All posts by KJ

Lucifer’s Friend

A look at this heavy [and sometimes confusing] German band who’ve made a surprise return over the last year; as well as the careers of singers John Lawton and Mike Starrs.

German based hard-rock band Lucifer’s Friend had a strong cult following in North America in the ’70s, despite not touring, over the years the band’s albums have become highly sought after – not just for the band’s scary name and ever-changing musical direction from album to album, but also for being fronted by John Lawton – prior to his Uriah Heep tenure. The band’s original line up, aside from Lawton, would include guitarist Peter Hesslein, keyboardist Peter Hecht, bass player Dieter Horns and drummer Hans-Joachim Rietenbach [RIP], Rietenbach would be replaced on a few albums by Herbert Bornholdt.

Peter Hesslein – “My early bands in the ’60s were The Giants, The German Bonds (with these bands I played in the Star Club). … I saw The Beatles, Searchers and many other bands. We played together also with famous American stars. We were friends with Toni Sheridan, Remo Four, King Size Taylor and many more. …I met Ritchie Blackmore, he was living in Hamburg in the ’60s. He played a few times with my amp. He turned my amp up to the backside and turned the volume on 10! So it was very loud and powerful; different to the beat style of the other Beat Club bands. That was first inlfluence of playing rock more harder.”

The German players all knew each other and had worked in various bands and recordings together [and would continue to do so], via The German Bonds, and various others.

PH – “We met John before that project. He was playing with an English band in the Top Ten, and made songs for a publishing company. A guy who was working there was Gibson Kemp, he also played in the Star Club as a drummer with King Size Taylor, Patti, Klaus & Gibson. It was a suggestion to work with John together that fore [?] we gave our publishing rights to this company.”

John Lawton – “I hooked up with Lucifer’s Friend through Peter Hesslein, the guitarist – who happened to play with Les Humphries as well. He said to me they had a German band, and they were looking for an English singer, and if I fancied doing [?], and I said ‘yes!'”

Prior to Lucifer’s Friend’s debut, band-members recorded an album under the name of Asterix, which would become highly sought after over the years [now it’s on youtube!], but Lawton and Hesslein do not see it as a LF album by another name –

JL – “In regards to the Asterix album, I wrote a few things on there, but the majority of the backing tracks were done. What we needed were some English lyrics – which I did, together with the other guys who sang on it – Tony Cavanna.”

PH – “Asterix was not a forerunner to Lucifer’s Friend, it was just a project idea of the producer – Hildebrandt.”

The first Lucifer’s Friend album, initially released in November of 1970, is a classic early metal record, much in the vein of early Black Sabbath and Deep Purple, and sits comfortably alongside great titles as In Rock, Master Of Reality and dare I add in Heep’s debut.

John Lawton recalls the album’s cover + – “Our guitar player Peter Hesslein liked to draw, so he scribbled down a few ideas and gave it to the label, and this is what they came back with. The tall guy was a waiter, and then we thought ‘what if we got a minute guy to stand next to him?’ The whole thing was shot in Hamburg.”

It featured the band’s best known rocker “Ride The Sky”; perhaps the only song most old school metal fans know of this band!

JL – “I still feel that Ride The Sky, at that time, was a very good rock song, and still think it is!”

But really, beyond the obvious lead off rocker and single, this album doesn’t let up, with side one being killer stuff, lengthy jams and guitar and Hammond organ interplay throughout this whole thing. Musically dark and very heavy. The title track is a spooky epic [listen to the first few minutes of this then check out Rush’s beginning to 2112], “Everybody’s Clown” was another standout rocker. “Ride The Sky” was issued as a single with the non album track “Horla” in some European countries, as was the lengthy title of “In The Time Of Job When Mammon Was A Yippie”. Peter Hecht [Hammond] and Peter Hesslein [guitar] comparing fairly to Blackmore & Lord in places. And what can be said about John Lawton!? His performance alone here should have him named right alongside the likes of Robert Plant, Ian Gillan, David Coverdale, etc… and frankly – he has surpassed them in his later years.

From Billboard [Nov ’73] – “Driving rock reminiscent to that of Led Zeppelin. Best example is the cut ‘Ride The Sky’.”

Lucifer’s Friend would sell 35 000 copies in the US alone.

The band’s albums up until 1976 were released in Canada and the US on various different small labels [Phillips, Vertigo, Passport, Billingsgate, Janus], often at different times.

JL – “I think a lot of the influences came from Sabbath, Purple, and lots of gothic stuff that was around at that time.”

Where The Groupies Killed The Blues was the band’s follow up in ’72 [but as with the first album – would not see a US release until 3 years later]. This album cut out a lot of the weight. The Hammond had been largely exchanged for piano, then add in strings and brass and more progressive arrangements, with elements of jazz and fusion [such as on the track “Mother”] all made for a much less heavy album. But song-wise this was a pretty fine album with the first half including rockers like “Hobo” and “Prince Of Darkness”, as well as fan favorite “Burning Ships”.

PH – “Burning Ships was one of our first acoustic songs, inspired from the Hamburg Harbor. Just before the recording date John was ill, I said ‘it doesn’t matter – ’cause sailors never have clear voices!'”

JL [from blastzoneonline] – “2nd Lucifer’s Friend album, very progressive I thought. Several lyrics written by a guy called John O’Brian Docker but a very strong album, got into the Billboard chart which was very good for an unknown German band.”

PH –” O’Brien-Docker wrote lyrics on the first 2 albums, it was a suggestion of the publisher [except Ride The Sky, Hobo, and Burning Ships].”

Mike Starrs – “Where The Groupies Killed the Blues [which was with John], was the biggest selling import album for that year [not sure which year early 70s] — sold almost 150000. Then the small indie label went bust. So nobody saw any monies etc.”

Next up was the album “I’m Just A Rock N Roll Singer”  in early 1973, with songs being cut down in length, a bit more back to rock here, a bit of r&b, jazz, while using a good bit of brass on some tracks. Includes a couple of standouts such as “Born OnThe Run”, the ballad “Lonely City Days”, and heavy-ish rocker “Mary’s Breakdown”. Hesslein’s playing on this album seems to be heavier and more dominant throughout, if only there were a few more heavy solid rockers.

From Billboard [June ’74] – “Straight rock set from this top rated German band. Fine vocals and sharp instruments. Best cut: ‘Born On The Run’.”

JL – “Lonely City Days” from R.n.R Singer – good song, I enjoyed singing that one. Yeah you are right this album got into the Billboard charts and kinda established a cult following in the U.S.”

JL – “Peter is a very technical guitarist. He has all the technical ability a guitarist could want…There’s not a chord in the book he doesn’t know – and he makes up his own! [laughs]”

The band’s 1974 album Banquet would be their most ambitious with lengthy numbers accompanied by full brass and string arrangements. A far distance from the band’s debut! “High Flying Lady – Goodbye” being the closest thing to a rocker here. Only the US edition would include “Our World Is A Rock n Roll Band”.

The album though remains a favorite among many fans, as well as Lawton – “Banquet was (if anything) – an experiment. We used brass and strings, and I think that probably the album was way ahead of it’s time. …. Banquet is still my favorite album. We never had the chance to perform that album live, and it would’ve been nice to pick a place and do the gig with the brass sections and the strings, and play the whole album.”

John Lawton on LF changing styles from album to album [from hit-channel.com] –

“I don’t think it was planned. It just happened. The guys would come along with the songs and the melodies. I would always come and write the lyrics and change the melodies around, and just worked out how it was. The only thing that we really wanted to do was the album Banquet, which we know straight away as soon we had the tracks of the songs, the basic songs how we wanted to do it. To present it with the brass section and the strings, and the songs were very complicated. That was my favorite album. After that people started saying that we did a fusion album, that it was too progressive, maybe they wanted it to be a little more rocky. Then we did Mind Exploding, when we tried to bring the band back to the more rock side of the things. It didn’t seem to work, but we never intentionally set out to write an album which would be rock or a jazz.”

JL [from blastzoneonline] – “Featured the brass section from the James Last Orch. Great songs only 6 of them, but great to record….A bit jazzy for some fans but it just showed how diverse we were.”

