sean kelly

#743: A Shout-Out to Sean Kelly

GETTING MORE TALE #743: A Shout-Out to Sean Kelly

When it’s warranted, I like to use the Getting More Tale banner to include tributes to helpful individuals.  This goes as far back as Record Store Tales.  These chapters are mini-stories wrapped in a thank-you…or vice-versa.

So let’s go back to the beginning for a moment.  Ever since I first launched this site in 2012, I’ve been talking about my insanely cool VHS library and how badly I wanted to show it to you.  Now I’m doing that (as you’re all painfully aware by the lack of review content), and it has been enjoyable, rewarding work!  Long hours, but well spent.  Reliving old memories, hearing forgotten songs, and seeing those MuchMusic VJ faces from ages past…watching these old tapes is something I try to do a little bit every day.

But I’m not doing this just for me.  If I was just looking for “hits” or “views” I would just make endless lists of things.  That seems to be the kind of content people click these days.  I’m doing this for history, both personal and general.  I think these old rock star interviews and clips are historically interesting.  For you, and for posterity, I think it’s important to get the details as right as possible.  I can usually nail down a rough date of recording, and the names of all the people involved.

Usually.  This is where Sean Kelly comes in.

Sean Kelly is the Canadian axeman behind Metal On Ice (the book and album).  He’s currently playing with Lee Aaron, Trapper, and I can’t keep track of them all!  I have his #1 Classical Guitar Album.  He has been a regular on Helix CDs over the past decade.  He’s played with Nelly Furtado, and of course his own band Crash Kelly!  Superdekes interviewed him last year, and there’s no question:  the guy knows his rock!  (According to the Superdekes interview, Sean and I have something in common:  the first rock album we bought was Metal Health by Quiet Riot.)

As I’ve been going through my tapes, I’ve been taking screen shots (like these below) to tease social media.  Sometimes I’ll post a challenge:  “Name all the people in the picture”.  Sean Kelly has a 100% score!

Yeah that’s right.  Sean Kelly has yet to get any wrong, and I’ve posted some challenging ones.  Only Uncle Meat has come close to Mr. Kelly.  (Meat is at about a 99% or so.)

But where Mr. Kelly has helped me out was identifying some of the MuchMusic personalities.  As I said, I want to get the details of these videos right for historical purposes.  Any time I needed help figuring out who the interviewer was, Sean knew it, and usually got it within five minutes!  And it’s funny too.  The names “Ziggy Lorenc” and “Lance Chilton” were on the tip of my tongue, but he just knew them right away.

I guess that’s why he’s the professional!

The guy is a virtual encyclopedia of rock.  He identified some of the artists just by the instruments they were wielding.  He’s also a super talented player and writer, and a helpful friendly chap too!

I really appreciate Sean’s assistance getting the details for the VHS Archives right.  Check out the track I currently cannot get enough of: Trapper’s cover of “Illégal” by Corbeau. Trapper is a supergroup consisting of Emm Gryner, Frank Gryner and Tim Timleck. This song rocks! Enjoy.

 

REVIEW: Helix – Rock It Science (2016)

NEW RELEASE


scan_20160930HELIX – Rock It Science (2016 Perris)

Helix just don’t stop!  Never have, never will.  They have been an ongoing property since 1974, steadily releasing albums with only minor gaps between.  They keep playing live, year after year.  They keep recording new music, ensuring there is always fresh product for fans to pick up at one of their unflagging shows.  The latest is a new “greatest hits” CD called Rock It Science, featuring a smattering of tracks from all over their career and one new song.

Bands and record labels are often guilty of exploiting their fans for one or two new tracks and a whole bunch of stuff they already own.  Helix fans generally don’t feel that way.  They want to support the band (“the hardest working band in Canada”), and it’s worth noting that most past Helix “hits” CDs are out of print now, and there is very little overlap in songs.  What overlap exists is usually limited to the “big hits” – songs like “Rock You” and “Heavy Metal Love”.  Incidentally, the hits from the Capitol years included here are the re-recorded versions from Best Of 1983-2012.  Fear not, they are very authentic remakes.  You gotta do what you gotta do to get paid!

