paul hackman

#983: Gimme Another R!

RECORD STORE TALES #983: Gimme Another R!

A sequel to Record Store Tales Part 2:  Gimme An R!

There’s a certain amount of pride that one takes in being a Helix fan.  Helix the band are almost as old as I am!  They formed in 1974 and put out their first independent album Breaking Loose in 1979.  And what a debut it was!  With a handful of road-tested songs, the band plied the waters of guitar rock, with a foot in sci-fi prog and another in boogie-woogie.  Just check out their first minor hit “Billy Oxygen” if you don’t believe me.  They’ve been releasing music steadily ever since, with Capitol Records and others, with only a minor five year gap between It’s a Business Doing Pleasure (1993) and half-ALIVE (1998).

In 2022, Helix are back with a new single called “Not My Circus, Not My Clowns”.  They’re getting ready to start gigging again after two years of Covid-induced hibernation.  The current lineup consists of founder Brian Vollmer, classic members Daryl Gray and Greg “Fritz” Hinz, and guitarists Chris Julke and Mark Chichkan.  Julke has already been in the band eight years, and Chichkan had countless gigs with Helix in the mid-90s.  These veterans absolutely know how to give ’em an R.  Then we have Sean Kelly helping out in the studio to boot, adding some nitro to the mix.  In other words:  Helix are still potent.

It’s fair to say we all miss Paul Hackman.  I never met Paul though I’ve met most of the others.  He sure was a talented writer, and many of his songs like “Heavy Metal Love” are beloved classics today.  Fritz Hinz has been through hell and back, making a stunning recovery after a coma-inducing fall from a roof.  In recent years we also lost original guitarist Ron Watson, keyboardist Don Simmons, and road warrior Brian Knight.  Brian Knight was a kid from our neighborhood, who went to do road work with Helix for many years.  We lost him in 2021.  Yet Helix keep on going, and going, and going.  Even former guitarist Brent “the Doctor” Doerner has a new album coming out called The Ashtray Sonatas.

Speaking of the good Doctor, I first befriended the guitarist in 2006 at a Helix gig.  I knew a guy named Shane Schedler, who was in his new solo band, and this led to an interview with Brent at his home.  It was the first of several visits.  A few months later, with a few gigs under his belt, Brent screened some live footage of the band and had some friends over to celebrate.  It was that night that I wrote up the official bios for his band.  I remember telling Brent I wanted to write the band member bios for his website and then running around the room getting quotes from all the members.  It was a lot of fun.  Definitely a personal highlight.

So for the first time since the first time, here are the Brent Doerner’s Decibel bios that I wrote.

Thanks to everyone who’s ever been in Helix for rocking us.


BRENT DOERNER’S DECIBEL

Band Bios and Fascinating Factoids

 

BRENT DOERNER (Lead Vocals, Lead & Rhythm Guitars)

“What’s right is what’s left after you’ve done everything else wrong.”

Not just every guitar slinger out there can claim to be a part of a Canadian rock institution.  Brent Doerner can:  He spent over 15 years in Helix playing guitar, writing, singing, blowing minds and winning fans the world over.  He has the battle scars and the gold records to prove it, but that’s not the end of the story.  A new chapter has just begun with Decibel, a new rock band of good-time tunes and unique lyrics that continues his legacy with pride and vision for the future.

CHICK (Rhythm Guitars)

“If you don’t have rhythm, stay at home.”

Ralph “Chick” Schumilas has been around the block once or thrice.  He has 40 years experience as a musician.   In the beginning, he was a drummer which gives him a rhythmic edge that’s tough to beat.  Formerly, he was the co-owner of  Buzz Marshall studios, and has played and written with such luminaries as Cheryl Lescom, Rob Juneau, and Keith Gallagher among others.  He brings his immense songwriting experience to Decibel’s solid live repertoire.

HILLS WALTER (Bass, Lead & Backing Vocals)

“I’m not working for road rash.”

Hilliard Walter’s résumé is impressive in its diversity and scope.  He’s been paying his dues in the clubs across Ontario for the better part of 30 years.  Rock, however, is only one part of Hills’ musical makeup:  He’s done punk, new wave, funk, soul, and every combination and isotope of those styles that is currently known to modern science.  He’s played with Soul Circus, Sthil, Dezmanhall, Ed Bertoli, and lots more.  He saw Helix make their big break and said, “I can do that too.”  Now, Decibel is the main focus of this talented bass player with the soulful voice.  When he sings, you listen.

