Paul Laine

REVIEW: The Defiants – Zokusho (2019)

THE DEFIANTS – Zokusho (2019 Frontiers)

The Defiants:  Paul Laine, Bruno Ravel and Rob Marcello.  Call ’em what you like.  A side project of Danger Danger, a power-pop trio, whatever you want.  There’s nothing wrong with any of that.  Just be sure to listen, because in 2019’s Zokusho, the Defiants created one of the best albums of the year.  It is an intensely catchy, varied, well-executed album that sticks to the brain like peanut butter.  The production is slick and pounding.

“Love is the Killer” opens the album in grand fashion.  It’s a big dramatic pop rock song with modern production, but hooks rooted in 80s classic rock.  Huge chorus, which Paul Laine gets to wrap his able pipes around with ease.  A ripping solo takes a little extra time, proving this isn’t simply a pop band, but one of talented players doing what they want.  And even though “Love is the Killer” is a fine opener, it’s not even close to best track on the album.

Heavy mid-tempo “Standing on the Edge” cranks up the tension.  The chorus absolutely kills — unforgettable.  Until this point though, the album’s edges were dark-tinged.  “Hollywood in Headlights” is the first celebratory rock song, perfect for the summer cruising season.  There’s a nice crunchy guitar riff that goes with it.  A catchy, perfectly written rock classic.  But like a sequel, “Fallin’ For You” continues the good time vibes where they left off.  Unlike a sequel, it’s just as good if not better.  It’s faster and even more upbeat, with irresistible singalong vocals, and a stunning solo.

A Def Leppard vibe inhabits “Hold On Tonight”, with that kind of picked Phil Collen guitar hook.  A power ballad with plenty of power indeed.  Leppard’s “Stand Up” but cranked up?  Something like that at least.  But that’s it for sentimentality for the moment.  “Allnighter” is a party rock pounder.  Definitely something of a rallying cry for those about to hit the town.  Still with the hooks though.  I don’t think Paul Laine knows how to write a song without hooks.

“U X’d My Heart” is not the finest song title ever composed (it means “You Crossed My Heart”), but the classy ballad defies its title.  Delicate picking followed by crunching guitars create a vital sounding rock ballad.  It’s quickly followed by “It Goes Fast”, with progressive vibes & keys guiding the way to outer space.  Another killer song.

Track nine, “Stay”, goes upbeat again, fast and overflowing with catchy components.  There’s a sudden key change towards the end that’s a little jarring but that’s the worst thing I can say about it.  Following that is a spacey, Journey-like tune intro to a tune called “Alive”.  Once more the hooks are front and center, as the guitar goes Holidays in Eden-era Marillion.  That’s before it explodes in a massive chorus.

The final track is “Drink Up!” and it’s obviously the party rock closer, with just a hint of country twang via Laine.  Pure fun and nothing more.  Nothing wrong with that.

If you like melodic hard rock with punch and plenty of production, the Defiants deliver.  Get some Sokusho.

5/5 stars

 

REVIEW: Paul Laine – Stick it in Your Ear (1990)

PAUL LAINE – Stick it in Your Ear (1990 Elektra)

A remarkable album by a singular talent.  Paul Laine came equipped with buckets of ability and a hell of a team.  Laine wanted Bruce Fairbairn at the producer’s desk, and through sheer determination, that’s who he got.  His debut album Stick it in Your Ear was compared to Bon Jovi, but Paul had more youthful innocence and exuberance.  Similarities are inevitable, but you can hear the difference when he starts to sing.

If you want to play the comparison game, the long dramatic intro to the song “One Step Over the Line” is similar to Bon Jovi’s “Lay Your Hands On Me”.  This tough little mid-tempo rocker gives Paul a chance to belt.  The cool keyboard accents are from an era when rockers were unafraid of a little sweetening.  It goes a bit Deep Purple during the long instrumental break — the track is over seven minutes long.

Things really kick into gear on “We Are the Young”, a legitimate rock anthem.  Laine was just a kid, so when he sang it, he meant it.  In the middle is a progressive rock keyboard break, proving Paul had many dimensions already.  Then he goes all Robert Plant in the outro!

After two pretty epic tracks in a row, Paul’s big hit “Dorianna” makes its appearance.  This irresistible little pop rocker is replete with organ intro (edited out of the single version) and shimmering guitar harmonies.  Not to mention that chorus, which will stay in your head for the rest of the day.

A power ballad, “Is It Love”, represents that best that the genre has to offer.  If you thought you’ve already heard every ballad that is worth hearing, then make room for one more.  The power chorus nails it, and that backing piano must be a Fairbairn twist.  This is followed by the most “Bon Jovi” of any of the songs, “Heart of America”.   But only if Bon Jovi could sing like a screamin’ hurricane, because the truth is, this songs blows away any of Jon’s in terms of power.  Corny lyrics, but what’s a kid from Canada going to write about?