Brian Vollmer has been good about including deeper cuts on his compilations.  “Billy Oxygen” and “You’re a Woman Now” from the first album are brilliant.  These are two of their best songs, period, and they commence Rock It Science brilliantly.  Any Helix CD that includes “Billy Oxygen” is better for it.  This jazzy little rocker is one of their more complex arrangements, written and sung by the “Doctor” Brent Doerner.  Speaking of Brent, he designed the artwork for the CD and directed the music video for “(Gene Simmons Says) Rock is Dead“.  That’s the new track on this CD (click the link for a review of the song) and a damn fine one it is.  Brian co-wrote it with his partner in crime, Sean Kelly, a brilliant musician in his own right.

A few other treasures worth mentioning are the lava-hot “Get Up!” from 2006, and the ballad “Good to the Last Drop” from 1990.  This is the single remix version of the song, which tips the scales as the slightly superior (and more rare) mix.  “Shock City Psycho Rock” (1998) is a pleasant surprise.  This is a track written by bassist Mike Uzelac in the early 1980’s but not recorded until the 90’s.  (When they recorded it, Uzelac was actually a missing person.  He has since returned to the land of the living, but I can remember meeting his brother back in the Record Store days and that is when I first heard the story that Mike hadn’t been seen by family or friends in years.)  Mike Uzelac was a talented writer and contributed lots of material to Helix.  “Shock City” is one of the fastest and most destructive tracks in their catalogue.  Finally, “Even Jesus (Wasn’t Loved in His Home Town)” is a favourite, notable for its biting lyrics and brain-searing chorus.

So go ahead and give them an R.  The band is like an institution, a hard working gang of rockers that aim to please each and every time.  Buy the CD direct from the band and you’ll get a signed copy with some great liner notes detailing some rare band history.  Rock It Science would make a fine first Helix album for any collection.

4/5 stars

REVIEW: Helix – “(Gene Simmons Says) Rock is Dead” (2016 music video)

HELIX – “(Gene Simmons Says) Rock is Dead” (2016 music video from the forthcoming album Rock It Science)

“I don’t need no god of thunder to tell me what is great.” — Brian Vollmer

Helix are back once more, with a new greatest hits album called Rock It Science.*  You gotta have a new song on a new greatest hits (teased previously as “Mystery Track”), and this new song is timely and sharp.  Gene Simmons does indeed say that rock is dead.  In fact he’s been saying that for over 25 years.  I have a M.E.A.T Magazine interview with Gene from 1990 where he professes that rock is indeed dead.  And he’s still saying it now.  But Brian Vollmer retorts, “Don’t believe it when Gene Simmons says rock is dead!”

Sure, lots has changed, but Helix keeps going.  It’s not the 80’s anymore.  Very few can sell 2,000,000 copies of an album today.  It’s hard to make a living just by selling records.  You have to diversify.  Everything has changed — but like many things, the more they change the more they stay the same.  Rock is not dead.  In many respects, rock is more popular than ever.  Helix are still producing great quality music, and “Gene Simmons Says) Rock is Dead” is one more gem for their rock crown.  Daryl Gray and “Fritz” Hinz are still there on the rhythm section.  Chris Julke and Kaleb Duck handle the axes just fine.  This could have been on an album like Back for Another Taste.

As far as the video goes, Brent Doerner directed this one.  The Gene impersonator is bang-on — I hope Helix don’t get sued for this!  The video celebrates the old school.  It’s performed at Speed City Records in London, Ontario.  (Look for cool posters of bands such as Gob and VoiVod, who Gene slammed in the 1990 M.E.A.T interview.)  I really dig Daryl Gray’s Helix logo bass guitar.  That looks like a bitch to play.  Brent captured the fun side of the band in the video.  It’s not glossy, but I think it does the trick.