SHANE SCHEDLER (Lead guitars, Lead & Backing Vocals)

“They tried to bury the double lead, but we’re going to rectify that.”

Shane’s history as a recording artist goes back to the mid-90’s when he was a member of the guitar-driven trio Martyrs of Melody.  With the Martyrs, he released two independent CDs and began honing his songwriting craft.  He’s been grinding his axe for “seven point something Olympic years” (you do the math).  He now writes, sings and plays for Decibel, a band that makes him beam with pride.  Shane is also proud that he hasn’t cut his hair since grade nine.

BRIAN DOERNER (Drums, Vocals)

“Some drummers think ‘time’ is a magazine, but they don’t have a subscription!”

Brent’s twin brother Brian Doerner is legend on the skins.  His discography reads like a “who’s-who” of rock:  Helix, Saga, Brian Vollmer, Ray Lyell, Refugee, Myles Hunter, and more.  He first picked up the sticks after seeing the Beatles on TV in ’65, and it’s been a love affair with music ever since.  A respected session man and teacher, Brian has inspired the others to new levels in their playing.  Now that the twins are back together, the chemistry onstage is infectious.


 

REVIEW: Helix – “Don’t Get Mad Get Even” (7″ single)

HELIX – “Don’t Get Mad Get Even” (1981 Capitol Records 7″ single)

Here’s a rarity for you, with a picture sleeve, even!  “Don’t Get Mad Get Even” is one of Helix’s least-known singles.  As a No Rest for the Wicked track, it has always been overshadowed by “Heavy Metal Love”.  I saw the music video, which was filmed at the same time as “Heavy Metal Love”, just once.  You never heard it on the radio.  It’s only on one (out of print) Helix “best of” CD appropriately titled Deep Cuts.  It wasn’t even on Over 60 Minutes With…, which focused on this period from Capitol Records.  In short, it’s a forgotten track except among the faithful.

Written by Lisa Dalbello and Tim Thorney, “Don’t Get Mad Get Even” boasts dual strengths. First there is the guitar hook, as tasty as any on classic rock radio today. Second is the chorus, an exceptional one at that, the kind Helix are good at. Powerful, melodic, emphatic and rebellious! Add in some cool solo work and what you have is a lost Helix classic. It’s truly a gem that deserves another listen from strangers and fans alike.

Interestingly enough, in 1982 “Don’t Get Mad Get Even” was recorded by Canadian rock singer Lydia Taylor (1983’s Most Promising Female Vocalist at the Juno Awards).

The B-side, “Check Out the Love” (credited to Helix as a band) is a little more well known than the A-side.  It was on both Over 60 Minutes With… and a live album recorded in Buffalo, NY.  I’ve probably heard ’em play it live on one of the many times I’ve seen Helix since 1987.  One way or another, this is a solid Helix banger with a dirty guitar hook.  The guitars on this song are just lethal, whether soloing or sliding.  Brian Vollmer’s vocals are melodic with grit.  It’s just the kind of song Helix are known for.  Rough n’ tough, but memorable.

The picture sleeve is an added bonus.  On the front, back row, that’s Greg “Fritz” Hinz, Brian Vollmer and Mike Uzelac.  In the front, the guitar duo of Paul Hackman and Brent “The Doctor” Doerner.  Every kid on our street thought Doctor Doerner was the coolest.  You can see why — he just that “look”.

Thanks to pal Craig Fee for locating this and many other Helix singles for me.

5/5 stars

 

VHS Archives #110: Waltzing With Helix (1991)

Not the only version online, but probably the best version for Helix fans! This is longer with more live footage (“The Storm”) and it also includes the opening MuchMusic “A True Story” sketch, depicting the moment that the Much studios got the invite to join the band in Vienna from Helix “roadlife specilist” Kenny Heague. All this version is missing is some of the interview with Sacred Reich, but for Helix fans, this is the one to watch.

“Waltzing With Helix” aired on the Pepsi Power Hour in early 1991. It depicts five days of life in the road with Helix in Hungary and Austria, opening for Sacred Reich and Ian Gillan. Supporting the excellent Back For Another Taste LP, this special includes loads of great live music, and chats with all the hilarious Helix boys.