PH – “Banquet was a very interesting album because we played long songs live together and imagined an orchestra playing with us – which came later on.”

JL [on the album’s cover photos – which saw differed in some places for the front] – “The Banquet shot was done in an old graveyard in Hamburg which had an old Mausoleum…..was a bit of a spooky shot and I remember we were all aloud to have the leather suits made for us… Mine carried over for a while with Heep….doesn’t fit anymore now though. :-)” 

Mind Exploding would be the last to feature John Lawton before his departure for Uriah Heep. This album from 1976 featured the band’s most memorable cover, and would be the most accessible to get in to for more mainstream rock fans. A bit progressive, more rock…

PH – “Over the years our musical influences were changing, so we worked with that in our songs. We all loved to melt different styles together. So I think the essence of it all came together on Mind Exploding.”

JL [from blastzoneonline] – “Back to the rock roots, and again a good album with some terrific musicianship from the band.”

JL [from fabricationshq.com] – “Mind Exploding was an excellent album as regards how the band delivered and there are some really good tracks on it. So, yeah, second on my Lucifer’s Friend list!”

JL – “Yesterday’s Ideals” just stands out for me….a great piece of musicianship from the guys.”

JL [on the album’s cover art] – “I seem to remember Peter Hesslein had something to do with this, I think it sprang from one of his ideas, he was very artistic.”

Mike Starrs – “Mind Exploding was very special, even the album cover.”

John Lawton [from balkanrock.com] – “I would think probably Lucifer’s Friend period from 1973 to 1975 – It’s probably my favorite, some of the best work that I’ve done was in that period. Then during Uriah Heep was ok, but I don’t consider it my best work. I did a solo album “Still Paying My Dues to the Blues” which I consider another piece of good work, it was well produced and the songs were good. I enjoyed making it. I did enjoy working with Uriah Heep, don’t get me wrong, but every musician has his favorite part of life, and Lucifer’s Friend is the period of time when we were very productive as a band.”

JL – “If I had not joined Heep I don’t think Lucifer’s Friend would’ve carried on because we were never really a touring band or a live band, which is a shame. But that’s the way it was. I earned my daily bread with Les Humphries and the rest of the guys had other things; Peter was playing with the James Last Orchestra. Everybody had other things going on, so it was more like a hobby than anything. It was just a case of getting together once every year and letting off a bit of steam, and doing something different.”

A compilation album titled ‘Devil’s Touch’ was issued is West Germany in late 1976. This was issued on Fontana and contained 10 tracks from drawn from each album, except the second one. It is significant for it’s lengthy and informative liner notes on the back cover.

Somewhere in there Lawton was also invited by Roger Glover to record a single with him and take part in the live performance of Glover’s ‘Butterfly Ball’.

He also missed a chance at the Deep Purple frontman opening a few years earlier – “When they were looking for someone to replace Ian Gillan I was invited to a jam session in Hamburg with Ritchie Blackmore. I was in the studio at the time, and by the time I got the message – it was too late to go to this jam session!”

As for his joining Heep, Lawton recalls – “I was surprised when Ken Hensley actually phoned me and asked if I’d come for an audition. I immediately went out and bought 3 albums to pick songs from to sing at the audition.”

Early on his career with The Les Humphries Singers, Lawton had sang “Look At Yourself” for one of the band’s albums of top hits covers.

Following Lawton’s departure, after the classic Mind Exploding album in 1976, the band carried on and recorded 2 further albums with Scottish singer Mike Starrs, ex of Colosseum 2 [with Gary Moore] and a solo artist.

PH – “As John went to Uriah Heep, we had changed record companies, that was only possible as a ‘live’ band. So we looked for a lead singer. We met Mike Starrs from Colosseum 2, and he joined us. We made 2 albums, and played live gigs and TV shows [Rockpalast, RockPop…]”

MS – “I was going through some personal problems and LF were looking for a replacement for John so I auditioned and went to Germany. I never really relocated, more so commuted to and fro.”

The band signed with WEA records and their next album was Good Time Warrior, released in September of ’78. Lucifers Friend turned towards a more mainstream rock direction, with pop leanings. Gone were the brass and strings and lengthy numbers, and in were more conventional rock songs, riffs, more guitar, modern keyboards, backing vocals, catchy choruses, a mix of rockers, a few ballads, and the odd progressive epic. Despite it’s change in personnel and direction I really like this album, although I’m sure many may pass this era up – Good Time Warriors is well worth checking out. Tracks such as the ballad “My Love” and the 10 minute progressive epic “Warriors” highlight this period for the band, and really could be included among Lucifer’s Friend’s ‘best’. But I enjoy everything here [a very accessible album] with rock tracks like “Sweet Little Lady”, “Gamblin Man”, “Old Man Roller”, and the more pop driven “I’ll Meet You In LA” [great hook].

MS – “Good Time Warrior was recorded in Jan Akkerman’s [Focus] Studio in Holland. We rehearsed for approximately 6 weeks in a farmhouse near the East Sea. The music was a combined effort all the lyrics were penned by me.”

LF pic 78 MS – “With GTW we were unsure about which direction we were heading so on reflection it was a wee bit of trial and error. So from ‘Meet You In LA’, which was very poppy to ‘Warriors’, which was a little bit more progressive – you can see we were still looking for a style which suited my voice..

..Regarding radio play we had some radio and tv shows with ‘Good Times’, ‘Sneak Me In’ and ‘Stardancer’.”

MS – “The other voice on ‘Warriors’ is Peter Hesslein. Peter V. Asten was co-producer; I also think he was co- owner of the studio with Jan Akkerman.”

Sneak Me In released July, 1980 was even more commercial  and pop directed.

MS – “Sneak Me In” was recorded in Hamburg, it was a similar arrangement regarding the music but by now we had another keyboard/Guitarist in the band called Adrian Askew so we both wrote the lyrics. [Adrian comes from Sheffield, England and is now gigging with The Clem Clempson Band. Adrian & myself left LF.]”

MS – “As before we still didn’t really have the right mix with our material from the very poppy ‘Goodbye Girls’ to the more rocky ‘Foxy Lady’ and then the more progressive ‘Cosmic Crusader’. We were looking for radio friendly tracks, which unfortunately, we didn’t find.”

MS – “LF didn’t really have any major success even though WEA were 100% behind us; they put us on 2 major European tours supporting MM’s Earthband and Van Halen, and The Scorpions…We never played America/ Canada… The tour we did with the Earthband was a lot of fun and Rockpalast was a big highlight for me simply because I think every major act has played Rockpalast…

My Favorite songs from this time would be Burning Ships, My Love and Foxy Lady… My favorite was Good Time Warrior.”

MS [shares a road tale from opening for Van Halen] – “Van Halen were great live but Mr Roth had a bit of a problem with me. He came into our dressing room before one of our shows with his bodyguard and insisted that I didn’t jump off the drum riser, as that was his thing. I explained that as I couldn’t jump half as high as he could I didn’t think I was spoiling his show. Anyway, his bodyguard was standing in the front row looking very intimidating as I made my first jump of the evening. Eddie did apologize the next evening.”

MS – “The reason I left was basically WEA had spent all they were prepared to spend on L.F. And I have to say it was a lot. I had commitments, so as I said Adrian and myself left and went on to form Toneband – which became relatively successful….Toneband had a top 20 hit with “Germany Calling”. We released 2 albums on Polydor – Germany Calling and The Tokyo Twist…Unfortunately, I don’t see any of the guys apart from Adrian we are in close contact. We are like brothers

..In the 80s I met my “Partner In Crime” – Richard Rossbach we were together in a German band called Duisenberg we toured and recorded an album which unfortunately didn’t see any release. It was a hard time for Rock bands in Germany this was the New German Wave time a bit like the Punk era in England.

The 90s was relatively quiet for me I made one album with a guitarist called Ray Fenwick it was a bit country style. I worked clubs and small venues around England.

… I made one album with Lake – The Blast Of Silence [2005]. We toured extensively until I left in approximately 2009.”

Following his break from Uriah Heep, John Lawton reconnected with his former band-mates and released a solo album – Heartbeat [titled Hardbeat outside of North America], in early ’81. .

