oxygen”, “I Could Never Leave”, “Here I Go Again”, “You’re a Woman Now” and “Wish I Could Be There” from the first album alone are must-haves. Nobody should be forced to live their life without hearing “Billy Oxygen”. The second LP was almost as great as the first. “It’s Too Late”, “Breaking Loose”, “Mainline”, and “It’s What I Wanted” stand with the best material from the first. Sure, the band were rough around the edges, but they could already sing, play and write. They were goin’ places!
As for the mastering job, the music is not brickwalled like the versions of some songs on the Rock It Science CD. These discs are the versions to get; the expanded tracklist making them musts to the collecting fan who already own them all. Best of all, Planet Helix is offering them and the new Helix album for just 40 bucks. 40 bucks for 3 CDs is a ridiculous deal. I daresay these two albums have been steady companions to me over the years, and I look forward to re-enjoying them in this new form.
5/5 stars for Breaking Loose
4/5 stars for White Lace & Black Leather