Part Two of a series on classic KICK AXE!
When we last met Kick Axe, it was on the surprisingly great live track “Reality is the Nightmare“, from a very obscure compilation by Playboy magazine. It seems the guys at Playboy thought they should get into the music business too. They put out an album featuring recordings by unsigned bands, and among them was Kick Axe. At roughly the same time the live track was recorded, Kick Axe were also working independently on a single.
This early Kick Axe lineup still featured Charles McNary on lead vocals, a capable singer. The rest of the classic band was set: Victor Langen (bass), brothers Larry (guitar) and Brian (drums) Gillstrom, and guitarist Raymond Harvey. Recording in Vancouver, they managed to get the late Brian “Too Loud” MacLeod to co-produce, he of Headpins and Chilliwack fame.
“Weekend Ride” was the A-side, a slick track that already had the trademark Kick Axe rhythm. It’s largely based on Victor Langen’s thrumming bass. Solid chorus, interesting guitar hooks, and a screamin’ lead vocal — the essential stuff — are all present. There’s even some wild, prototypical metal soloing. The band were also fortunate enough to have capable backing vocalists, not fully exploited until their major label debut. On “Weekend Ride”, you can hear the start of that.
The interesting thing is the B-side, “One More Time”, a song written by Ray Harvey. This sounds like a different singer from the A-side, and it’s probably Harvey. It also features extensive keyboard solos, something they never did again. It sounds like a different band. Suffice to say, Kick Axe pursued the sound of the A-side when they made an album. “One More Time” sounds like a poor man’s Styx!
A few more years of hard work and a critical lineup change would prove to be the key for Kick Axe. Spencer Proffer of Pasha records was about to change their fortunes in a big way.
If not for this small handful of early Kick Axe recordings, we’d have no record of what they sounded like before Spencer stepped in and added his own ingredients to the stew. As it turns out, they were already good. They didn’t need a big namer to write good songs. They even had a good singer, before the lineup change that would bring George Criston’s golden pipes to the fore. They were on their way…for a “Weekend Ride”.