Rock You

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


#653: The Reset King (Music and Gaming and other stories)

GETTING MORE TALE #653: The Reset King (Music and Gaming and other stories)
A sequel to #652: Evolution ’80s: Music and Gaming

Perhaps the greatest awakening I ever had in my life was the moment I first heard Iron Maiden.  It was so important to me, it was the first chapter of Record Store Tales — Part 1, “Run to the Hills”.  At that early age, music and video games collided I was never the same again.  Since that time, music has always been intertwined with gaming and my best buddy Bob.  All three combined were responsible for my rock n’ roll epiphany.

Bob and I played a lot of Atari on the weekends.  Both families had the Atari 2600, but we both had different selections of games.  Depending on whose house we were at, we’d play different games.  “Gorf” was one game he had that I didn’t.  It was a shooter like “Space Invaders” but with different kinds of levels.  More than going for a high score, it was important for us to try and make it through all the levels.  Atari games were so limited.  “Gorf” had five distinct levels so it was more rewarding to see all five than to rack up high scores.

Same with “Frogger”.  That was one of my games, and Bob was very competitive on it.  As you progressed up the levels, more obstacles were thrown in your way, like snakes for example.  It was exciting to make it to a new level for the first time, but “Frogger” was a hair-triggered game where timing was everything.  And Bob used to get very, very excitable when a game of “Frogger” went wrong.  That is how he earned the nickname The Reset King.

Here was his thinking.  If you lose a level early in “Frogger”, the chances of making it to a new high level were greatly reduced.  Bob would rather reset the game than try in futility.  So, he’d dive for that reset button on the Atari console, usually while yelling something at the game.  “The game is cheating!” was a favourite.

The game is cheating indeed, I suppose.  It was easier to let him reset than argue that an Atari 2600 wasn’t sophisticated enough to “cheat” at a video game.  “Frogger” was very touchy, but it wasn’t particularly glitchy.  If you so much as touched a car, you were dead even if it didn’t technically “hit” you.  So it could get frustrating, sure.  We would have to eventually cut Bob off from resets or nobody else would get a turn.

And so, he was crowned the Reset King by my dad, who worried he was going to break the damn switch.  It was a title Bob rejected because the game was cheating, and because David Dolph across the street was way worse with the reset button.

David Dolph was this bratty kid across the street.  His weird family wouldn’t let them play with any toys with guns, like G.I. Joe.  But David was no dummy.  He had a Transformers collection, because he didn’t tell his mom they came with guns.  He was also destructive, and if you let David Dolph near your toys, he’d probably wreck them.  We didn’t like David Dolph, but one afternoon we found ourselves at his house playing video games in the basement.  It was there that David Dolph faced the Reset King.

They didn’t have an Atari, but they did have a Commodore Vic 20 that you could play games on.  We were playing there in the basement, when the Reset King decided to start a game over because it “cheated” early on.

“No fair!” yelled David Dolph.  “No fair!  It’s my turn now!”  He tried to wrestle the controller from Bob’s hand, who didn’t budge.  In fact he just continued to stare intently at the TV and play, with the corners of his mouth attempting to conceal a smile.  Giving up the fight over the controller, David Dolph burst into tears and ran upstairs.  Bob kept playing, a huge grin now upon his face.  We stayed until Bob finished playing games!

David Dolph was a weird kid.  His parents were really strict and wouldn’t let them listen to music, except for Bruce Springsteen.  They approved of the Boss, but heavy metal was satanic to them.  The kid was over at our house one afternoon when I was watching music videos on TV with Bob.  He was visibly upset by “Rock You” by Helix, and left the house.  About a decade later, he sure changed.  I often heard him blasting Savatage’s “Hall of the Mountain King” from his bedroom window when his parents weren’t around.

Maybe it’s the narcissist in me, but who was he blasting Savatage for?  By that time, Bob and I weren’t even talking to him, so I always wondered if he was blasting it at us.

As much fun as we had over the years, you had to be patient when gaming with Bob.  If you wanted play with him, you had to let the Reset King have his way.