New in the lineup was American guitarist Denny Balicki, and “Waltzing With Helix” was his introduction to fans nationwide. Drummer Fritz Hinz, bassist Daryl Gray, and singer Brian Vollmer are entertaining fellows to watch as they tour countryside and cathedrals. Late guitarist Paul Hackman gets the honour of interviewing both Ian Gillan and Sacred Reich.

Yes, this includes an Ian Gillan interview and some live footage of his band (including guitarist Steve Morris) playing “Black Night” and “Demon’s Eye”!

Food, culture, turnips, street music, beer, bus breakdowns, laughs, sandwiches and sweaty rock and roll!


On a personal note it’s really heartwarming to see Brian Knight, a kid from our neighbourhood who I went to highschool with, and later went on to roadie with Helix, standing right next to my hero Ian Gillan. What a cool thing to happen. Brian Knight died earlier this year. I still have his original Kenner Star Wars Slave I toy in perfect condition. I paid him $5 for it.


#920: Wild in the Streets – Helix – Center in the Square, Kitchener, 1987

RECORD STORE TALES #920: Wild in the Streets
Helix – Center in the Square, Kitchener, 1987

We simply could not wait to see our first real concert.

As soon as the date was announced, we got tickets:  Helix with a band called Haywire opening.  Center in the Square, downtown Kitchener.  We were second row mezzanine.  Bob and I were so psyched to finally see our first real rock concert.

We wanted to bring a banner that said “HOMETOWN HELIX”.  We dreamed big.

Helix were hot on the road for their new album, Wild in the Streets.  We’d seen the video and knew what their stage show was going to look like.  The stage set played on the brick wall artwork from the album cover, with two ramps on the sides, that resembled the “fangs” in the Helix logo.  We thought those ramps were absolutely badass.  We couldn’t wait to see Brian Vollmer slide down mid-song,

We were not interested in Haywire — too pop.  The two girls in front of us were obviously Haywire fans.  They had the shirts and were going nuts for singer Paul MacAusland.  Bob and I didn’t think much of him, especially when he laid down flat on his face on the stage.  “That’s his stage move?” we questioned.  Bob liked the guitarist, but I wanted to hear some “real” rock, not this.

A kid from our school, Brian Knight, was there in the loges on the side.  He boasted the next day at school that Helix were not that good; he had seen better.  Ironically he later went on to roadie for Helix.  He could be seen in the 1991 MuchMusic special Waltzing with Helix.  He was also acknowledged in Brian Vollmer’s book Gimme An R, albeit his name was misspelled “McKnight”.  Sadly, Brian passed away this year.

What Brian claimed was simply untrue.  It might have been our first real rock concert, but it was a hell of a first.  We didn’t know a lot of the songs but we knew the hits and some of the deep cuts from Walkin’ the Razor’s Edge.  They certainly played everything we wanted to hear, including the new single “Dream On”, “Wild in the Streets”, “Gimme Gimme Good Lovin'”, “Rock You”, “Heavy Metal Love”, “(Make Me Do) Anything You Want”, “Kids are all Shakin'”, and “Deep Cuts the Knife”.  They also played a new tune that we found amusing.  It went, “Bend over and kiss your ass goodbye” (“Kiss It Goodbye”).  Fritz Hinz took a drum solo, and turned around and shockingly revealed his bare bottom with nothing but a jock strap.  We laughed – we were easily entertained!

The highlight of the show was when Vollmer climbed the loges, and then ran all the way across the mezzanine, right past our noses!  We could hardly believe it.  Bob reached out his hand but Brian didn’t slap it.  I simply made a fist, like “right on man”!  It was amazing how we’d been watching this guy climb up, and then make his way in our direction…and then he ran past and it was over in a second!  Before we knew it he was on the other side, and climbing back down to the stage again.  We knew he had a reputation for climbing on top of things and doing somersaults, but we sure didn’t know that was going to happen when we bought our tickets!

Helix didn’t make as much use of the side ramps as I thought they would, but they did put on a hell of a show.  Doctor Doerner played that big doubleneck that we wanted to see so bad, and of course the “Wild in the Streets” guitar.  We got to see all their stage moves and tricks, and yes, the women in the audience were unlike any we’d ever seen before outside of a video.