.JL – “Peter and I had a lot of songs in the can, which we’d written together over a period of years and hadn’t recorded. Peter suggested to me that it might be a good idea to put it down as a solo album, and not as a Lucifer’s Friend album. I said ‘ok’, but only on condition that you guys play on it.’ The only difference is that we used a guy called Curt Cress on drums, and he was a very good drummer, one of the best session drummers around in Germany…

I think the songs were a lot more poppier than anything Lucifer’s would’ve recorded, and that’s why it was easier to put it out under my name.”

Following that the band reconvened for a new Lucifer’s Friend album for WEA., and the under rated and barely promoted, straight ahead hard rocking Mean Machine was released October 1981

Mean Machine featured the single “Action”, as well as such cool guitar driven rockers “One Way Street to Heartbreak”, “One Night Sensation” [which bares a bit of similarity to “Ride The Sky”], “Fire and Rain” and “Hey Driver” -[ the latter 2 both featuring on the band’s 2 recent releases].

from Billboard – “Playing teutonic heavy metal, a particularly ponderous musical force is Germany’s Lucifer’s Friend… Though the band does not have the same manic energy as second generation metallers as AC/DC or Saxon, Lucifer’s Friend has all the riffs and poses down pat. Then it’s just a matter of going through the motions. Best cuts: ‘Cool Hand Killer’, ‘Fire And Rain’, ‘Action’.”

JL – “I was still under contract to RCA following on from my solo album.

The Mean Machine album was recorded in England, just outside of London. It was the first time the guys had ever recorded outside of Germany. we decided that we were going to do a rock album, without any experimentations, anything like that – just a straight forward rock album, and it was ok.

It wasn’t the best, but at least we did something different.”

PH: “Mike was a great guy, but we he had more of a softer voice than John. So my idea was getting harder again. Mike and Adrian Askew left the group to make pop music. John and I were still friends, so we thought making Lucifers Friend more heavy and harder, and it was good to have John back.”

JL – “After we recorded Mean Machine we went on the road promoting, and Andy [Dicke] took over from Dieter Horns. Although Dieter did record the album, he didn’t want to go on the road.”

PH: Mean Machine was a lack of record company support, because at the time success was going down, so the record company finished our contract.”

In the mid ‘90s Lawton and Hesslein got together to reform the band [as Lucifers Friend II – featuring John Lawton], this line up also included Andreas Dicke and keyboard player Jogi Wichmann .T he album Sumo Grip was released in 1994 on Castle. It was a fairly pop driven album, but included the stand out rocker “Heartbreaker”, as well as few good cuts in “Sheree” and “Any Day Now”.

JL – “It was the same old situation – Peter and I had written some songs, which we thought we would like to record, and we had some time to do it. … I flew over to Hamburg to record the vocals, a couple of times.”

PH: “I had a friend in the Castle Records company. He had the idea for making Sumo Grip” as a ‘little’ comeback with John and I – Lucifer’s Friend 2.”

The album also featured 2 well known covers –

JL – “’Free Me’, it was felt that it would be good to do a connection between Lucifer’s Friend and Uriah Heep, so Free Me came up and the record company said ‘yes – we would like the connection.’ I had no objections. It was ok. ‘Ride The Sky’ was because it was the very first single we ever put out. The idea to record that was purely off the cuff, and I think it worked.”

Sumo Grip was issued in the US as a John Lawton album with the pre fix “former Uriah Heep vocalist / Featuring Lucifers Friend”, with a totally different cover. The US version was also cut down to 10 tracks [from 16 + the intro], excluding the covered classics.

John Lawton would return to the Heep family and fans in the early ‘90s, as well as stepping in to sing on a tour of South Africa with the band in 1995. He has always been busy recording and performing, and his lengthy list of diverse projects and guest recordings over the years have kept fans extremely loyal and busy trying to keep up! In the 90s he recorded the debut album with German heavy metal band Zar, which was a follow up from the 80s album with Rebel [these were re-issued years ago as a 2 on 1 CD]. He also played regularly and recorded with his blues rock band Gunhill, reunited with Ken Hensley [ex of Uriah Heep] in 2000, guest’ with Uriah Heep a couple of times [via The Magicians Birthday Parties], and then went on to make a few solo albums, the John Lawton Band, and recorded with Steve Dunning [of the JLB]. In more recent years he has been as active as usual, recording with OTR [w/ Jan Dumee, ex of Focus], and with the Intelligent Music Project – the first or 2 ‘The Power of Mind was released as John Lawton & Diana Express. These were made in Bulgaria where Lawton has made a series of travel documentaries over the years.

JL – “Milen Vrabevski (the writer and producer of the POM) asked me to have listen to the songs to see if I was interested in singing the album in English. After a few spins, I thought yeah I can bring something to the table, let’s do it….Milen is a very nice guy, not only a good keyboarder but guitarist as well…. He does a lot of work for the underprivileged not only in Bulgaria but throughout the Balkans..[FairyTale] – Good song, and a stand out as a 1st single I suppose.. The video was shot in a club in Sofia / Bulgaria with the guys, interesting as it’s been a long time since I shot a video.”

In the same interview Lawton commented – “There have been some great combinations in the past and I have worked with some absolutely stunning musicians from the Lucifer’s Friend guys, Steve Dunning from JLB, and Jan Dumee on the OTR album.  It’s never been a case of ‘well we have recorded something so let’s move on to something new’.

I am still in touch with all of these wonderful musicians and ones should never say never and I would love to work with all of them again, but I feel time is against us.”

Mike Starrs returned to a full album release this year with his project Partners In Crime and the CD “Crime Time”. Not in the same style as Lucifer’s Friend or Lake, but more upbeat pop stuff, well produced – complete with female backing singers, and a brass section.

MS – “The Partners In Crime album has turned out, in my opinion, a good example of where I am at this moment in time. We have already finished enough material for our follow up… All songs apart from the odd cover (‘Mama Told Me Not To Come’) are originals written by Rico & myself. Rico produces and has produced me for many years he has also produced many well known German acts.….My personal favorite’s are ‘Loving You’, ‘How Long’, ‘P.I.C.’ and ‘Shine On’ … ‘Trace’ was featured in the film Going Undercover starring Jean Simmons & Christopher Lemmon [son of Jack].

‘Shine On’ is a song about WW 2, with a message to the world that maybe we should ‘all shine on….’Our Set list comprises of all the material from the album and a few covers.”

In 2015 Lucifer’s Friend would return with a few new releases, as well as reunion shows [with Lawton], and 2016 has begun with a new live album and plans for a brand new studio album!

The ‘Live At Rockpalast’ CD & DVD release was taken from the well bootlegged show, featuring Mike Starrs on vocals.

MS – “I was contacted by Peter telling me Repertoire Records was interested in Re – Releasing The Rockpalast show and asking me how I felt about this, Of course I said yes, as it was. What I remember was a pretty good example of where we were at this stage of our careers.”

LF rockpalast 1

Asked if he’d ever consider recording something heavier Starrs responds –

“If the right material and musicians came along and I had some time out from PIC then never say never. But right now I’m a very happy man.”

A 2 CD compilation titled “Awakening” was also issued, with 1 disc of the band’s favorites [as picked via youtube stats!], and 1 disc containing 4 new studio songs featuring original members Lawton, Hesslein and Dieter Horns. The band then played a couple of live shows, most notably appearing at the Sweden Rock Festival; a show which was recorded and just released on CD. It is great sounding, energetic set of LF classics along with the new songs, especially “Pray” [the first song] – which all make for a long overdue and historic return for the band.

John Lawton – “This being only the second live concert since our reformation, we were all of course a bit nervous. However the crowd made us more than welcome and after the first few notes, the adrenalin kicked in and we were up and running. To play Sweden Rock Festival…one of the biggest festivals on the circuit was for us a great honour and one which we will hopefully repeat. This live album represents the band in full flow and with a new studio album planned in 2016, we hope to go on ‘Riding The Sky’”

The band is also set to tour with Lawton’s former band Uriah Heep in Japan in early 2016 [Should be interesting!]