The reset button never broke.  In fact we still have the same Atari 2600.  It works, and we still have all the cartridges…except one.  My sister never forgave me for trading away “Superman”.  However, I traded “Superman” for my first Kiss (Record Store Tales Part 3:  My First Kiss) so clearly I had the greater good in mind.

What did break…frequently…were the controllers.  And that wasn’t Bob’s fault.  Bob owned an Atari and took good care of his stuff.  He was brought up in a Dutch household that understood the value of working for something and taking care of it.  None of Bob’s things were broken like David Dolph’s.  No, Bob didn’t break our controllers.  They were broken by Cousin Geoffrey.  Cousin Geoffrey broke…everything.

My cousin is now a father himself, and he understands things a little differently now.  I think he doesn’t hold it against me when I say he was fucking annoying to play Atari or Nintendo with.  More annoying than the Reset King or David Dolph!

Geoffrey destroyed about three Atari joysticks.  I was pretty good at taking them apart and repairing them, but there was only so much I could do.  An Atari joystick was a plastic handle that activated four switches on a circuitboard underneath.  Geoffrey would push those joysticks so hard that the plastic inside would shatter.  I could take it apart and use hot glue to give the inner plastic frame some strength but it was a temporary fix at best.  You had to buy new controllers.  My dad eventually decreed that Geoffrey was only allowed to play with old, refurbished controllers, not the new ones.

Geoffrey destroyed our original Transformers G1 Frenzy figure, on Christmas day, the same day we got it!  He was just a destructive child, and what he didn’t destroy he simply lost.  I’ll give you some examples of the chaos he caused.

First trip to Alberta, August 1979.  l-r Mike, Geoffrey “Captain Destructo”, and Kathryn

In August 1979, the family took our first trip to Alberta.  It was a two week tour starting in Edmonton and going through the mountains.  My sister, my cousin and I were often given the same toys to play with, so we wouldn’t fight over them.  My sister and my cousin were both given dinky cars of the Batmobile.  Were they ever cool.  They came with a little metal trailer and a plastic Bat Boat you could tow.  We had a lot of fun playing dinky cars on those floors of Alberta motels.  They were also small enough to carry around in your pockets.

Geoffrey threw his first Batmobile off a mountain in Jasper.  He just wanted to see what would happen if he threw the Batmobile off a moutain.  A second Batmobile was bought for him on the same trip.  That Batmobile was flushed down the toilet of a rest stop in Canmore.  He was eventually given a third Batmobile, which, as far as I know, survived a little longer than the other two.

Geoffrey “Captain Destructo” (in cap) sulking after sacrificing the Batmobile to the Mountain Gods.

Another incident of soul-crushing toy waste happened in the summer of 1983.  This time, Geoffrey was visiting us in Ontario.  It was the summer of Return of the Jedi.  The new figures were out.  My mom took us to Zellers and bought each of us a new toy.  I chose Luke Skywalker, partly because he came with so many accessories.  He came with a new lightsaber, a gun and a cloth cape.  Geoffrey got the same figure.  We then waited on a bench while my mom did her banking.

“Come on let’s open these,” said Geoffrey.  My sister and I always waited until we got home.

Geoffrey ripped open his Luke.

“Why are you opening that now?  You’re going to lose the gun.  Just wait until we get home.  This is our last stop.”  I attempted to reason with my cousin but he had Luke out of the package.

Within the first five minutes, he lost the gun.  Before we made it home, he lost the lightsaber too.

“I told you so,” was something I relished saying to him.  My Luke, by the way, still has all his accessories 35 years later.

What these tales tell us is that cousin Geoffrey was a monsoon of chaos and utter destruction.  He also had all the latest stuff, and that included video games.  Fortunately for his parents, the original Nintendo Entertainment System had very robust, button-based controllers.  He couldn’t break them.  He was really good at “Super Mario Bros.” and “Mike Tyson’s Punch Out”.  Unfortunately this meant my sister and I didn’t get much gaming time.  We died early and often, and he played long lives while earning extra ones.  His turns were much longer than ours.

We saw him make it to Mike Tyson once.  That was pretty cool.  Once he almost made it, but my dad walked in front of the TV during a fight and caused Geoffrey to lose.  Boy he sure threw a fit that time!