There’s no release date yet, but Rock It Science should be available to purchase soon.  Check out the CD cover, also designed by Brent Doerner.

Rock is dead?  Hardly.  Gene’s been wrong before, and he’s wrong again.

4/5 stars

ROCK IT

*The title It’s ROCK Science, Not Rocket Science was a working title for 2009’s Vagabond Bones.

 

 

REVIEW: Helix – Vagabond Bones (2009)

STRAT

Welcome back to Canadian Rawk Week!

Scan_20160210HELIX – Vagabond Bones (2009 Universal)

2009 was an exciting time to be a Helix fan.  15-odd years of rotating lineups kept the band alive and in the clubs, but it was hard to grow attached to any band members when they only stayed for a couple years and were off elsewhere.  Helix main man Brian Vollmer had always maintained strong ties with former members, and guys like Brent Doerner often showed up on albums, or in the audience at local Helix shows.  It was still a surprise when Doerner, drummer Greg “Fritz” Hinz, and bassist Daryl Gray all returned to the Helix lineup.  This completed the classic 80’s version of the band, or at least the surviving members thereof.  Paul Hackman was killed in 1993 in a tragic auto accident.  Replacing him in the lineup was Kaleb “Duckman” Duck, who had previously worked with Brent.

Vollmer was working on a new album (originally called It’s Rock Science, NOT Rocket Science!), writing with his partners Sean Kelly and Moe Berg (The Pursuit of Happiness).   The final product entitled Vagabond Bones has a variety of different players on it.  Former Helix members Brent “Ned” Niemi and Rob MacEachern play drums, and guitar maestro Kelly (also briefly a Helix member) contributed to guitar and bass.  Also on the CD is Steve Georgakopoulos who played on a few past Helix albums.  You’d think it would be a case of “too many cooks” in the kitchen.  That’s not the case; Vollmer and Co. brewed a potent mixture of songs, with all the attitude and quality that you have come to expect from this band.

Immediately you’re hit over the head by the slick production work by Vollmer, Kelly and Aaron Murray. “The Animal Inside (Won’t Be Denied)” has the stamps of both Helix and Sean Kelly all over it, from the absurdly catchy chorus to the shredding solos. Vollmer sings powerfully, but his voice has so much depth character from years of training and road work.  Very few singers from the 70’s still sound the same, but Brian Vollmer is damn close!  “Go Hard or Go Home” has another powerful chorus, plus great catchy riff, and fun lyrics.  “Go hard, or go home, take your little whiny candy ass and go.”  Considering all that Helix has been through, Vollmer surely knows only the strong survive.  “No short cuts, no sweet deals,” he sings and he knows it!  The title track “Vagabond Bones” makes it three great songs in a row. It’s an instantly likeable good time hard rock boogie.

Helix really developed a knack for melody as they grew. One of the most pop moments is “Monday Morning Meltdown”, a song that Brian compared to Cheap Trick in terms of style.  You can hear it in the choruses, but it’s just a great pop rock song with another great Sean Kelly riff holding down the fort.  Very different for Helix, and very good.

Onto a fast vintage Van Halen style shuffle, “When The Bitter’s Got The Better Of You” is the fifth straight up great song in a row.  It too is very different for Helix.  It continues a theme of “down on your luck” songs, but always with a message to keep on givin’ ‘er.  That holds true on “Hung Over But Still Hanging In”, a sleeze rock duet with Russ Dwarf of Killer Dwarfs.  If you need a hard rocking party song, then this is what you want. It has the groove, the fun, and the lyrics so just hoist them wobbly-pops and rock on!

My personal favourite song has always been “Best Mistake I Never Made”. It has a classic 70’s rock aura, an acoustic guitar, and if I had to compare it to something else it would be Helix’s excellent 1992 single “That Day Is Gonna Come”.  That’s a trip down memory lane that I don’t mind taking.  “Make ‘Em Dance” is a fast stomper with a beat that strikes me as almost Disco.  It just rages though, I wouldn’t try dancing to it until you want to break your neck!