To Purchase: Lucifer’s Friend LIVE @ SWEDEN ROCK 2015:

Amazon CD: http://geni.us/1niL

Amazon Digital: http://geni.us/pts

iTunes: http://geni.us/6EQ

To purchase: Lucifer’s Friend AWAKENING:

Amazon: http://geni.us/AwakeningAmzn

iTunes: http://geni.us/4DvF

Official Website: www.lucifersfriend.com

Official Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/LucifersFriendOfficial

Hopefully a proper and Full CD re-issue of the band’s entire catalogue will be on the horizon as well, as the band’s albums have been sporadically and [some titles] numerously released on CD via Repertoire [a few most recently this year!], Howling Wolf, WEA, etc…

*for more on John Lawton check out > www.johnlawtonmusic.com & for Mike Starrs > www.partnersincrime.tv

*on Facebook look up Mike Starrs The Voice Of Scotland!, and the Unofficial John Lawton Music group.

*For a great read and discussion on LF album’s I highly recommend checking this interview out! – http://jeffcramer.blogspot.ca/2014/04/a-very-candid-conversation-with-john.html

And this one – http://www.cuttingedgerocks.com/Lucifer’s%20Friend.html

This is a German interview with Peter Hesslein about his ‘60s playing days – http://www.bonds-live.de/dieband.html

*my 2002 interview with John regarding the Rebel & Zar projects! http://www.travellersintime.com/UniversalWheels/lwrz02.html

*by Kevin J., Jan 2015.  Interviews by myself – 1997, 2013,2015. +from Heavy Metal Album Covers [book]. Thanks to John L, Peter H, Mike S, Billy James, and to Boris Shnitzer [for some of the images].

Lucifer’s Friend

A look at this heavy [and sometimes confusing] German band who’ve made a surprise return over the last year; as well as the careers of singers John Lawton and Mike Starrs.

German based hard-rock band Lucifer’s Friend had a strong cult following in North America in the ’70s, despite not touring, over the years the band’s albums have become highly sought after – not just for the band’s scary name and ever-changing musical direction from album to album, but also for being fronted by John Lawton – prior to his Uriah Heep tenure. The band’s original line up, aside from Lawton, would include guitarist Peter Hesslein, keyboardist Peter Hecht, bass player Dieter Horns and drummer Hans-Joachim Rietenbach [RIP], Rietenbach would be replaced on a few albums by Herbert Bornholdt.

Peter Hesslein – “My early bands in the ’60s were The Giants, The German Bonds (with these bands I played in the Star Club). … I saw The Beatles, Searchers and many other bands. We played together also with famous American stars. We were friends with Toni Sheridan, Remo Four, King Size Taylor and many more. …I met Ritchie Blackmore, he was living in Hamburg in the ’60s. He played a few times with my amp. He turned my amp up to the backside and turned the volume on 10! So it was very loud and powerful; different to the beat style of the other Beat Club bands. That was first inlfluence of playing rock more harder.”

The German players all knew each other and had worked in various bands and recordings together [and would continue to do so], via The German Bonds, and various others.

PH – “We met John before that project. He was playing with an English band in the Top Ten, and made songs for a publishing company. A guy who was working there was Gibson Kemp, he also played in the Star Club as a drummer with King Size Taylor, Patti, Klaus & Gibson. It was a suggestion to work with John together that fore [?] we gave our publishing rights to this company.”

John Lawton – “I hooked up with Lucifer’s Friend through Peter Hesslein, the guitarist – who happened to play with Les Humphries as well. He said to me they had a German band, and they were looking for an English singer, and if I fancied doing [?], and I said ‘yes!'”

Prior to Lucifer’s Friend’s debut, band-members recorded an album under the name of Asterix, which would become highly sought after over the years [now it’s on youtube!], but Lawton and Hesslein do not see it as a LF album by another name –

JL – “In regards to the Asterix album, I wrote a few things on there, but the majority of the backing tracks were done. What we needed were some English lyrics – which I did, together with the other guys who sang on it – Tony Cavanna.”

PH – “Asterix was not a forerunner to Lucifer’s Friend, it was just a project idea of the producer – Hildebrandt.”

The first Lucifer’s Friend album, initially released in November of 1970, is a classic early metal record, much in the vein of early Black Sabbath and Deep Purple, and sits comfortably alongside great titles as In Rock, Master Of Reality and dare I add in Heep’s debut.

John Lawton recalls the album’s cover + – “Our guitar player Peter Hesslein liked to draw, so he scribbled down a few ideas and gave it to the label, and this is what they came back with. The tall guy was a waiter, and then we thought ‘what if we got a minute guy to stand next to him?’ The whole thing was shot in Hamburg.”

It featured the band’s best known rocker “Ride The Sky”; perhaps the only song most old school metal fans know of this band!

JL – “I still feel that Ride The Sky, at that time, was a very good rock song, and still think it is!”

But really, beyond the obvious lead off rocker and single, this album doesn’t let up, with side one being killer stuff, lengthy jams and guitar and Hammond organ interplay throughout this whole thing. Musically dark and very heavy. The title track is a spooky epic [listen to the first few minutes of this then check out Rush’s beginning to 2112], “Everybody’s Clown” was another standout rocker. “Ride The Sky” was issued as a single with the non album track “Horla” in some European countries, as was the lengthy title of “In The Time Of Job When Mammon Was A Yippie”. Peter Hecht [Hammond] and Peter Hesslein [guitar] comparing fairly to Blackmore & Lord in places. And what can be said about John Lawton!? His performance alone here should have him named right alongside the likes of Robert Plant, Ian Gillan, David Coverdale, etc… and frankly – he has surpassed them in his later years.

From Billboard [Nov ’73] – “Driving rock reminiscent to that of Led Zeppelin. Best example is the cut ‘Ride The Sky’.”

Lucifer’s Friend would sell 35 000 copies in the US alone.

The band’s albums up until 1976 were released in Canada and the US on various different small labels [Phillips, Vertigo, Passport, Billingsgate, Janus], often at different times.

JL – “I think a lot of the influences came from Sabbath, Purple, and lots of gothic stuff that was around at that time.”

Where The Groupies Killed The Blues was the band’s follow up in ’72 [but as with the first album – would not see a US release until 3 years later]. This album cut out a lot of the weight. The Hammond had been largely exchanged for piano, then add in strings and brass and more progressive arrangements, with elements of jazz and fusion [such as on the track “Mother”] all made for a much less heavy album. But song-wise this was a pretty fine album with the first half including rockers like “Hobo” and “Prince Of Darkness”, as well as fan favorite “Burning Ships”.

PH – “Burning Ships was one of our first acoustic songs, inspired from the Hamburg Harbor. Just before the recording date John was ill, I said ‘it doesn’t matter – ’cause sailors never have clear voices!'”

JL [from blastzoneonline] – “2nd Lucifer’s Friend album, very progressive I thought. Several lyrics written by a guy called John O’Brian Docker but a very strong album, got into the Billboard chart which was very good for an unknown German band.”

PH –” O’Brien-Docker wrote lyrics on the first 2 albums, it was a suggestion of the publisher [except Ride The Sky, Hobo, and Burning Ships].”

Mike Starrs – “Where The Groupies Killed the Blues [which was with John], was the biggest selling import album for that year [not sure which year early 70s] — sold almost 150000. Then the small indie label went bust. So nobody saw any monies etc.”

The band’s next album Banquet would be their most ambitious with lengthy numbers accompanied by full brass and string arrangements. A far distance from the band’s debut! “High Flying Lady – Goodbye” being the closest thing to a rocker here. Only the US edition would include “Our World Is A Rock n Roll Band”.

The album though remains a favorite among many fans, as well as Lawton – “Banquet was (if anything) – an experiment. We used brass and strings, and I think that probably the album was way ahead of it’s time. …. Banquet is still my favorite album. We never had the chance to perform that album live, and it would’ve been nice to pick a place and do the gig with the brass sections and the strings, and play the whole album.”