Here’s the funny thing.  When we were kids, my cousin took a lot of energy and patience to keep entertained.  When he hit his 20s, he really mellowed out and we bonded like we never have before.  And what did we bond over?  Music and video games.

I took a trip out to Alberta for a week in 1997.  He took me shopping to a couple music stores in Calgary, used and new.  I found a rare CD featuring the early one of somebody named Dave Grohl.  It was the band Scream, and the CD was No More Censorship.  I was kicking off a love affair with Foo Fighters and it was a seriously cool find.  Geoffrey was (and always has been) into to Tragically Hip, so I got him a CD by a similar sounding band called the Barstool Prophets. Meanwhile, he turned me onto the Gandharvas with their last album Sold For a Smile.  Killer album that I still love (and own two different copies of).

At night, he introduced me to one of the best racing games I’ve ever played.  For the N64 system, we spent hours on “Top Gear Rally”.  It was such an immersive game for its time.  We designed our cars, we discovered shortcuts, and had a blast seeing how far we could make it.

Once again, it wasn’t best scores or best times that mattered.  It was seeing how far you could get.  Getting to the third or fourth level was rare and required serious skill.  It was the most fun I’d had playing video games in many years!

All these memories flow like a stream of consciousness, triggered by certain songs.  Early Kiss, AC/DC and Quiet Riot will forever be associated with the old Atari 2600 in the basement.  Bob was a constant gaming companion, and he sets off even more memories.  Discovering music together, like Whitesnake and Kiss albums.  All hail the Reset King.  Long may he reign!



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 – Rockin’ in My Outer Space (2004)

ontario-bands-weekWelcome back to Ontario Bands Week, presented by BoppinsBlog,  Keeps Me Alive, Stick It In Your Ear, 1001 Albums in 10 Years, and  


scan_20161215HELIX – Rockin’ in My Outer Space (2004 Dirty Dog)

This album was a long time coming. The last “true” Helix studio album (eg: not live, greatest hits or previously unreleased songs) was the excellent It’s A Business Doing Pleasure, twelve years previous to this one. A lot happened in those twelve years, including member changes, management and record company splits, and even a Brian Vollmer solo album (When Pigs Fly). That Helix came out with an album this good with no warning was a pleasant surprise.

Almost every song here is quality stuff, with only the instrumental opener “Space Junk” and the jokey closer “Sunny Summer Daze” not fitting in with the serious rocking going on here. A couple of these recordings had previously appeared on Vollmer’s solo CD (with Brian Doerner on drums), but this sounds more like a proper Helix album. The title track features a killer chorus (reminded me of “Rock You” a bit) with those recognizable Helix backing vocals. It’s also the most “party” of all the new songs, some of them being a little darker.  Glen “Archie” Gamble (drums) utilizes some interesting cymbal work, a little different from what you usually hear on a Helix record.  His playing gives this version of Helix a different rhythm.

“Six Feet Underground” has some nice acoustic work, and is extremely catchy. “Panic” has some irresistible vocals. “It’s Hard To Feel the Sunshine When Your Heart is Filled With Rain” might have an overly long title, but the song is amazing, as heard live in concert.  A wicked harmonica solo fills the spot with a guitar solo might normally fit.  “The Ballad Of Sam & Mary” is a jokey lyric as Helix have done before, but with some serious kick behind it. (Listen for a cameo by Brian’s wife Lynda Vollmer.)  It’s only when you get to the closer with its Hawiian guitar that you feel like the album just hit a speedbump. The final track’s saving grace is a guest appearance by former member “Doctor” Doerner on guitar.

This album represented a muscular return for Helix, one that kicked off a stream of new Helix records.  The band seemed revitalized even as lineups changed, as they continued to follow through with more quality rock and roll.  Rockin’ in My Outer Space is a pleasure for fans because it’s different. This is not party music. There are audible dark clouds and angry riffs.  The changes in heavy metal over the previous decade are obvious here.  The guitars are chunkier and dirtier, and no song has a party-hardy chorus like the days of old, though the title track comes close.  Helix are known for a certain brand of rock, and it’s nice when they choose to stretch out.

