Licence To Rock is the name of the new album from British musicians Chris Rainbow and Paul Newton. Chris has been around for years, recording albums and performing; Paul Newton should be known to classic rock fans as the original bass player in Uriah Heep. Paul played on the first 3 albums, as well as contributed writing to a handful of songs on the first 2. Paul was also in The Gods and Spice – both pre-Heep bands, and it’s more than likely that without him – Uriah Heep would not have happened. In recent years Paul has returned to the Heep circle via Heep fan conventions and Heep Legends shows. But Licence To Rock sees Paul Newton return to recording – along with singer/guitarist and songwriter Chris Rainbow. The album is a fine mix of rockers, pop, blues, and a bit of country, as well as including a couple of Heep covers from Paul’s early days. [see review elsewhere on this site]. Here Paul & Chris give the details on the album and the making of. *thanks to Paul Newton for being a champ in responding so quickly [and well typed]! Enjoy the read!
How did this project come about, and how did it evolve into a full album?
I met Chris at one of his solo shows about three years ago and during the evening we talked music and found that we had a lot of common ground regarding bands, songs etc. I saw him again a few months later and he asked me if I would be interested in playing bass on a few of his originals. This commonly happens with musicians I meet, but, to be honest, I am always a bit wary as usually these guys have songs that are just awful things that they think are wonderful but are really just a waste of time. However, I agreed to have a listen and a few weeks later Chris came to my home with his guitar & a few demos which were surprisingly good so I agreed to play on a couple and in due course we had a day at Arena-sound studios and knocked out three songs which we were both pleased with. It became evident to me that Chris was a REALLY talented musician & songwriter. At that time there was no real plan to make a full length cd as Chris was just going to add these songs to the stuff he sells at his own gigs. Over the next few months we did a few gigs together and Chris regularly sent more songs to me and so the project just rolled along from there….he would send me demos and I wrote the bass lines & then added them to Chris’s recordings……simple !!. We originally made a CD of just four songs but as time passed we formulated a plan for a full length CD…which is what we now have.
Paul – What can you tell us about Chris Rainbow – what you knew of him before you got together and recording together? Chris – can you give me some insight into your own musical influences and style?
Chris lives in the coastal town of Clevedon which is just south of the city of Bristol…about one hour from my home in Ledbury. He has been a professional entertainer & musician all his life and has an interesting profile, having previously worked in a circus and with bands as well as his solo work. He lived and worked in California for some years where was married to an American lady for a while. His musical influences come from his general love of rock music and especially from his time in the States where he got into all the great southern USA bands.
Chris- Southern Rock and west coast American music is probably what l’m most familiar with from a songwriting and playing perspective. As regards to my musical taste, l am a fan of everything from Rockabilly jazz right through to Hard Rock and Metal.
Paul – How did the idea of re-recording the 2 Heep tracks come about? Your suggestion? What was the feeling revisiting those tracks 45 years later? Chris – Were you familiar with Paul or Heep and either of the Heep tracks before this project?
The idea to do the Heep covers came from Chris. He has a vast collection of rock albums from way back…all sorts of stuff he has accumulated over the years, including much of the Heep catalogue, and he was keen to include a couple of Heep songs as well as his original material. I was not so keen to begin with as I am not someone who lives in the past and the interest for me was to record new material, not rehash old stuff that could not really be improved on. Chris thought that the Heep covers would provide a link from the past to the new stuff and provide a bit of extra interest and so that is how we ended up doing the two songs that appear on the CD. The decision to do a cover of “Baby Please Don’t Go” was easy as it is a great song that we both love! Re-visiting the two Heep songs was really down to “how do we arrange them” and we decided to pretty much leave them as they were…just play them with Chris’s interpretation. To totally re-arrange them would have been pointless and with no actual gain…they are just two fairly simple songs and should be played that way. The original Chris Rainbow songs are a selection of his material…some already written and recorded & the rest written during the recording schedule. Ex-Heep drummer Keith Baker was due to play on some tracks but had to pull out due to personal problems so we used my mate Gary Harper on some tracks.
Chris- l was, prior to meeting Paul very familiar with Uriah Heep’s music. l grew up listening to all the Byron era aside from the first three LPs featuring Paul. Particular favorites of mine were Wonderworld, Sweet Freedom and Return To Fantasy. Also Firefly featuring John Lawton on vocals was a favorite – The Hanging Tree in particular.
Memories of doing the two Heep tracks are Paul doing the bass parts; the years just rolled away and he locked into the groove as if we were back in 1970 pure magic.