We got all the songs we wanted, plus a few we didn’t know like “Dirty Dog”.  They put on one of the most energetic shows that I’m ever likely to see.  It was the MTV/MuchMusic era and all we had seen before were music videos.  The quick cut-and-paste editing of a music video is hard to compete with.  Helix had to work hard on stage, and they went above and beyond that night.

Not a bad “first”.  What I did notice was that Vollmer’s voice sounded thinner than on album.  I wondered if all concerts were like that?  I couldn’t believe how deaf I was afterwards!  Both of us were experiencing this for the first time.  It was a strange sensation and we must have been yelling in the car the whole way home, when my dad came to pick us up.

We couldn’t stop talking about Helix for days.  Weeks.  They didn’t really have to win us over; they were hometown heroes to us.  Instead Helix just cemented our loyalty.  It is said that a great rock show can change a life.  In this case, it simply affirmed everything we had hoped.

Rock Candy reissue

REVIEW(S): Helix – Breaking Loose, White Lace & Black Leather (2019 expanded editions)

HELIX –

  • 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….

Too soon?

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

 

VHS Archives #54: Slik Toxik win Best Canadian Metal Video, tribute to Helix’s Paul Hackman (1992 MMVAs)

“You know what time it is?  It’s thrash time!” – Nick Walsh

This video is for Superdekes!  He is going to be on CBC Radio this morning (March 15 2019) to talk about Slik Toxik’s rise to stardom. 

1992 was all about a resurgence of Canadian Rock.  Slik Toxik, Sven Gali, and Big House were all making waves.  Lee Aaron and Killer Dwarfs had new music.  But it was Slik Toxik who won Best Metal Video for “Helluvatime” (directed by Don Allan).

The award was presented by Brian Vollmer (Helix), Phil X (Triumph, now Bon Jovi) and Mike Levine (Triumph).  Slik Toxik then performed…but my tape ran out!  This is what I captured.  Neal Busby is one helluva of a drummer!

REVIEW: Helix – Long Way to Heaven (1985)

HELIX – Long Way to Heaven (1985 Capitol Records)

Helix’s fifth album was an important one.  They were following the “big hit” album (Walkin’ the Razor’s Edge) and there were expectations.  The band collected another batch of original material and hit the studio with producer Tom Treumuth again.

1985’s Long Way to Heaven is the second album with the “classic” Helix lineup:  Brian Vollmer, Brent “the Doctor” Doerner, Paul Hackman, Greg “Fritz” Hinz and Daryl Gray.  All but drummer Fritz contributed songs, with Vollmer, Hackman and Doerner leading the pack.

The two singles were the opening tracks.  “The Kids Are All Shakin’” is a catchy for American radio play.  It has always been a damn fine song.

Down in New York City,
All the way to L.A.,
Boys and girls are gonna shake it,
Yeah, each and every day.

There’s also a reference to a fan letter from Poland that was a big deal to the band at the time.  “Kids Are All Shakin’” is a great rock and roll celebration, but the single version with additional keyboards is better.

The other single was the hit acoustic/electric ballad “Deep Cuts the Knife” written by Hackman and Bob Halligan, Jr.  To this day it remains one of, if not the very best ballad Helix have done.  It has atmosphere and bite, and a killer vocal performance by Brian Vollmer.

There are good tracks after the first two, but nothing quite as memorable.  “Ride the Rocket” (Vollmer/Halligan) is fun but silly.  I’m sure you can guess what kind of rocket Brian is singing about when he says “Reach in the pocket”.  Other decent songs include the title track, which has a great chorus melody, and the heavy-as-fuck “House on Fire”.  There’s also another ballad called “Without You (Jasmine’s Song)” that is worthy of praise.

There is nothing wrong with any of the other tunes, and some have some pretty cool moments.  “Don’t Touch the Merchandise” has a nifty a cappella section that proves what great vocalists the band are.  It’s just that none of the other songs really have a lot of staying power in the brain.

Long Way to Heaven was one of those follow-ups that was good enough, but always remain in the shadow of the more successful predecessors.

3.25/5 stars

REVIEW: Helix – Walkin’ the Razor’s Edge (1984, Rock Candy remaster)

HELIX – Walkin’ the Razor’s Edge (1984 Capitol, 2009 Rock Candy reissue)

If you’re from Canada, then chances are you already know how to properly respond when somebody requests of you to “Gimme an R!”

You give them a fuckin’ R!

