LEE AARON – Lee Aaron (1987 Unidisc Music)
Lee Aaron: Canada’s “Metal Queen”. It is a name she will never live down despite the credible jazz career. Try as she did to distance herself from the Metal Queen tag, Lee’s seems to embrace it more recently, even throwing a funky jazz-tinged version into her sets, as a mash-up with “Mysterious Ways” by U2! And it works!
In the late 80’s, Lee (aka Karen) was less comfortable than today with being the Metal Queen, and her 1987 self-titled disc is possibly the best example of this. All shades of metal were dropped; what was left is a mainstream pop rock record co-written with professionals such as Marc Ribler and Joe freakin’ Lynn Turner.
Growing up in Canada, you basically had two mainstream choices in female rock singers: Lita Ford, or Lee Aaron. That was all MuchMusic would play. OK, sure the odd Joan Jett track too, after her resurgence with Up Your Alley. That was it. Otherwise the Pepsi Power Hour was pretty much devoid of regular female rock heroes. There were the odd flashes in the pain — Vixen, Madame X — but Lee and Lita were the only two to get regular play year in year out. Lee of course had the trump card labelled CanCon in her deck.
I got this album for Christmas 1987, and I was so disappointed. The sound — plastic, turgid, processed, synthetic, with hardly any guitars. The songs — commercial pop designed to get played on the radio and not a hint of metal to be found anywhere. John Albini (now blonde all of a sudden?) is still her guitarist and co-writer, but there’s much less guitar on this album. There are also some truly awful, awful songs on here, most notably “Don’t Rain On My Parade”. I won’t tell what that rains smells like, but it don’t smell good.
The single/ballad “Only Human” is a decent song, very soft, but not too far off from stuff the Scorpions would do later on! (Lee actually sang backup vocals on “The Rhythm of Love” by the Scorps in ’88.) The best track is actually the pop keyboard rocker, “Powerline”. The guitar is not as dominant as the keyboards, but it does at least have some guitar. It has Joe Lynn Turner’s melodic sensibilities and songcraft, hooks galore, and a smashing chorus.
But then you get tripe like “Goin’ Off the Deep End”, “Dream With Me”, and…ugh. There was just no way, as a 15 year old, I was going to let anybody catch me listening to those songs. People might have thought I’d stolen my sister’s Tiffany tapes or something.
Turns out that Lee, despite that powerful voice, just wasn’t cut out to be a Metal Queen. She’s doing great as a jazz singer, and I think that’s just fine.