Fear not Helix fans. Brian Vollmer and his gang of little-known but excellent players did not disappoint when they finally decided to release a new album under the Helix Band banner. Aside from the first and last tracks, this is one you’ll be playing all the way through.

And heck, you get used to the the first and last tracks after a while.

4/5 stars


Bonus:  In 2005, Helix returned to Sweden to play Sweden Rock.  iTunes have one song from their set available for download: “Rock You”  This track features the short-lived but very cool six-piece lineup of Brian Vollmer, Archie Gamble, Jeff Fountain (bass), Jim Lawson (guitar), Rainer Wiechmann (guitar and producer) and Cindy Wiechmann (vocals and other instruments). This is the version of Helix that supported this album, and fortunately it was captured live. Check it out for an idea of what this great lineup sounded like live.

REVIEW: Helix – Over 60 Minutes With… (1989)

Welcome back to GREATEST HITS WEEK! This week we are looking at different, interesting hits albums from various bands. Today…just gimme an R!

Monday:  EXTREME – The Best of Extreme: An Accidental Collication of Atoms? (1997)
Tuesday: JUDAS PRIEST – The Best of Judas Priest (1978/2000 Insight Series)
Wednesday: JUDAS PRIEST – Greatest Hits (2008 Steel Box)

Scan_20150809 (5)HELIX – Over 60 Minutes With… (1989 Capital)

It’s always risky buying a compilation album from a label “series”.  Yesterday, we looked at a Judas Priest compilation from Sony’s Steel Book Series.  Over 60 Minutes With… was a CD-only (no tapes, no records) series by Capital/EMI in the late 80’s and early 90’s.  I remember seeing it over Christmas break in ’89, and trying to decide whether to buy it, or Ace Frehley’s Trouble Walkin’.  (I went with the Ace, and saved the Helix for a month or two later.)  I was confused:  Here was a brand new Helix CD, with Brent “The Doctor” Doerner right there on the front cover.  But hadn’t he left the band?  He had, but that was how I could tell this was a semi-official release, driven by the label.

The difference between Over 60 Minutes With…Helix and all the other label compilations is that this one is really, really good.  In fact to this day, it is still the one of the best Helix compilations assembled (and it was the first!).  Here are some reasons:

1. Rare tracks! Three of them in fact. You get demos for “Give It To You” (a new song re-recorded for the Back For Another Taste CD), “Jaws Of The Tiger” (re-recorded for B-Sides) and “Everybody Pays The Price” (later to be the B-side to “The Storm”).

2. Lots of hits. 21 tracks are contained within, and a good solid six of them were hit singles.

Those two points are enough reason to buy this CD (especially the first).  Let’s keep listening.

3. Rocker-to-ballad ratio is a generous 17 : 4.  Keep me mind, Helix ballads tend to rock anyway.  “Never Wanna Lose You” gets pretty heavy come chorus time!

PIE CHARTThanks to Geoff over at the 1001 Albums in 10 Years for the “Excel”lent inspiration!

4. Loads of tunes from No Rest for the Wicked.  When this CD came out in ’89, that album was unavailable on CD and scarce on cassette.  This CD has seven songs from No Rest!  That album, loaded with rockers heavy and melodic, is still one of their very best today.  Even though there were only three unreleased songs on Over 60 Minutes With…, there were tons that were brand new to me.

That considered, Over 60 Minutes With… has one serious flaw.   The record company only included songs from the first three Capitol Helix albums. Obviously nothing from the independent albums Breaking Loose or White Lace & Black Leather were up for grabs.  Strangely though, 1987’s Capitol Wild In The Streets CD is strangely missed.  The inclusion of one or two tracks from that album would have been appreciated.

Flaw aside, the liner notes are informative and the track listing is still generous. You certainly don’t want to miss album tracks such as the awesome “You Keep Me Rocking”, the raunchy “Dirty Dog” or the slinky “Check Out The Love”.  They are here along with many others. Pick this up, enjoy it, and then explore some of Helix’s proper albums, such as No Rest for the Wicked.  This is great, but it’s only the beginning!  Gimme an R indeed.