To quote Ricky from Trailer Park Boys, “Helix was a wicked concert. Fuck I sold a lot of dope at that concert. They had good lyrics, like ‘Gimme an R, O, C, K,’ and then the crowd yells ROCK really loud. Now that’s a fuckin’ concert.”

Bob Halligan Jr. wrote it, but Helix made it legendary.  In turn, “Rock You” put them on the map.  It’s pure arena rock:  “Don’t just sit there, come on get up and move!”  With a riff, a catchy tune and a shout-along chorus, “Rock You” was custom built for 1984.   The Pepsi Power Hour gave it regular play, and the boys toured relentlessly.  Helix’s rep as a down n’ dirty hard rocking band was secure.  The music video scared away my neighbor, David Dolph, a kid from across the street whose very Catholic parents wouldn’t let him listen to rock music or watch Dr. Who.   Instant street cred!

“Rock You” opened Walkin’ the Razor’s Edge (their fourth LP) with a punch.  “Young & Wreckless” followed with a kick in the ass.  This chugging rocker is all about a good time.  Strangely enough, this track somehow frequently ended up on Kiss bootleg CDs.  Bootleggers most likely confused it with Kiss’ own “Young and Wasted” from 1983’s Lick it Up.  Needless to say, if you find a Kiss bootleg claiming to have an unreleased song on it called “Young & Wreckless”, it’s not Kiss.  It’s Helix.  And it kicks ass.

“Animal House” is a Helix concert classic, a bar-bustin’ rocker with a sweet slide guitar licks from Brent “The Doctor” Doerner.  He and gui-partner-in-crime Paul Hackman formed a formidable and underrated duo.   They supplied Helix with a seemingly bottomless well of riffage and tasty guitar hooks.  Meanwhile lead howler Brian Vollmer was in peak voice, driving the whole thing home.  Next up is “Feel the Fire”, basically a re-write of “Heavy Metal Love” from 1983’s awesome No Rest for the Wicked LP.  Though the songs are similar, both kick equal amounts of ass, so we will allow some self-plagiarism.  The first side was finished off with a real sledge:  “When the Hammer Falls”.  It’s a real headbanger in the classic sense, fast and loud.

“Gimme Gimme Good Lovin'” kicked off the second side, a Crazy Elephant cover that became one of Helix’s most notorious music videos.  There was a TV version and a uncensored cut with full frontal nudity.  One of the girls in the video was an underage Tracy Lords.  Whoops!  Meanwhile, a 13-year-old me couldn’t take my eyes off the TV!  (A classmate of mine called Ian Johnson was known for his tall tales, and took credit for giving Helix the idea for the video!)  “Gimme Gimme Good Lovin'” was one of those instantly catchy songs that seemingly everyone dug, and check out Doerner’s killer solo.

The shot with Doctor Doerner kicking the lightbulbs is possibly the coolest of all time.

Helix want to tell you what turns them on in “My Kind of Rock”, but I think it’s the biting riffs.  Not a bad tune, but Helix have done better.  That’s just filler before the ballad “(Make Me Do) Anything You Want”, a cover of A Foot in Cold Water.  Helix’s take is remarkably true to the original.  It’s considerably softer than anything else on the album, but that’s the function of a ballad on a rock album.  Vollmer’s performance helped make it a Helix favourite that’s still played live in concert.  Another track called “Six Strings, Nine Lives” is the only tune that should have been excised.  Good chorus, but without a song to go with it.  One of the best Helix originals was saved for the closing position:  “You Keep Me Rockin'”.  Dark and edgy, it’s a heavy and memorable tune to end Helix’s best selling LP.

Walkin’ the Razor’s Edge is a good record, but as is so often the case with the “big hit” albums, it’s not their best.  No Rest for the Wicked is the one to seek out for the “all killer, no filler” experience.  Razor’s Edge has some essential cuts, but a couple fillers too.  If you’re thinking about picking this up, the wisest purchase would be the 2009 reissue by Rock Candy.  This remastered disc contains rare photos and liner notes including an interview with Brian Vollmer.  It also has three must-have bonus tracks:  Live versions of “Young & Wreckless”, “Rock You” and “Animal House” from the uber-rare promo EP Live at the Marquee.  Since Helix were (and are) known for their blitzkrieg live shows, these tracks are well worth having on CD.