Ending the album on a funky rock vibe is “Jack it Up”. This is a really interesting song, because I used to hate it. You may have to let it grow on you because, like much of this album, it’s forging new territory for Helix. It’s still great party rock, but just a little laid back.

With sharp production, Vagabond Bones was certainly the best sounding Helix album, and the best overall in many a year. And that’s saying something, because 2007’s The Power Of Rock And Roll was very, very strong.  Hearing this album for the first time, I just smiled.  I had to.  Helix were back and pretty much better than ever.

5/5 stars

REVIEW: A World With Heroes EP

NEW RELEASE

A WORLD WITHA World With Heroes EP – A KISS Tribute for Cancer Care (Anniversary release)

You’ve heard me talking a lot about this one lately.  It’s a release I’m really excited about.  The record shows that I heartily approved of last year’s A World With Heroes (A Kiss Tribute for Cancer Care), assembled by Mitch Lafon.  Proceeds went to benefit the Vaudreuil-Soulanges Palliative Care Residence in Hudson, Quebec.  And it was a killer, killer CD as my 5/5 star rating attested to.  To hear there was an EP coming featuring more Kiss covers, that peaked my interest.  Lafon always makes sure that there are quality tunes, performed by artists we care about.

The Killer Dwarfs do “C’mon and Love Me” just right.  I like that Russ Dwarf throws in some of Gene’s mannerisms in the chorus, but also sings it in his own voice.  If you like Killer Dwarfs and Kiss, you will love this, guaranteed.  Once again, the A World With Heroes series has delivered a solid Kiss cover that is valuable to fans.

“Calling Dr. Love” as performed by Crash Kelly is a real rarity.  You had to pre-donate to the original compilation CD to get an mp3 of it.  Now you can buy it on the EP.  They turn in a fun version of “Dr. Love”.  They make it a bit more pop rock in feel, and Sean Kelly absolutely nails Ace’s solo note for note.  It’s uncanny.  We all know Sean is a talented axeman, but that solo was flawless.

“Save Your Love” is an awesome Ace song, but Matt Bradshaw’s take on it is unique to say the least.  He transforms it into a funky acoustic ballad.  But it works!  I was prepared to hate it but was pleasantly surprised.  It’s bizarre how the song completely works in this format.  This is an example of an intelligent, innovative cover — something that is rare these days.   Brilliant cover.  Seriously.

“Every Time I Look at You” was originally from the Revenge album.  Some fans assume that Bruce Kulick played the guitar solo, but it was in fact Bob Ezrin’s old pal, Dick Wagner.  Dick Wagner passed away recently, at age 71.  This was his last song ever, which makes his version of this song that much more poignant.  His quavering voice speaks of the years past, but much like a late period Johnny Cash album, it only adds character to the song.  He sounds like a cross between Bob Dylan and Keith Richards.  The guitar work is lovely of course.

The Dwarfs return with “Nothin’ to Lose” from the first album.  Once again Russ nails the Gene mannerisms, while still sounding like Russ Dwarf.  This one is replete with piano and cowbell (Piano is by Bruce Stephen Foster, who also played on the Kiss original!).  I gotta be honest with you, I like the idea of the Dwarfs covering Kiss songs.  They can do more if they want.  They’re allowed.

Sudden Flames are a metal band from Quebec City.  They heavy up “Coming Home” considerably.  It’s one of my favourite Kiss songs ever, so it’s kind of funny to hear it with drums blasting away like this.  Like “Dr. Love”, this song was only available to those who donated in advance to the original CD.  Now you can get it on iTunes too.   I enjoy hearing their Québécois accents, truly one of the greatest accents on this Earth.

I only wish this was a physical release.