4.5/5 R’s

Scan_20150809 (6)

DVD REVIEW: Helix – S.E.X. Rated (2000)


HELIX – S.E.X. Rated (2000 EMI DVD – NTSC and PAL)

Every good Canadian that was alive and rocking in the mid-80’s remembers the music video: The dudes are breaking rocks in the quarry, in chains. Then the singer stands up and yells, “Gimme an R! O! C! K! Whatcha got? Rock! And whatcha gonna do? Rock you!” And then, freedom!  It’s just one of those great 80’s rock music videos, and it’s only one of many on this DVD. Here, you get ’em all from the Capitol years.

The videos are not in chronological order, which would be my preferred arrangement.  The DVD commences with the award winning “Running Wild in the 21st Century” featuring Snake the Tattooed Man from London Ontario.  The older classics range from edgy to campy, but are always cool in their own way.  My preference is towards the live on stage type of video, like the exciting “Wild in the Streets”.  On the other hand, “The Kids are all Shakin'” is undeniably fun, with Brian Vollmer playing multiple characters from an old man to a radio DJ.  You can’t help but chuckle in your beer.

There are also a handful of rarities here, including the “topless” version of “Gimme Gimme Good Lovin'” that you definitely won’t see on MuchMusic. “Don’t Get Mad Get Even” was only played on Much, like, twice. So it’s pretty rare too. What’s missing is the alternate version of “Wild In The Street” that I have somewhere on a VHS tape, and any sort of special extras like interviews. Also, I have to say that I wish the video for “That Day Is Gonna Come” was on here. It is my all time favourite Helix video but it wasn’t on Capitol. It was on Aquarius.

[I have a buddy, Rob, who used to work for Rogers TV.  He told me that he had seen and knew where the tape was for the original “Heavy Metal Love” video.  They did an early version of it in T-shirts and jeans, before they changed their image to black leather.  Rob offered to copy it for me but I didn’t believe him so I said no!]

Great little DVD.  Extra interviews would have been awesome. However a lot of that stuff is available on other Helix DVDs. (Check ’em out.)  S.E.X. Rated has one last bonus going for it — it is encoded for NTSC on one side, and PAL on the other.  No matter where you are, you can buy it and enjoy the classic videos of 80’s Helix.

4/5 stars

How fucking cool does Brent Doerner look in every single video?

BOOK REVIEW: Brian Vollmer – Gimme An R! (2005)

The story of Brian Vollmer, lead vocalist of Helix

Forget all those books by the mega stars like Slash and Sammy Hagar that have come out in recent years. Those books have one thing in common — they were written (or co-written, anyway) by guys who are rock superstars! Megastars! It’s hard for me as a reader to relate to a guy who hasn’t had to hold down a job in 30 years. Not that there’s anything wrong with stardom, it’s just an observation.  I can’t relate to the human beings.   Not so with this book!

Brian Vollmer, lead vocalist of the hardest working band in Canada (that would be Helix), comes across as a pretty regular guy.  (I’ve met him a number of times, and he’s about as regular as anybody you’d know.)  Yes, he’s traveled the world in a rock band and played for thousands of people, but at the end of the day the book is something I can still relate to. Through crappy jobs in crappy convenience stores, crappy apartments, getting mugged, it doesn’t seem like a rock star’s life.  There are parallels in the story similar to other bands such as Anvil (another hard-working Canadian band). While Vollmer always manages to scrape by and continue to Rock Us, nothing comes easy.  Incredibly through it all Brian Vollmer never really stopped being an artist.  He seemed to always keep music, and Helix in his life even after dozens of lineup changes and band members.  (Approximately 35 people have been in Helix since 1974.  The newest member is Cambridge’s Chris Julke, replacing John Claus.)

From humble beginnings in Listowel Ontario to playing in Sweden, England and Trinidad, Vollmer’s tome has plenty of rock and roll stories. As one of the first Canadian bands to release independent albums in the 1970’s, he was a bit of a pioneer. Gimme An R! is loaded with rock star encounters one after the other, from Eddie Van Halen (on stage!) to Gene Simmons.  Vollmer remains himself through it all, even after Helix signed their big deal with Capitol and released “Rock You”.  The tragic death of primary co-writer Paul Hackman nearly derailed the band.  Even after the departures of longtime partners Brent Doerner, Fritz Hinz, and finally Daryl Gray, Brian kept going.  He kept the Helix name alive, finding success on the internet which was a brand new way for him to make contact, and sell albums directly to his fans.  Then, a little TV show called Trailer Park Boys helped expose Helix to a new audience.