John Lawton on LF changing styles from album to album [from hit-channel.com] –

“I don’t think it was planned. It just happened. The guys would come along with the songs and the melodies. I would always come and write the lyrics and change the melodies around, and just worked out how it was. The only thing that we really wanted to do was the album Banquet, which we know straight away as soon we had the tracks of the songs, the basic songs how we wanted to do it. To present it with the brass section and the strings, and the songs were very complicated. That was my favorite album. After that people started saying that we did a fusion album, that it was too progressive, maybe they wanted it to be a little more rocky. Then we did Mind Exploding, when we tried to bring the band back to the more rock side of the things. It didn’t seem to work, but we never intentionally set out to write an album which would be rock or a jazz.”

JL [from blastzoneonline] – “Featured the brass section from the James Last Orch. Great songs only 6 of them, but great to record….A bit jazzy for some fans but it just showed how diverse we were.”

PH – “Banquet was a very interesting album because we played long songs live together and imagined an orchestra playing with us – which came later on.”

JL [on the album’s cover photos – which saw differed in some places for the front] – “The Banquet shot was done in an old graveyard in Hamburg which had an old Mausoleum…..was a bit of a spooky shot and I remember we were all aloud to have the leather suits made for us… Mine carried over for a while with Heep….doesn’t fit anymore now though. :-)” 

Next up was the album “I’m Just A Rock N Roll Singer” in early 1973, with songs being cut down in length, a bit more back to rock here, a bit of r&b, jazz, while retaining a good bit of brass on some tracks. Includes a couple of standouts such as “Born OnThe Run”, the ballad “Lonely City Days”, and heavy-ish rocker “Mary’s Breakdown”. Hesslein’s playing on this album seems to be heavier and more dominant throughout, if only there were a few more heavy solid rockers.

From Billboard [June ’74] – “Straight rock set from this top rated German band. Fine vocals and sharp instruments. Best cut: ‘Born On The Run’.”

JL – “Lonely City Days” from R.n.R Singer – good song, I enjoyed singing that one. Yeah you are right this album got into the Billboard charts and kinda established a cult following in the U.S.”

JL – “Peter is a very technical guitarist. He has all the technical ability a guitarist could want…There’s not a chord in the book he doesn’t know – and he makes up his own! [laughs]”

Mind Exploding would be the last to feature John Lawton before his departure for Uriah Heep. This album from 1976 featured the band’s most memorable cover, and would be the most accessible to get in to for more mainstream rock fans. A bit progressive, more rock…

PH – “Over the years our musical influences were changing, so we worked with that in our songs. We all loved to melt different styles together. So I think the essence of it all came together on Mind Exploding.”

JL [from blastzoneonline] – “Back to the rock roots, and again a good album with some terrific musicianship from the band.”

JL [from fabricationshq.com] – “Mind Exploding was an excellent album as regards how the band delivered and there are some really good tracks on it. So, yeah, second on my Lucifer’s Friend list!”

JL – “Yesterday’s Ideals” just stands out for me….a great piece of musicianship from the guys.”

JL [on the album’s cover art] – “I seem to remember Peter Hesslein had something to do with this, I think it sprang from one of his ideas, he was very artistic.”

Mike Starrs – “Mind Exploding was very special, even the album cover.”

John Lawton [from balkanrock.com] – “I would think probably Lucifer’s Friend period from 1973 to 1975 – It’s probably my favorite, some of the best work that I’ve done was in that period. Then during Uriah Heep was ok, but I don’t consider it my best work. I did a solo album “Still Paying My Dues to the Blues” which I consider another piece of good work, it was well produced and the songs were good. I enjoyed making it. I did enjoy working with Uriah Heep, don’t get me wrong, but every musician has his favorite part of life, and Lucifer’s Friend is the period of time when we were very productive as a band.”

 

JL – “If I had not joined Heep I don’t think Lucifer’s Friend would’ve carried on because we were never really a touring band or a live band, which is a shame. But that’s the way it was. I earned my daily bread with Les Humphries and the rest of the guys had other things; Peter was playing with the James Last Orchestra. Everybody had other things going on, so it was more like a hobby than anything. It was just a case of getting together once every year and letting off a bit of steam, and doing something different.”

A compilation album titled ‘Devil’s Touch’ was issued is West Germany in late 1976. This was issued on Fontana and contained 10 tracks from drawn from each album, except the second one. It is significant for it’s lengthy and informative liner notes on the back cover.

Somewhere in there Lawton was also invited by Roger Glover to record a single with him and take part in the live performance of Glover’s ‘Butterfly Ball’.

He also missed a chance at the Deep Purple frontman opening a few years earlier – “When they were looking for someone to replace Ian Gillan I was invited to a jam session in Hamburg with Ritchie Blackmore. I was in the studio at the time, and by the time I got the message – it was too late to go to this jam session!”

As for his joining Heep, Lawton recalls – “I was surprised when Ken Hensley actually phoned me and asked if I’d come for an audition. I immediately went out and bought 3 albums to pick songs from to sing at the audition.”

Early on his career with The Les Humphries Singers, Lawton had sang “Look At Yourself” for one of the band’s albums of top hits covers.

Following Lawton’s departure, after the classic Mind Exploding album in 1976, the band carried on and recorded 2 further albums with Scottish singer Mike Starrs, ex of Colosseum 2 [with Gary Moore] and a solo artist.

PH – “As John went to Uriah Heep, we had changed record companies, that was only possible as a ‘live’ band. So we looked for a lead singer. We met Mike Starrs from Colosseum 2, and he joined us. We made 2 albums, and played live gigs and TV shows [Rockpalast, RockPop…]”

MS – “I was going through some personal problems and LF were looking for a replacement for John so I auditioned and went to Germany. I never really relocated, more so commuted to and fro.”

The band signed with WEA records and their next album was Good Time Warrior, released in September of ’78. Lucifers Friend turned towards a more mainstream rock direction, with pop leanings. Gone were the brass and strings and lengthy numbers, and in were more conventional rock songs, riffs, more guitar, modern keyboards, backing vocals, catchy choruses, a mix of rockers, a few ballads, and the odd progressive epic. Despite it’s change in personnel and direction I really like this album, although I’m sure many may pass this era up – Good Time Warriors is well worth checking out. Tracks such as the ballad “My Love” and the 10 minute progressive epic “Warriors” highlight this period for the band, and really could be included among Lucifer’s Friend’s ‘best’. But I enjoy everything here [a very accessible album] with rock tracks like “Sweet Little Lady”, “Gamblin Man”, “Old Man Roller”, and the more pop driven “I’ll Meet You In LA” [great hook].

MS – “Good Time Warrior was recorded in Jan Akkerman’s [Focus] Studio in Holland. We rehearsed for approximately 6 weeks in a farmhouse near the East Sea. The music was a combined effort all the lyrics were penned by me.”

LF pic 78 MS – “With GTW we were unsure about which direction we were heading so on reflection it was a wee bit of trial and error. So from ‘Meet You In LA’, which was very poppy to ‘Warriors’, which was a little bit more progressive – you can see we were still looking for a style which suited my voice..

..Regarding radio play we had some radio and tv shows with ‘Good Times’, ‘Sneak Me In’ and ‘Stardancer’.”

MS – “The other voice on ‘Warriors’ is Peter Hesslein. Peter V. Asten was co-producer; I also think he was co- owner of the studio with Jan Akkerman.”

Sneak Me In released July, 1980 was even more commercial  and pop directed.

MS – “Sneak Me In” was recorded in Hamburg, it was a similar arrangement regarding the music but by now we had another keyboard/Guitarist in the band called Adrian Askew so we both wrote the lyrics. [Adrian comes from Sheffield, England and is now gigging with The Clem Clempson Band. Adrian & myself left LF.]”

MS – “As before we still didn’t really have the right mix with our material from the very poppy ‘Goodbye Girls’ to the more rocky ‘Foxy Lady’ and then the more progressive ‘Cosmic Crusader’. We were looking for radio friendly tracks, which unfortunately, we didn’t find.”

MS – “LF didn’t really have any major success even though WEA were 100% behind us; they put us on 2 major European tours supporting MM’s Earthband and Van Halen, and The Scorpions…We never played America/ Canada… The tour we did with the Earthband was a lot of fun and Rockpalast was a big highlight for me simply because I think every major act has played Rockpalast…

My Favorite songs from this time would be Burning Ships, My Love and Foxy Lady… My favorite was Good Time Warrior.”