4.5/5 stars

  1. “C’Mon and Love Me” – Killer Dwarfs
  2. “Calling Dr. Love” – Crash Kelly
  3. “Save Your Love” – Matt Bradshaw
  4. “Every Time I Look At You” – Dick Wagner
  5. “Nothin’ To Lose” – Killer Dwarfs
  6. “Coming Home” – Sudden FlamesA WORLD WITH EP

 

 

REVIEW: Helix – Bastard of the Blues (2014)

NEW RELEASE

HELIX – Bastard of the Blues (2014 Perris)

I’ve been a Helix fan a long time.  They were one of the first bands I’ve ever liked.  I’m pleased to report that their new album, Bastard of the Blues, is their strongest in years and possibly on a par with their best 80’s work.  It is their first album with Chris Julke of Cambridge Ontario on guitar, replacing John Claus (who replaced the Doctor, Brent Doerner).  This new lineup of the band (still featuring Kaleb Duck – guitar, Daryl Gray – bass, and Fritz Hinz – drums) is again working with Sean Kelly and Aaron Murray, producing one hell of a record.  It consists of 8 brand new songs, and 3 slightly older songs that you may have missed the first time.

BASTARD OF THE BLUES_0006The title track “Bastard of the Blues” is a mean, fully loaded soul-metal rock song.  Soul-metal?  Sure, why not?  Check out those backing vocals, and the smoking lead guitars.  Soul-metal!  Songwriting-wise, this is a top drawer.  Production-wise, performance…there is absolutely nothing that sucks about “Bastard of the Blues”.  Although this is a completely modern song, there are aspects of it that take me back to 1978’s Breaking Loose album, such as its experimental nature with different sections and so on.

It takes balls to name a song “Even Jesus (Wasn’t Loved in His Home Town)”. It’s heavier than the title track, and boasts a nasty little guitar riff to hook you.  Once again, Helix raised the bar.  Then they change gears:  “Winning is the Best Revenge” is solid pop rock that in a just world would be on the radio.  This one takes me right back to the mellower sounds on Helix’ 1993 classic It’s a Business Doing Pleasure.  Vollmer’s voice is in top shape.  Lyrically these two songs really seem pointed at those who may or may not have impeded Helix in the past!

“Screaming at the Moon” would be a cool song live, with it’s lyrics about fists pumping in the air.  My favourite song however is the next one, “Metal at Midnight”.  If it wasn’t for the modern production I’d swear this song was from 1984.  What a great hard rock chorus.  I’m absolutely nuts for this song.  What is it about bands like Judas Priest and Helix recently, that they have managed to tap into that vintage vibe?  I think part of the credit must go to co-writer Sean Kelly, who proved his metal credentials last year on his excellent Metal On Ice EP.

BASTARD OF THE BLUES_0007“Hellbound For a Heartbreak” is similar in direction to “Screaming at the Moon”, which is solid hard rock with hooky guitars.  But then, I was taken by surprise: “When All the Love is Gone” is an epic 70’s-sounding ballad with a voice singing that I’m not familiar with.  Turns out, it’s Daryl Gray!  He absolutely nails it.  This song could have been at home on Breaking Loose, alongside “You’re a Woman Now”.  I tend to like albums with multiple lead singers, so I enjoyed the change of pace.

From the compilation CD Best Of 1983-2012 comes “Axe to Grind”, getting a second life here.  Now here’s an interesting observation:  On the Best Of CD it didn’t make a huge impression on me.  Here, I’m enjoying it a lot more, particularly for the scathing lyrics.  Anybody who has read Brian’s Facebook page knows he’s not shy about sharing opinions, and “Axe to Grind” reminds us of that.  Then comes “Skin in the Game” from the EP of the same title.  This being an older song, you can hear the presence of the Doctor!  Also from that EP is “The Bitch is a Bullet”.  It boasts one of those memorable Helix choruses.