Included between the covers are dozens of black and white photos of the band over the years.  From small-town Ontario to meeting superstars like Richard Pryor and Robin Williams, it’s a pretty cool collection of snaps. Unfortunately while reading I found myself distracted by spelling errors — “Atlantis Morissette” for example.  I would like to see a second printing that corrects these mistakes.  (A new chapter on the last decade would be cool too Brian!)

Vollmer’s prose is not frilly or poetic, but it’s conversational and descriptive.  There’s no ghost writer, so the pictures that Brian paints of all those seedy bars in the dead of winter come straight from his memory to the page.  He’s a great storyteller.  The bottom line is that the story of Helix keeps you hooked.  I’ve had friends come over and pick up the book, and they just get entranced. It’s a really different side of the rock and roll tales.  It shows what old fashioned determination and hard work can accomplish.

I have to knock off half a star for the spelling errors. It’s just one of those pet peeves — nothing personal, Brian!  I do highly recommend it Gimme An R! to rock fans world wide who’d like a different, more humble angle on the whole rock star thing.

4.5/5 stars

REVIEW: Helix – Smash Hits…Unplugged! (2010)

HELIX – Smash Hits…Unplugged! (2010 Helix Records)

Smash Hits…Unplugged!, the first ever acoustic release by Helix, was certainly a release that deserved more attention.  While Helix have continued to make albums (and good ones, too), many of them have been ignored by the media in general.  While an album such as The Power of Rock and Roll kicked as much ass as Walkin’ the Razor’s Edge, it went largely unheard.  Smash Hits…Uplugged! was a more accessible version of Helix, but it still failed to garner the attention it deserved.  I do hear “That Day Is Gonna Come” from this album on the radio from time to time, but this album is too good not to be heard by masses.

This, to me, was the real “classic Helix lineup” reunion album. Unlike Vagabond Bones, you can actually hear Brent and Daryl singing. Daryl Gray in particular contributes a lot to this album, including singing, bass, guitars, and more exotic instruments such as bodhran. All five Helix members participated, including Kaleb Duck with his first Helix album. Old friends such as Sean Kelly and Cheryl Lescom also dropped in.

Every song on this album was a hit somewhere or another, and every song on this album had the potential to be a hit once again. Vollmer sang his butt off as always.  Some of these arrangements are startlingly original. Particularly “Gimme Gimme Good Lovin”, which shines with great harmony vocals and mandolin courtesy of former guitar slinger Brent Doerner. This excellent, energetic version is followed by a great single-worthy take of “The Kids Are All Shakin”. The ballads are also well done, in particular the shoulda-woulda-coulda-been hit “That Day Is Gonna Come” and their cover of “Dream On”.

It is a new cover version that really blew me away. Vollmer sings his very best on “Touch of Magic” originally by the late great James Leroy. This long forgotten song is a wonderful tribute to Leroy, an under-appreciated Canadian singer and songwriter from the 1970’s.  His original version of “Touch of Magic” was a #6 charting single.  While I can’t say that Helix have topped or equaled him, it is a nice tribute and let’s leave it at that.

Really in total honesty, every version here is great — I can’t say much more than that. I found some arrangements, such as “Rock You”, to be pretty standard, while others to be more adventurous especially in instrumentation. A sprinkle of fiddle here, some 12-string there, and you get a rich unplugged album much more interesting than most major bands’.

Pick up Smash Hits…Unplugged! by Helix. Not only do you know all these songs already, but you’re supporting a band that really deserves it.