MS [shares a road tale from opening for Van Halen] – “Van Halen were great live but Mr Roth had a bit of a problem with me. He came into our dressing room before one of our shows with his bodyguard and insisted that I didn’t jump off the drum riser, as that was his thing. I explained that as I couldn’t jump half as high as he could I didn’t think I was spoiling his show. Anyway, his bodyguard was standing in the front row looking very intimidating as I made my first jump of the evening. Eddie did apologize the next evening.”

MS – “The reason I left was basically WEA had spent all they were prepared to spend on L.F. And I have to say it was a lot. I had commitments, so as I said Adrian and myself left and went on to form Toneband – which became relatively successful….Toneband had a top 20 hit with “Germany Calling”. We released 2 albums on Polydor – Germany Calling and The Tokyo Twist…Unfortunately, I don’t see any of the guys apart from Adrian we are in close contact. We are like brothers

..In the 80s I met my “Partner In Crime” – Richard Rossbach we were together in a German band called Duisenberg we toured and recorded an album which unfortunately didn’t see any release. It was a hard time for Rock bands in Germany this was the New German Wave time a bit like the Punk era in England.

The 90s was relatively quiet for me I made one album with a guitarist called Ray Fenwick it was a bit country style. I worked clubs and small venues around England.

… I made one album with Lake – The Blast Of Silence [2005]. We toured extensively until I left in approximately 2009.”

Following his break from Uriah Heep, John Lawton reconnected with his former band-mates and released a solo album – Heartbeat [titled Hardbeat outside of North America], in early ’81. .

.JL – “Peter and I had a lot of songs in the can, which we’d written together over a period of years and hadn’t recorded. Peter suggested to me that it might be a good idea to put it down as a solo album, and not as a Lucifer’s Friend album. I said ‘ok’, but only on condition that you guys play on it.’ The only difference is that we used a guy called Curt Cress on drums, and he was a very good drummer, one of the best session drummers around in Germany…

I think the songs were a lot more poppier than anything Lucifer’s would’ve recorded, and that’s why it was easier to put it out under my name.”

Following that the band reconvened for a new Lucifer’s Friend album for WEA., and the under rated and barely promoted, straight ahead hard rocking Mean Machine was released October 1981

Mean Machine featured the single “Action”, as well as such cool guitar driven rockers “One Way Street to Heartbreak”, “One Night Sensation” [which bares a bit of similarity to “Ride The Sky”], “Fire and Rain” and “Hey Driver” -[ the latter 2 both featuring on the band’s 2 recent releases].

from Billboard – “Playing teutonic heavy metal, a particularly ponderous musical force is Germany’s Lucifer’s Friend… Though the band does not have the same manic energy as second generation metallers as AC/DC or Saxon, Lucifer’s Friend has all the riffs and poses down pat. Then it’s just a matter of going through the motions. Best cuts: ‘Cool Hand Killer’, ‘Fire And Rain’, ‘Action’.”

JL – “I was still under contract to RCA following on from my solo album.

The Mean Machine album was recorded in England, just outside of London. It was the first time the guys had ever recorded outside of Germany. we decided that we were going to do a rock album, without any experimentations, anything like that – just a straight forward rock album, and it was ok.

It wasn’t the best, but at least we did something different.”

PH: “Mike was a great guy, but we he had more of a softer voice than John. So my idea was getting harder again. Mike and Adrian Askew left the group to make pop music. John and I were still friends, so we thought making Lucifers Friend more heavy and harder, and it was good to have John back.”

JL – “After we recorded Mean Machine we went on the road promoting, and Andy [Dicke] took over from Dieter Horns. Although Dieter did record the album, he didn’t want to go on the road.”

PH: Mean Machine was a lack of record company support, because at the time success was going down, so the record company finished our contract.”

In the mid ‘90s Lawton and Hesslein got together to reform the band [as Lucifers Friend II – featuring John Lawton], this line up also included Andreas Dicke and keyboard player Jogi Wichmann .T he album Sumo Grip was released in 1994 on Castle. It was a fairly pop driven album, but included the stand out rocker “Heartbreaker”, as well as few good cuts in “Sheree” and “Any Day Now”.

JL – “It was the same old situation – Peter and I had written some songs, which we thought we would like to record, and we had some time to do it. … I flew over to Hamburg to record the vocals, a couple of times.”

PH: “I had a friend in the Castle Records company. He had the idea for making Sumo Grip” as a ‘little’ comeback with John and I – Lucifer’s Friend 2.”

The album also featured 2 well known covers –

JL – “’Free Me’, it was felt that it would be good to do a connection between Lucifer’s Friend and Uriah Heep, so Free Me came up and the record company said ‘yes – we would like the connection.’ I had no objections. It was ok. ‘Ride The Sky’ was because it was the very first single we ever put out. The idea to record that was purely off the cuff, and I think it worked.”

Sumo Grip was issued in the US as a John Lawton album with the pre fix “former Uriah Heep vocalist / Featuring Lucifers Friend”, with a totally different cover. The US version was also cut down to 10 tracks [from 16 + the intro], excluding the covered classics.

John Lawton would return to the Heep family and fans in the early ‘90s, as well as stepping in to sing on a tour of South Africa with the band in 1995. He has always been busy recording and performing, and his lengthy list of diverse projects and guest recordings over the years have kept fans extremely loyal and busy trying to keep up! In the 90s he recorded the debut album with German heavy metal band Zar, which was a follow up from the 80s album with Rebel [these were re-issued years ago as a 2 on 1 CD]. He also played regularly and recorded with his blues rock band Gunhill, reunited with Ken Hensley [ex of Uriah Heep] in 2000, guest’ with Uriah Heep a couple of times [via The Magicians Birthday Parties], and then went on to make a few solo albums, the John Lawton Band, and recorded with Steve Dunning [of the JLB]. In more recent years he has been as active as usual, recording with OTR [w/ Jan Dumee, ex of Focus], and with the Intelligent Music Project – the first or 2 ‘The Power of Mind was released as John Lawton & Diana Express. These were made in Bulgaria where Lawton has made a series of travel documentaries over the years.

JL – “Milen Vrabevski (the writer and producer of the POM) asked me to have listen to the songs to see if I was interested in singing the album in English. After a few spins, I thought yeah I can bring something to the table, let’s do it….Milen is a very nice guy, not only a good keyboarder but guitarist as well…. He does a lot of work for the underprivileged not only in Bulgaria but throughout the Balkans..[FairyTale] – Good song, and a stand out as a 1st single I suppose.. The video was shot in a club in Sofia / Bulgaria with the guys, interesting as it’s been a long time since I shot a video.”

In the same interview Lawton commented – “There have been some great combinations in the past and I have worked with some absolutely stunning musicians from the Lucifer’s Friend guys, Steve Dunning from JLB, and Jan Dumee on the OTR album.  It’s never been a case of ‘well we have recorded something so let’s move on to something new’.

I am still in touch with all of these wonderful musicians and ones should never say never and I would love to work with all of them again, but I feel time is against us.”

Mike Starrs returned to a full album release this year with his project Partners In Crime and the CD “Crime Time”. Not in the same style as Lucifer’s Friend or Lake, but more upbeat pop stuff, well produced – complete with female backing singers, and a brass section.

MS – “The Partners In Crime album has turned out, in my opinion, a good example of where I am at this moment in time. We have already finished enough material for our follow up… All songs apart from the odd cover (‘Mama Told Me Not To Come’) are originals written by Rico & myself. Rico produces and has produced me for many years he has also produced many well known German acts.….My personal favorite’s are ‘Loving You’, ‘How Long’, ‘P.I.C.’ and ‘Shine On’ … ‘Trace’ was featured in the film Going Undercover starring Jean Simmons & Christopher Lemmon [son of Jack].

‘Shine On’ is a song about WW 2, with a message to the world that maybe we should ‘all shine on….’Our Set list comprises of all the material from the album and a few covers.”

In 2015 Lucifer’s Friend would return with a few new releases, as well as reunion shows [with Lawton], and 2016 has begun with a new live album and plans for a brand new studio album!