“Main Attraction” opens a bit like Van Halen, showing off the shredding, and then breaks into a dash.  It’s the least individual of the songs, sounding the most generic, but it’s not a bad tune by any means.  Just the least impressive of nine pretty awesome tunes.

Things take a striking turn on the blues “Doin’ Time” featuring a jam with James Cotton on harmonica.  Beginning authentically, Paul soon breaks into a wicked screamin’ blues.  When James Cotton starts blowin’, the thing just goes to another level.  One of the best rock-blues tracks you’re likely to find this side of Badlands.

A big anthemic ballad called “I’ll Be There” blows the nuts off anything Jon Bon has cooked up over the years.  It’s more like Holidays In Eden era Marillion, two years early.  But that’s just a preamble to the finale:  “Break Down the Barricades”, a massive tune with enough hooks to feed an entire nation of hungry rock n’ rollers all their vitamins and minerals.

Stick it in Your Ear might be the last great debut album of the hard rock age.  While the genre suffered from too much similar product on the shelves, and was destined to be supplanted by something more edgy, this is one album that deserved a shot.  More so than some of its contemporaries by established bands entering slumps at the same time.  This is simply a very special album that started Laine on a long career that continues today.

4.5/5 stars

Saturday Stream of Gratitude

I just felt like saying “thank you”.  And a few other things.  Enjoy this unofficial episode of the LeBrain Train.

Paul Laine Nerds Out with the LeBrain Train – our best episode yet!

One of the things I love most about doing these shows is how spontaneous they are. John and I came into this Paul Laine interview with pages and pages of notes and questions.  Yet some of the best moments were spur of the moment.  Paul Laine is a music nerd just like us!  But not just a music nerd — he loves Star Wars and history as well as rock and roll!

Tonight we learned all about his early years at Little Mountain sound.  The perils of the music biz.  Joining Danger Danger.  Touring.  ShugaazerThe DefiantsDarkhorse.  Who his favourite captain on Star Trek is.

We also corrected some misinformation, touched on some emotional stories, and all around had a very enlightening night.  We had a barrel of laughs!

Paul joins the broadcast at approximately the 0:21:00 mark.  (Prior to this, I did some music onboxings.)   Paul chatted for over two hours.  Brew a hot coffee.  Sit, get a comfortable chair, and watch the whole thing.  It was solid gold from start to finish.

Best show ever?  My mom thinks so.  Thank you Paul for being such an engaging and entertaining guest, and thank you John for making this happen!

 

REMINDER: Paul Laine on the LeBrain Train TONIGHT!

The LeBrain Train: 2000 Words or More with Mike and John

Episode 63 – Paul Laine

John from 2loud2oldmusic is to thank for this week’s guest:  the hugely talented Paul Laine!  He became a solo star here in Canada back in 1990, but has since worked with Danger Danger, the Defiants, Shugaazer and Darkhorse.  He’s also sung backing vocals on all kinds of records.  Maybe he’s even on that Scorpions CD in your collection.  Stick It In Your Ear, and don’t miss this show!

Friday May 7, 7:00 PM E.S.T. on Facebook:  MikeLeBrain and YouTube:  Mike LeBrain.

 

 

 

 

Paul Laine on this Friday’s LeBrain Train

The LeBrain Train: 2000 Words or More with Mike and John

Episode 63 – Paul Laine

JOHN – We are joined this week by the multi-talented singer, songwriter, musician, composer, engineer, producer and all great guy, Paul Laine. We will cover his career from his 1990 solo album debut Stick It In Your Ear to his time as lead singer of Danger Danger in the 90’s, all the way up to his current band The Defiants, who just confirmed a third album is coming. We will find out about his time with Bruce Fairbairn at Little Mountain Sound Studios, his other bands Shugaazer and Darkhorse and everything in between. Come join the fun.…

MIKE – Paul Laine is a remarkable talent.  At age 16 he was playing clubs.  Knowing he needed money to record a good-sounding demo, he started and sold a management company, raising the needed $50,000.  The tape went from MuchMusic’s Terry David Mulligan to uber-manager Bruce Allen.  By age 22, he had Stick It In Your Ear produced by Bruce Fairbairn under his belt!  As John says, he made the leap from solo artist to band member in 1993 when Danger Danger needed a new singer.  We will be covering it all this Friday night on the LeBrain Train.

Friday May 7, 7:00 PM E.S.T. on Facebook:  MikeLeBrain and YouTube:  Mike LeBrain.

Sunday Screening: Paul Laine – “Dorianna”

From his excellent solo debut Stick It In Your Ear, here is next week’s guest on the LeBrain Train: PAUL LAINE!  Thank John Snow for booking this guest as he co-hosts next week.

Not only does he still have an incredible voice still today, but he has a knack for melodic songwriting.  But not pedestrian songwriting.  His songs tend to have more complexity and attention to detail than most hard rock.  Give his first big hit “Dorianna” from 1990 a listen!