5/5 stars

More HELIX at

EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEWS:  Brian Vollmer (2012) + Brent Doerner (2007)

CONCERTS:  The Power of Rock and Roll CD release party 08/18/2007, London Ontario

REVIEWS: Best Of 1983-2012 + “All I Want For Christmas is the Leafs to Win the Cup” single
+ 30th Anniversary Concert DVD + “Good To The Last Drop”/”S.E.X. Rated” cassette single
+ Live! In Buffalo + No Rest for the Wicked

RECORD STORE TALES: Part 2: Gimme an R! + Part 234: Wild in the Streets

DVD REVIEW: Helix – 30th Anniversary Concert (2004)


HELIX – 30th Anniversary Concert (2004 EMI)

Helix will be turning 40 in 2014!  When I talked to Brian Vollmer back in September, he wasn’t interested in taking a look back this time.  Helix did glance back for their 30th in 2004, and this DVD was one of several celebratory releases.

The Helix DVD, the 30th Anniversary Concert, is one of the best rock videos I’ve seen. This band has so much history, and most of it was onstage that night, July 17 2004.

Vollmer decided to celebrate the 30th in style. Traveling to nearby Brantford and taking over the beautiful Sanderson Centre, Helix unveiled a setlist that honored their entire history, and guested nearly every band member from 1974 to 1990!

There were a few conspicuous by their absence, such as longtime bassist Daryl Gray, and a few that we knew couldn’t turn up (the then-missing Mike Uzelac, the late Paul Hackman). However, Brian Vollmer (only remaining original Helix member) proceeded to reunite members of the original 1974 Helix, which had never even been recorded before! From there we go to the lineup responsible for the first two albums (sans Hackman and Uzelac, replaced here by current Helix alum Rainer Weickmann and 1976 bassist Keith “Bert” Zurbrigg, wearing trademark tux). Brian Doerner is introduced as Canada’s greatest drummer, and while Neil Peart and Gary McCracken might disagree, he’s definitely up there. His brother Brent literally steals the show. Singing such lost classics as “Billy Oxygen” and “Crazy Women”, Brent still has that rock star quality. His guitar playing was stellar that night.

Other members from back in the day turned up: Leo Niebudek on drums, and then, finally…Greg “Fritz” Hinz, all the way from sunny Florida, behind the skins to celebrate Helix’ late 80’s heyday.

Not to be overshadowed, the 2004 Helix lineup returned to the stage for some more hits. “Archie” Gamble is a fantastic drummer, it should be noted, spinning his sticks while creatively keeping the time. The addition of a female vocalist, Cindy Weichmann, allowed the band to perform 1976’s “You’re A Woman Now” for the first time ever with a female vocal, just as it was on the album.

The nucleus of this DVD are the six tunes from the 70’s that rarely, if ever, get played today. As great as the hit 80’s material was, the 70’s stuff is what makes this DVD different from any other Helix product you can buy.

There are generous bonus features: interviews with Brian and his ever-supportive wife Lynda, candid scenes of rehearsals and Brian trying to get this monster concert together. There are interviews with fans who traveled all the way across the country to see this one show. Best of all are the clips of the old band members, now short-haired, meeting up again for the first time in years. “I’m Brian Drummer and I play Doerner,” says the drummer as he arrives. As Brian stands next to his twin brother Brent, Fritz says, “I never could tell you two apart”. It’s like watching someone’s family reunion video.

If you are a Helix fan, you have no excuse for not owning this. If you are only a casual Helix fan and want to check out some of their best stuff, this is the DVD package to get. Not only do you get the hits, but you get the history, and that’s not something to be ignored for a band that turned 30.

5/5 stars

This stuff below taken from the Wikipedia page, but I don’t care; I wrote the Wikipedia page.


All songs written by Brian Vollmer and Paul Hackman except where noted.