Album closer “Sticks and Stones” is another favourite.  It’s a fast-paced bluegrass-y metal shuffle!  Hey, I don’t know how to describe it better.  This is a great song, purely smoking, and showing off the musicianship of these five pros.  Much like “Metal at Midnight”, I just can’t get enough of this song!

As an album, Bastard of the Blues is more cohesive and consistent than some of the recent Helix discs, including The Power of Rock and Roll and Vagabond Bones.  As good as those albums were, Bastard is better.  It feels like a complete album, more so than before.  It holds its own against classics like Back For Another Taste, a high-water mark.

I don’t often get preachy in my reviews here, but I will say this:  Go out and get Bastard of the Blues.  Order it online.  Do what you have to do to purchase this album.  You’ll be supporting a hard working band that have really earned your dollars.  If there was one pleasant surprise of 2014 so far, it is that Helix came out with such an incredibly strong album.  They have raised the bar for themselves again.

5/5 stars

 

GALLERY: Canada Day Weekend NEW ARRIVALS!

Just in time for the long weekend, some new tunes!  I also ordered a book:  Sean Kelly’s Metal On Ice, as reading material for next week’s Sausagefest!  Seen below:  Original Soundtrack to the movie Still Crazy (thank you The Earl of Swirl for reminding me about this great film) and the new Helix album, Bastard of the Blues.

REVIEW: Metal On Ice – Various artists (2013)

NEW…ish RELEASE!

METAL ON ICE – Tunes from Canada’s Hard Rock and Heavy Metal heroes (2013 Warner Canada)

Good Sir Aaron purchased this for me at his local establishment for the low, low price of $5.  In Aaron’s review, he stated, “This is the best $5 I’ve spent on spec in ages. Bar none.”  That’s mighty tribute from a guy like Aaron, who buys a lot of CDs on spec.

What is Metal On Ice?  The talented guitarist Sean Kelly (Crash Kelly, Four By Fate, The #1 Classical Guitar Album) put together a book of rock tales from Canada’s best of the 80’s:  Helix, Anvil, Coney Hatch, Killer Dwarfs, Kick Axe and more.  To go with it, he also produced this EP.  Metal On Ice, the CD, consists of remakes of Canadian heavy metal classics.  For all but one song, he has the original singers from the bands singing lead vocals.  For the one that he doesn’t, (Kick Axe’s “On the Road to Rock”) he has Nick Walsh from Slik Toxik.  Then to top it all off, he and Walsh wrote a new song called “Metal On Ice” featuring vocals from almost everybody.

Many of these songs are radio staples.  “Heavy Metal Love” is one of those Helix classics that has endured.  Written by Brian Vollmer and the late Paul Hackman, I think it’s one of Helix’s best tunes, period.  Vollmer’s pipes speak for themselves.  Sean Kelly was in Helix, on bass, for a few months before Brian reunited the classic lineup.  Playing bass on this version however is Helix bassist Daryl Gray.  It’s a pretty authentic remake.

METAL ON ICEI found “Metal Queen” by Lee Aaron to be the most impressive track.  I cannot believe Lee’s voice, powerful as ever!  With the new production and guitars by Sean Kelly, “Metal Queen” has actually been improved.  It’s still an old-school metal chugger, but you can actually hear the lyrics now!  What is important is that Kelly has not changed the songs very much at all.  His impressively tasteful playing is enough to make each one shine just a little more.  Each solo is 100% appropriate to the classic songs.

A great example of this is the Headpins’ “Don’t It Make Ya Feel” featuring Darby Mills.  He has captured the vibe of the original guitar tone, and the song is very authentic.  Similarly, Nick Walsh does not deviate too much from George Criston’s lead vocals from “On the Road to Rock”.  When Walsh screams the high notes, it’s perfect.   Carl Dixon sings lead on Coney Hatch’s classic “Hey Operator”.  Dixon nearly died in a car accident not too long ago; it’s great to hear his voice as strong as ever.  How do these Canadian singers stay perpetually young sounding?  Is it our cold, frosty air?