The ‘Live At Rockpalast’ CD & DVD release was taken from the well bootlegged show, featuring Mike Starrs on vocals.

MS – “I was contacted by Peter telling me Repertoire Records was interested in Re – Releasing The Rockpalast show and asking me how I felt about this, Of course I said yes, as it was. What I remember was a pretty good example of where we were at this stage of our careers.”

LF rockpalast 1

Asked if he’d ever consider recording something heavier Starrs responds –

“If the right material and musicians came along and I had some time out from PIC then never say never. But right now I’m a very happy man.”

A 2 CD compilation titled “Awakening” was also issued, with 1 disc of the band’s favorites [as picked via youtube stats!], and 1 disc containing 4 new studio songs featuring original members Lawton, Hesslein and Dieter Horns. The band then played a couple of live shows, most notably appearing at the Sweden Rock Festival; a show which was recorded and just released on CD. It is great sounding, energetic set of LF classics along with the new songs, especially “Pray” [the first song] – which all make for a long overdue and historic return for the band.

John Lawton – “This being only the second live concert since our reformation, we were all of course a bit nervous. However the crowd made us more than welcome and after the first few notes, the adrenalin kicked in and we were up and running. To play Sweden Rock Festival…one of the biggest festivals on the circuit was for us a great honour and one which we will hopefully repeat. This live album represents the band in full flow and with a new studio album planned in 2016, we hope to go on ‘Riding The Sky’”

The band is also set to tour with Lawton’s former band Uriah Heep in Japan in early 2016 [Should be interesting!]

To Purchase: Lucifer’s Friend LIVE @ SWEDEN ROCK 2015:

Amazon CD: http://geni.us/1niL

Amazon Digital: http://geni.us/pts

iTunes: http://geni.us/6EQ

To purchase: Lucifer’s Friend AWAKENING:

Amazon: http://geni.us/AwakeningAmzn

iTunes: http://geni.us/4DvF

Official Website: www.lucifersfriend.com

Official Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/LucifersFriendOfficial

Hopefully a proper and Full CD re-issue of the band’s entire catalogue will be on the horizon as well, as the band’s albums have been sporadically and [some titles] numerously released on CD via Repertoire [a few most recently this year!], Howling Wolf, WEA, etc…

*for more on John Lawton check out > www.johnlawtonmusic.com & for Mike Starrs > www.partnersincrime.tv

*on Facebook look up Mike Starrs The Voice Of Scotland!, and the Unofficial John Lawton Music group.

*For a great read and discussion on LF album’s I highly recommend checking this interview out! – http://jeffcramer.blogspot.ca/2014/04/a-very-candid-conversation-with-john.html

And this one – http://www.cuttingedgerocks.com/Lucifer’s%20Friend.html

This is a German interview with Peter Hesslein about his ‘60s playing days – http://www.bonds-live.de/dieband.html

*my 2002 interview with John regarding the Rebel & Zar projects! http://www.travellersintime.com/UniversalWheels/lwrz02.html

*by Kevin J., Jan 2015.  Interviews by myself – 1997, 2013,2015. +from Heavy Metal Album Covers [book]. Thanks to John L, Peter H, Mike S, Billy James, and to Boris Shnitzer [for some of the images].

IOANNIS – GET THE LED OUT

Led Zep get the led out cover

 

In 2012 album artist Ioannis was a big part of Denny Somach’s unique and outstanding Led Zeppelin book – “Get The Led Out”. The book – which is a fantastic and colorful biography of the band, which includes piles of interviews with those in, around, and famous connections to the 70s biggest rock band. Ioannis provided classic drawings of the band, bandmembers, symbols, and pieces related to the band’s history throughout the book, as well as covers and borders. His classic drawings can be seen and purchased in print Or originals at his own website. The man is also well know to Uriah Heep fans, and has a few items of interest coming up this year to tell about, among other projects and appearances.

 

www.dangerousage.com

https://www.facebook.com/DANGEROUSAGEART/?ref=hl

 

Q: You knew Denny Somach well before starting “Get The Led Out”. How did the idea of you doing the artwork throughout the book come about? It makes for a very unique approach to a rock bio.

 

A: I have worked with Denny Somach for close to 30 years having designed logos for his national radio shows his label CINEMA RECORDS in the 80s, mostly electronic music and so on. We had recently reconnected and he told me of the LED ZEP book based on his successful radio show of the same name – GET THE LED OUT, that airs on over 300 stations with host DJ Carol Miller. I introduced him to my publisher as I was completing my book with Martin Popoff, and the rest is history as they say. I was approached to do the art – that started with the cover. The publisher wanted to have a painting representing each phase of Led Zeppelin through their career.  It worked well; the book quickly sold out of it’s hard cover edition and now is in it’s second printing as a soft cover.

 

Q: What was your own familiarity as a fan with Zeppelin? Any favorite albums and/or album covers?

A: I remember hearing Led Zep in 1972 (Misty Mountain Hop) while going to school in Athens and really liked them although at that time URIAH HEEP, T-REX and DEEP PURPLE reigned supreme in Europe.  Later on I grew up listening to them as any other 70’s teenager, remember doing to the movie theater to see THE SONG REMAINS THE SAME, it was like going to a concert – the atmosphere in the theater at that time. They were at their peak by then. I really like Physical Graffiti – my favourite album from them. As for their covers I am a big fan of Storm and Hipgnosis, so HOUSES OF THE HOLY,  IN THROUGH THE OUT DOOR, THE LIVE ALBUM, and of course – LED ZEPPELIN I. 

 

Q: What sort of inspired the drawings you did for Get The Led Out? Mainly imagination, either famous pics or scenes…?  And is there ever any copyright or concerns regarding reinterpreting ideas from perhaps an album cover or a photo?

A: It was a very conscious effort. Since they were the dominating 70’s band I felt that the look of the art and design should reflect album cover art of the 70’s as opposed to a photo-shop slick look or Shepard Fairey art they used for the recent live album.  So it was done artistically to reflect that old look where black and white photos or line art was used and then stuck on a board and was colored in inks with an airbrush – that’s how HOUSES OF THE HOLY was done, the way I used to work in the 80’s and occasionally still do. I was very pleased with the results, and it gave the book a unique feel.

 

Q: Can you give me a few words about some of the specific drawings [prints] – such as Knebworth 79, The Hermit from IV, the 1970 band in flowers, Kashmir… ?

A: Again it was based on imagery that they were associated with at that time in their career, so the LED ZEP III cover for instance was the inspiration for the band in flowers and the images that I copied were from that era – I tried to resemble that ‘collage’ feel, for example. On KNEBWORTH  – I remember the crop circles in the English countryside and thought that would be cool to do that and have the zeppelin overhead with it’s light beams on. The Hermit from ZEP IV was my take of the drawing from the inner sleeve of that album; it’s also the tarot card image from that and also inspired by Jimmy Page’s fantasy sequence in the movie.

Kashmir was inspired by the music – once again the mighty zeppelin flying overhead, I did not want every image a painting of the band, I wanted to get into the band mythos a bit; plus I was asked to do a piece of each member also.

 

Q: As you sell these drawings through your site [prints] – how has response been from the Zeppelin fans? And what have been the biggest sellers?

A: Actually amazing, as I have sold a large number of the prints although the supplies are dwindling as they are very limited edition and when they are gone – they are gone, also private collectors have bought a number of the originals, I will shortly be posting  the remaining originals for sale and give the public a shot at them.  One of the pieces sold for $15,000. – to give an idea.

 

Q: Have you had any contact or feedback from Plant, Page or Jones? Anyone in the Zep camp have any of your prints that you know of?  🙂

A: I haven’t but Denny has; he has a picture of Robert Plant holding up the book – So I know he liked it. Recently I gave one to Lenny Kravitz during a photo session and he was wowed by it. Also, recently here in the States – on the FXX channel, Denis Leary’s new show SEX AND DRUGS AND ROCK N ROLL aired and in one episode he had the book prominently featured behind him which was very cool.  I also get a ton of fain mail about it.