The album really is a good listen throughout and has a wide range of songs from hard rock to pop, to blues, and even country. …Do you have any personal favorites – either as songs or your performance?
As regards my personal favorites on the album I have to say that I am pleased with all the tracks…we only put down stuff that we really liked. “Watching My Last Chance” & “This Lonely Road” are probably top for me. As for my playing….well..I can only play as I play but I always try to find bass lines that work for a particular song and not overcomplicate things so I am quite pleased with what I have contributed here. Of course, as often happens listening back to stuff after the event you always tend to think that maybe something could be improved or played differently.. but you could go on forever….
Chris- Regarding the songs on the new CD the only song l had before meeting Paul was ‘All’s Not Lost ‘, which was originally intended as an acoustic number. The other songs were all written especially for this project.
The song ‘Watching My Last Chance Fade Away’, l always saw it as a west coast country rock type of thing the lyrics dealing with a relationship breakup and the person feeling that it is not the last chance gone with that person but possibly his/her last chance with love together. The other songs are generally about the benefits of keeping going despite the obvious difficulties that life can throw at you. ‘Satans Claw’ was inspired by the film ‘City Of The Dead’, starring Christopher Lee and the other Black Lion, Hammer and Amicus films. The short instrumental piece The Mage was part of a trilogy of short instrumentals dealing with Aleister Crowley. l thought it made a suitable prelude for Satan’s Claw.
My own personal favorites on the CD are ‘This Lonely Road’, Baby Please Don’t Go and Let The Dice Keep Rolling for no real reason other than they remind me of the fun we had doing this CD.
This CD was recorded on a very tight budget and is a very low key release in the big scheme of things. It would have been nice perhaps to have added another guitar player to do a bit of shredding, as my style is more riffs and rhythm… on the other hand some of the charm would have been lost, l think. The biggest thing for me on a personal level was when Paul rang me to say how pleased he was with the finished album.
Paul – you’ve really been embraced by the Heep faithful over the past decade via facebook and the Heep Legends shows. How fun has it been after being out of the spotlight for so many years, since you’d left the band in ’71?
Being “embraced” by Heep fans over the last few years has been a great & unexpected honour for me. Having only been a part of the band at the very beginning and then moving on to many other things during my life meant that I rarely gaveHeep a thought until 1999-2000 when John Lawton asked me to do Heepvention2000 in London….I had to dig out the old songs and re-learn them! Subsequent HeepVentions & related events over the years have been enjoyable and great fun and the continuing interest & support of the Mick Box Uriah Heep & related things have totally amazed me (and continue to do so). Sadly it is unlikely that there will be any more “Legends” shows or reunions but we have enjoyed what we have been able to do in recent years….good memories to have.
Paul – Overall, how was the recording experience compared to 45 years ago? How long had it been since you’d been in a recording studio last?
The recording process was spread over about 18 months…we were both busy with other work and so slotted in studio time when we were both available. There was no particular time scale discussed as we were doing this for ourselves and it was only ever going to be a very low-key project….but we have had a lot of fun during that time, which was our main intention. We will never be rich & famous….!!
I have spent a fair amount of time in studios since the Heep days…(did a few tracks recently for US band “Twisted Tapestry”)….. not so much the last few years but after leaving Heep I regularly did session work as well as gigging until synthesisers & computers took a lot of work away. Nowadays studio work is vastly quicker & easier due to modern technology & far more cost effective for guys like us.
What can you tell me about working with Twisted Tapestry? And of all the session work you did way back – is there anything of notoriety?
I got invited to play on the Twisted Tapestry album by their drummer, Merrick Crittenden who I have known for some years through Heepventions. They were playing with us in Belgium 2015 which is when the offer came up. They are a sort of eclectic band featuring a harp…bit different to what I am used to. As for sessions I did…I just put the bass down and got paid..! I sometimes hear things that sound familiar but cannot really name anything in particular so not much help really.[ed: I should have known this!]
Do you guys have regular gigs lined up? And is there any plans to record again in the future?
Chris & I will, no doubt continue the project with new material as and when we both have time…..we will see. “Licence To Rock” has been an enjoyable project for both of us and something we simply wanted to do for ourselves at this time in our lives. If a few others enjoy it with us then that is a bonus. I will continue with my own band “The Business”… another low-key but enjoyable gig & occasional gigs with Chris. In the UK nowadays it is tough getting gigs due to the lack of interest in live music…people just sit at home watching crap reality TV shows…!
Chris- Looking ahead, l have started writing with the possibility of doing some more recordings with Paul – new track ‘Face at the Window’ being nearly finished.