Russ Dwarf returns to remake the Killer Dwarfs favourite, “Keep the Spirit Alive”.  This has always been my favourite Killer Dwarfs song, right from the very beginning.  It’s absolutely wonderful to hear a well produced updated version.  I admit that when I first got this CD, I went back and played “Keep the Spirit Alive” four or five times in a row.

Finally, there is the new original song “Metal on Ice”.  This ode to the road features lead vocals from Dixon, Vollmer, Mills, Walsh and Aaron.  I love the lyrics: “Hello Kelowna, goodbye Kenora, but we do it all tomorrow in Thunder Bay,” for example.  It is these kinds of Canadian towns that has kept the rock alive through trends and changing winds.  Walsh proudly proclaims that even though they may never make it to the top, they’re never going to stop.

A great sentiment on which to end a great CD.

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 mikeladano.com:

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

EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: Brian Vollmer of HELIX!

September 7, 2012:  Once again, things are getting exciting on Planet Helix.  If the new single / video “All I Want For Christmas is the Leafs to Win the Cup” wasn’t enough, there’s also the new anthology, Best Of 1983-2012.

Lead vocalist and founding member of Helix, Brian Vollmer talked to us about these releases, some special upcoming dates, and a lot more.

The new single seems to be off to a good start, according to the song’s co-writer, Sean Kelly.  Brian filled us in.

“Sean’s from North Bay [Ontario], and he told me we’re getting airplay up in North Bay on that song.”  The video is also doing well:  “We’re up over 5000 hits now, and we’re hoping that the video goes viral.  It’s early in the season…there might not even be an NHL season this year!”

Oh Brian, don’t get me started on Gary Bettman!

The collector in me was excited about the vinyl release of the single.  It’s also going to be on the anthology CD, but the vinyl is designed for collectors in mind.

“I had initially wanted to do vinyl on the Christmas album [A Heavy Mental Christmas], but when we wrote this song, I thought that we’d do vinyl because it’s a collector’s item.  It’s kind of a novelty type of thing, and I think that it’ll appeal to not only Helix fans but also Toronto Maple Leafs fans.  They might like the vinyl just to have in the rec room up in the bar.  We sell it for $19.99 so it makes a great stocking stuffer for people.

“We did it on green vinyl too, to fit in with the season somewhat, and when we go through that pressing we’ll probably change colours.”  Just FYI Brian:  my wife, Mrs. LeBrain, is really hoping for blue!

“We’ve been trying to write a Leafs song for a couple years,” adds Brian.  “We had the working title of ‘I’m Bleeding Blue & White Tonight’.  And we never quite got the song together.  And then we did a radio session, where we were finishing off [new song]  ‘Axe to Grind’, which is also on the anthology album.”  Brian was then supposed to meet up with Travis Wood, of the band Whosarmy (from the TV show Cover Me Canada, which Brian also guested on incidentally).

“I didn’t want to go too early, and just sit around at the restaraunt.  So we started fooling around and all of a sudden, within a couple of minutes we wrote ‘All I Want For Christmas is the Leafs to Win the Cup’.  The song was recorded within two weeks.”  The hilarious video was done right after that.  I forgot to ask Brian if any Habs fans are offended!


All I Want For Christmas is the Leafs to Win the Cup

You can buy the single on the green vinyl in a bundle with a T-shirt and the new CD, Best Of 1983-2012.  “The Best Of album I just put out has a lot of tracks that you wouldn’t normally hear [on other best of albums] by Helix.  Stuff like ‘Animal Inside’ off the Vagabond Bones  album.  ‘Get Up’ and ‘Fill Your Head With Rock’ from The Power of Rock and Roll album.”

Coinciding with these releases is the forthcoming Heavy Mental Christmas tour.