3.5/5 stars

REVIEW: Helix – Live at the Marquee (1985 promo EP)

HELIX – Live at the Marquee (1985 Capitol promo exclusive EP)

Gratuity goes to two people:  Helix associate John Hockey who initially hooked me up with an mp3 rip of his copy of this Holy Grail rarity, and to Boppin for finding this original copy on vinyl!  Helix’s Live at the Marquee EP is one of those releases that lots of people have heard of, but few have heard.  First of all, it’s a promo, which means it was only distributed within the industry and never made available for sale to the public.  Promos can be very desirable collectibles, especially when they contain exclusive music.  Live at the Marquee was nothing but!  In 1985, Helix had released nothing in terms of live product, not even a live single B-side.  Live at the Marquee was the only one, and before the internet, few fans even knew about it.

For full disclosure, there is a rare Rock Candy reissue of 1984’s Walkin’ the Razor’s Edge, an unauthorized but valuable release that does contain three of the six Marquee tracks.  That 2009 release includes “Young & Wreckless”, “Rock You”, and “Animal House” from this EP.  The other three songs have yet to be reissued anywhere, so half of Live at the Marquee is still exclusive to the EP.

What you need to know about Live at the Marquee is that this is Helix at their prime.  The classic lineup was in full swing:  Brian Vollmer (vocals), Brent “Doctor” Doerner & Paul Hackman (guitars), Greg “Fritz” Hinz (drums), and Daryl Gray (bass).  They were performing their most popular tracks from the Razor’s Edge and No Rest for the Wicked LPs.  Starting with “Young & Reckless” and “Rock You”, it’s full octane in the tank and pedal to the metal.  Helix were and are known as a loud band, and this EP sure sounds like it.  They take a step back on the hit ballad “(Make Me Do) Anything You Want”.  Helix could do love songs like that without sounding wimpy.

Side two continues with the single “Gimme Gimme Good Lovin'” (Crazy Elephant cover) which sounds like a blast.  Helix do not get recognition for the dual guitar alliance of Doerner and Hackman as perhaps they should.  Check out “Animal House” for more of their stellar interplay including a bit of slide.  Finally “Heavy Metal Love” closes the record, an enduring favourite today that sounds fantastic performed by the classic band.

Over the years, fans became widely aware of the existence of this release.  It would be listed and pictured among official discographies, but never found in stores.  Until/unless those final three recordings become available on CD, this record should be sought after by every serious Helix fan.  I’m happy to have a copy signed by Fritz Hinz.  Also awesome?  John Hockley hooked me up with a CD copy of the Rock Candy release of Razor’s Edge, signed by all four surviving members of the classic Helix band.  Thank you John, and rest in peace Paul Hackman.

4.5/5 stars

REVIEW: Helix – Wild in the Streets (1987, Rock Candy remaster)

STRAT

Canadian Rawk week continues with a double dose of HELIX! Boppin at boppinsblog reviews the same record today. For his review, click here!

HELIX – Wild in the Streets (1987 Capital, 2011 Rock Candy remaster)

Before this handy-dandy 2011 Rock Candy reissue, Wild in the Streets was an exceptionally hard album to find on CD.   By the time I started working at the Record Store in 1994, it was already long deleted.  I had a pretty neat cassette version, with a glow in the dark shell, but the sound was pretty muddy and warbly.  The CD finally fell into my lap thanks to a kind hearted customer named Len, who picked it up for me at a rival store.  The full story of this rare item and the quest to find one was told in Record Store Tales Part 234:  Wild in the Streets.  Since I’ve already told that story, no further background is necessary and we can cut to the chase.

It has been well documented, both in Brian Vollmer’s book Gimme An R and the fine liner notes in this CD, that Wild in the Streets was not an easy album.   This album had to make it, or Helix’s deal with Capital wasn’t going to be renewed.  They had trouble coming up with songs.  They recorded overseas with a disinterested producer (Mike Stone).  The album was mixed and remixed again, until Stone had to demonstrate to the guys that they had lost perspective and couldn’t tell one version from another anymore.  Other stressors added to the pressure, but finally some singles were selected and videos filmed.  Time to rock!

The action-packed video for the title track made quite an impression. The high-flying Helix were (and are) one of the most exciting live bands around. The video perfectly fit the music, an unforgettable rock anthem about turnin’ on the heat and going wild in the streets. It was written by guitarist Paul Hackman and his friend Ray Lyell, a Canadian solo artist gaining success at the time. This kickin’ track represented a high point for Helix; never before had they combined the rock with catchy melody like this. MuchMusic gave it plenty of exposure, but it failed to jump the border and make an impact down south.