  1. The Band (includes the song “Ave Maria” performed by Brian Vollmer) (6:58)
  2. The Sanderson Theatre (5:54)
  3. The Concert: “Space Junk” (taped intro) (Rainer Wiechmann)/”Rockin’ In My Outer Space” (Bill Gadd, Rob Long, Tony Paleschi, Vollmer) (5:53)
  4. “Running Wild In The 21st Century” (3:53)
  5. “The Ballad of Sam and Mary” (Gadd, Long, Paleschi, Vollmer) (4:11)
  6. “It’s Hard to Feel the Sunshine When Your Heart is Full of Rain” (Gadd, Long, Paleschi, Vollmer) (3:35)
  7. The Original Helix: “Thinking It Over” (studio recording) (Del Shannon)/”Buff’s Bar Blues” (Alex Harvey) (9:59)
  8. The Early Years: “I Could Never Leave” (studio recording) (4:01)
  9. “Crazy Women” (Brent Doener) (3:41)
  10. “You’re A Woman Now” (Hackman) (6:59)
  11. “Billy Oxygen” (Doerner) (5:08)
  12. The Early 80’s: “Women, Whiskey & Sin” (studio recording) (Vollmer) (3:36)
  13. “It’s Too Late” (Doerner) (4:01)
  14. “Breaking Loose” (Vollmer, Doerner) (4:23)
  15. The Capitol Years: “Give It To You” (studio recording) (4:10)
  16. “Gimme Gimme Good Lovin'” (Joey Levine, Richard Rosenblatt) (3:24)
  17. “Heavy Metal Love” (3:45)
  18. “(Make Me Do) Anything You Want” (Paul Naummann, Danny Taylor) (4:03)
  19. “Deep Cuts the Knife” (Hackman, Bob Halligan, Jr. (4:31)
  20. “Wild in the Streets” (Hackman, Ray Lyell) (4:30)
  21. “Dirty Dog” (Vollmer, Doerner) (3:40)
  22. “Rock You” (Halligan) (6:23)
  23. “The Kids are All Shakin'” (4:54)
  24. Aftermath (includes the song “Danny Boy” performed by Brian Vollmer) (3:15)

Bonus Features

  1. 8mm Memories (8:44)



  • Brian Vollmer – lead vocals
  • Jim Lawson – guitar
  • Rainer Wiechmann – guitar
  • Cindy Wiechmann – acoustic guitar, vocals, keyboards
  • Jeff “Stan” Fountain – bass
  • Glen “Archie” Gamble – drums

Special guests: Everyone on “Rock You”

The Original Helix

Chapter 7, “Buff’s Bar Blues”

  • Brian Vollmer – lead vocals
  • Bruce Arnold – drums
  • Ron Watson – guitar
  • Don Simmons – keyboards
  • Keith “Burt” Zurbrigg – bass

The Early Years

Chapters 8-11

  • Brian Vollmer – lead vocals on all except “Crazy Women” and “Billy Oxygen”
  • Brent “The Doctor” Doerner – guitar, lead vocals on “Crazy Women” and “Billy Oxygen”
  • Brian Doerner – drums
  • Keith “Burt” Zurbrigg – bass
  • Rainer Wiechmann – guitar (standing in for Paul Hackman)

Special guests: Cindy Wiechmann and Cheryl Lescom – backing vocals on “You’re a Woman Now”, Cole G. Benjamin – keyboards on “Billy Oxygen”

The Early 80’s

Chapters 12-14

  • Brian Vollmer – lead vocals
  • Brent “The Doctor” Doerner – guitar
  • Leo Niebudek – drums
  • Keith “Burt” Zurbrigg – bass (standing in for Mike Uzelac)
  • Rainer Wiechmann – guitar (standing in for Paul Hackman)

The Capitol Years

Chapters 15-22

  • Brian Vollmer – lead vocals
  • Brent “The Doctor” Doerner – guitar
  • Greg “Fritz” Hinz – drums
  • Jeff “Stan” Fountain – bass (standing in for Mike Uzelac and Daryl Gray)
  • Rainer Wiechmann – guitar (standing in for Paul Hackman)

Special guest: Ray Lyell – vocals on “Wild in the Streets”

Studio songs

  • Brian Vollmer – lead vocals on all studio songs
  • Paul Hackman – guitar on all studio songs
  • Brent “The Doctor” Doener – guitar on all studio songs
  • Keith “Burt” Zurbrigg – bass on “Thinking It Over” and “I Could Never Leave”
  • Brian Doerner – drums on “Thinking It Over” and “I Could Never Leave”
  • Mike Uzelac – bass on “Women, Whiskey & Sin”
  • Leo Niebudek – drums on “Women, Whiskey & Sin”
  • Daryl Gray – bass on “Give It To You”
  • Greg “Fritz” Hinz – drums on “Give It To You”