“Yes, we just added another date in Cornwall.  We have seven dates, mostly through Masonic temples, legions, moose halls, through southern Ontario.  It’s a multi-media show.  We’re taking out screens, so there’s some video segues between songs, other times there’s still pictures with Christmas themes…some of the cameras that are places strategically around stage are broadcasting whatever member might be doing a solo during the song.”

You may want to consider getting your tickets now, as these shows are special indeed, and feature a new lineup.  Not only will you meet the new Helix guitarist, John Claus, but “also Sarah Smith.  Sarah Smith is a great London [Ontario] artist, she’s got two CDs out now under her belt, she’s a great addition to the show.  Just a smiling, very talented person.  She’s on with us instead of Kaleb [“Duckman” Duck, guitars].  Kaleb really didn’t want to do Christmas songs!  Initially, we were going to go with one guitar player, and then I thought of Sarah.”

This turned out to be a good decision, according to Brian:

“I always walk out of our Christmas practices with a big smile on my face.  I love playing the material, and it’s really fun with this group of people, to do these songs.  I wouldn’t want somebody to do any of my projects that wasn’t totally into it.

“It’s a labour of love.  We’ve been working on this show over a year now.”

Really?

“Setting up the website, and the tickets, and the halls, and putting together the show, learning the show, and getting the multi-media involved.”  But it is truly a labour of love, and you can tell by the amount of work that Brian and the band has put in so far.

I mentioned new guitar player John Claus.  As previously reported, longtime axeman Brent Doerner will be leaving Helix at the end of September 2012.  Brian helps shed some light on this lineup change, and what bringing in a new member does for the band.

“We have two more dates with Brent at the end of this month.  One’s at the Rockpile in Toronto, the other’s at the Masonic Temple in Stratford.  That’s a multi-media show as well.  Tickets are going fast for that one, I think a lot of people want to come and see Brent before he goes.

“Brent’s been in the band since about 1975.  No hard feelings with him leaving at all.  He just wants to pursue video production, and in fact, Brent will still be involved on a creative level  with the band, helping us do our videos.

“I tell everyone that Brent, when he initially came back to the fold, he was only going to be here for six months, and he ended up staying three and a half years!  He definitely was better than his word, and stayed for a long time.  So I’m really grateful to him for that.”

On John Claus, who will replace Brent:

“He plays piano and guitar.  He sings, so he’s a great addition to the band.  Nice guy, great personlity.  Whenever we hire new people in the band, we don’t want any ego trips.  So, to get someone who has a nice personality and just a good human being is a nice thing to have.”  John will join the band completed by longtime members Daryl Gray and Greg “Fritz” Hinz, on bass and drums respectively.

The piano aspect will come into play for future shows.  Brian reveals that he and John will probably perform “Dream On”, the Nazareth cover, from Helix’s Wild in the Streets album, as a duo during upcoming Helix concerts.  “And the Christmas shows, we’re doing ‘Hallelujah'” says Brian of another piano-based cover to look forward to!

It’s great to see Helix continue forward through the years.  Brian has worked hard, starting in the 1970’s as an indi artist, and now today continuing down that path.  Once again the band is behind their own music releases, selling it themselves.  Brian has nothing but praise for the team he’s surrounded himself with in recent years.

“I write with Sean [Kelly] nowadays, he’s a great writer, nice person to work with.  Aaron Murray is my producer, he studied from Danny Broadback, who won a Juno for Engineering.  And Danny studied with Jack Richardson, who as you know produced Alice Cooper and the Guess Who, and all sorts of people.”  Brian adds, “Moe Berg [The Pursuit of Happiness] sometimes comes in to write with us, Sean and I.”

Thanks to Brian Vollmer for updating us on all the new happenings on Planet Helix!  Try to get out to see the Heavy Mental Christmas tour, and get tickets while you can!

Upcoming dates:

http://www.planethelix.com/Schedule.htm

Buy the new Helix single, album, and other stuff:

http://www.planethelix.com/Store/StoreMain.htm

Audio of our chat below!

 SOUNDCLOUD