To make up for a shortage of originals, Helix recorded some covers. FM’s “Never Gonna Stop the Rock” was a funky dud. According to the liner notes, the band didn’t particularly like the song either. Manager Bill Seip chose it among many submissions, and on the album it went, because nobody had any better ideas. Nazareth’s “Dream On” was a much more natural fit. Helix always had a way with tender ballads; witness their success with “(Make Me Do) Anything You Want”. An inspired choice like “Dream On” works well as a Helix song, in fact up here in the Great White North, I daresay the song is associated more with Helix than Nazareth. It’s hard to say who plays the subtle keyboards and piano, as three players are credited on the album: Sam Reid from Glass Tiger, the legendary Don Airey, and Helix bassist Daryl Gray. Dr. Doerner brought up his huge doubleneck for the video, an image burned in our memories. Doerner had to be the coolest looking guy on the scene, he had the star quality.

“What Ya Bringin’ to the Party” is the question, on another Lyell/Hackman original. The slicker production of Wild in the Streets doesn’t really do it any favours. If it had been on an earlier album like No Rest for the Wicked (and been a teensy bit faster), it could have been a sleezey rock classic. “High Voltage Kicks” is better because it delivers what it promises. This sounds like Helix to me. It’s fast, high-octane, and recommended for head banging. You’ll want a breather afterwards, which is good because it’s time to flip the album over to Side Two.

Scan_20160211 (2)Ready to “Give ‘Em Hell”? Helix are, and this is a good quality album track to do it. It fits that mid-tempo rock niche that Helix often call home. It’s back to hot flashy rock on “Shot Full of Love”, a Vollmer/Doerner co-write with some pure lead guitar smoke. I wouldn’t be surprised if that’s his twin brother Brian laying waste on the drums. Brian Doerner is one of four drummers credited, including Mickey Curry, Matt Frenette, and of course Helix skinsman Greg “Fritz” Hinz. “Love Hungry Eyes” is one of the strongest songs in the bunch, and I think if there was to be a third single, it would have been “Love Hungry Eyes”. Brian Vollmer kicks this one right in the ass. I don’t think Helix get enough credit for their background vocals, but all five members sing. Brent Doerner has a unique voice and when the Helix backing vocals kick in on the chorus, you get a whallop of the Doctor right in the ears. That’ll cure what ails ya.

Joe Elliot of Def Leppard contributed “She’s Too Tough”, but then the shit hit the fan. Leppard’s label (Polygram) were terrified of Elliot competing with the soon-to-be released Hysteria album. Even though “She’s Too Tough” never passed the demo stage and was never in consideration for Hysteria, the label was so afraid that they were going to force Helix to remove it from their album. A compromise was reached: Helix could keep the song for their album, but could not release it as a single.  As such, you’ve probably never heard Helix’s version of it.  Leppard eventually recorded a proper version for a single B-side (“Heaven Is“) and it has become the more famous of the two.  That’s too bad, because Helix’s version is far more adrenalized, pardon the pun.

“Kiss It Goodbye” inspired the infamous Helix tour shirt that I would never have been allowed to buy or wear to school!  The song, another Doerner/Vollmer rocker, was unforgettable in concert.  It’s still a barnstormer on CD, certainly one of the most memorable tracks from this era.  The album is over and out in under 40 minutes, but you’ll probably have lost a couple pounds in sweat, if you were rocking out properly during those 40 minutes.

Unfortunately for Helix, despite a great live show featuring their fancy new stage set, the album failed to perform and the writing was on the wall.  Morale took another blow when Brent Doerner told the band that he was leaving.  The guitarist had been there since 1975.  He was integral to every album they made, and he was a charismatic personality on stage.  What were a band to do?  If you’re Helix, you do what you have always done.  You keep on givin’ ‘er.  They responded to this dire time with one of the best albums of their career.

Wild in the Streets was the end of an era.  It was also the last Helix album of the 1980’s.  With the benefit of hindsight, Wild in the Streets capped the decade off properly.  Mushy production aside, it was a strong collection of songs that probably could have been presented better.  Too bad!

3.5/5 stars

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