 

Q: You also recently did the cover for the new House of Lords album. I’m not a huge fan, but love the art. What can you tell me about your connection and this piece?

A: Thanks.  Yeah, I really liked it a lot, it was a labour of love really.  I have known James Christian since I was a teenager as he played in a number of bands in my town. We always talked about doing something. My Friend Jeff Canatta from Arcangel connected us again and i did the latest. He let me run with it so it turned out well.  I just put up the original for sale… Let me know if you wanted to purchase it lol.

 

 

Q: What other projects are you presently working on that you can divulge any details about? And any future projects you’re looking forward to?

A: In February of last year I accepted the position of Creative Director with Sweden Music Group, a hard-rock metal label. So I have my hands full with that.  Also I am working on a number of new HEEP projects this year, as they will continue the bootleg series and a few re-issues that I will do new art for.  I also finished the new JON ANDERSON & JEAN LUC PONTY album that came out in October and also I redesigned the 20th anniversary FATES WARNING A PLEASANT SHADE OF GRAY with new art, a very deluxe digi-pak, double sided vinyl and t-shirts. Very proud of that, one of the best packages I have done in recent years.  I also a very limited deluxe portfolio signed by me and the band that is available on my website. I am currently also talking to SUPERTRAMP, for their release and a few other things I can’t divulge yet.

 

Q: How have the Heep covers you’ve done been received via print sales? Any favorites amongst the buyers? And can Heep fans expect to see your work again in the future?

A: Extremely well! They have very loyal and fanatic fans. WAKE THE SLEEPER  and LIVE IN KAWASAKI  are real movers, and yes – I have been asked by management to do a number of upcoming HEEP projects in the new year.

 

Q: Do you ever get out on the road and do record fairs or comic exhibitions — anywhere fans can actually see you in person?

A: As matter of fact yes. In the past I had attended Heep concerts in the US , set up shop next to Roger Dean at the YES FEST  and sold well! 

I am planning to be selling my stuff at the two major dates FATES WARNING  is playing for the 30th anniversary of AWAKEN THE GUARDIAN, one of my most famous covers.  I will be signing books and prints this year at SXSW in Austin, Texas .   And I am currently in negotiations to have my work sold in the upcoming rock cruises and attend them.

 

*I want to thank you for the opportunity to talk to you, and would love if the fans would visit my website and Facebook page links below.

They may also contact me at info@dangerousage.com  – I always like to hear from them and if they have any questions about my work or would like to purchase something unique.

KJJ, Jan ’16

 

Out There … Again! with Kirk Krein

Kirk Krein speaks on Out There and their new release featuring Steff Fontaine on vocals!

Out-There-Again

Out There is a Phoenix based band who’ve just issued their third album, and with a twist. Due to my past contact with singer Stephen “Steff” Fontaine, who was at one time (1986), singing for Uriah Heep, and who had sang on the classic AOR album by Joshua “The Hand Is Quicker Than The Eye” (1982) – Kirk Krein contacted me with news of this release. Kirk is the band’s bassist, keyboard player and backing vocals [on this release]. Out There Again also features Tom Vanderginst on guitars and Sean Medhi on drums.
Out There Again is a good mix of hard rock, mixed with acoustics moments, giving this album a nice blend of songs and styles. I must say that hearing Fontaine on this album really stood out, as [aside from the Joshua album] much of what Fontaine has done over the years has been pretty ‘heavy’ metal [2001’s Heartache City release included], but here there’s less ‘metal’ screams and just more good singing. Highlights include the acoustic opener “Apocalypse”, the ballad “Caught In A Dream” –  acoustic guitar, organ, and a great vocal [love the guitar break as well]. and “Cruizin Down The Highway” – which rocks, and features a cool guitar solo and backing vocals. Although there’s 3 covers on this album, I prefer the originals, these guys got some really cool songs; my only criticism is they don’t allow themselves to ‘stretch out’ with lengthier solos and keyboard passages, but this is definately a great intro to the band and hopefully there’ll be more and bigger productions to come!
In this interview with Kirk Krein gives some recall on the ‘old’ days on the Phoenix rock scene, as well as details of the band’s most recent project.
To check out the band Out There and their new album “Out There – Again” please visit > http://www.outtheretunes.com

(*all photos borrowed from the band’s website)

out there kirk

What was typical set list or genre of bands you guys would cover?

KK: Alien covered Ted Nugent, Montrose, Deep Purple, Zeppelin, Foreigner, Heart, Styx, Rainbow, Kansas, Van Halen, ZZ Top, Boston, Eagles, Skynyrd, Stones, Bad Company, Thin Lizzy and so many more I can’t remember right now, that was 38 years ago.
Were you familiar much with Heep and Stephen’s association with them?

KK: Uriah Heep was one of my all time favorite bands but, I really didn’t find out Stephen even sang with them until about 10 years ago, guess I was out of touch for a while.
Can you give me a short list of some of your favorite musicians / bands / albums / influence from your early days?

KK: Pink Floyd, Rush, Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple, Montrose, Kiss, Rainbow, Black Sabbath, Uriah Heep, Doobie Brothers, REO Speedwagon, Fog Hat, BTO, Yes, Steely Dan, Alice Cooper, Allman Brothers, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Kansas, ZZ Top, Foreigner, Bad Company, Thin Lizzy, Blue Oyster Cult, Ten Years After, James Gang, Joe Walsh, Boston, The Eagles, ELP, Zappa, The Beatles and most of the British invasion bands. I was into jazz as well.
Bass players that influenced me the most were Geddy Lee, Stanley Clarke and Chris Squire

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What’s your story of the bands you had in the 70s with Fontaine [Alien and Straight Shooter]? Did you guys play covers or originals back then [a mix]? And was there anything ever recorded to tape back then? 

KK: Wow, the 70’s, what a blur! From what I recall, myself, (Kirk Krein) along with guitar player Rick Dickerson had finished playing in a couple bands together when we acquired drummer Frank Micola. Frank and Stephen met in college here in AZ and Frank brought him over. Stephen auditioned for our band Straight Shooter, sounded awesome and instantly became the new lead singer. (none of us remember exactly how or when things came together) LOL. Straight Shooter lasted about a year when we regrouped, forming the band Alien – adding guitarist Craig Frost. We later became the number 1 cover band in Phoenix. Lot’s of member changes happened from 1977 through 1979, especially drummers. Alien was a true cover band, we did fool around with some originals, but not seriously, unfortunately.
I believe there were some audience type or rehearsal tapes made back then, but nothing has survived to date, to my knowledge anyway.
We didn’t have the money back then to record anything of quality, not even a demo tape, important people came to the clubs to hear you back then.

out there straight shooter(Straight Shooter featuring Fontaine and Krein)
You’ve always been based in Phoenix!? what was the rock scene like back in the day?

KK: I personally started playing bass in a band back in North Dakota, we were underage, in High School, restricted to the stage and played for about 3 years at bars, clubs, proms and parties around ND, Minnesota and South Dakota ’til I moved to Phoenix in December of 1975. Not sure about the other guys prior history but, for the most part we felt we were a true Phoenix band; all of us were around the age of 18 or 19 when things were heating up.
The Rock scene in Phoenix was killer back then. We were playing some of the largest Phoenix clubs six nights a week like the Store West and East with some pretty big crowds yes – there were some really small hole in the wall clubs such as Arnold’s 2×4, Lil Abners, The Zoo, TNT Express, I think one night at the Mason Jar in 78 or 79. They were the best, crazy, crazy fun Times!
When disco clubs started popping up (I try not to think about that) it kind of put a damper on things.
What level of success did you guys achieve [any highlights]?

KK: Alien had a fairly big following for a Phoenix band and we were trying to make a name for ourselves, but we were all kind of young and stupid. One of the bands we rotated club schedules with at the Store West was called BE with drummer Pat Torpe, who went on to play with Mr. Big and many other big endeavors. Our big success story stopped before it got started. Such a bummer.

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When and why did these bands break up and you got out of music ?

KK: When Alien was about to get their big break with a Western US tour and I remember this well, we were playing at a one week gig in a Tucson club called Choo Choo’s Night Train or something like that (can’t remember for sure). Our agent had us staying in a large 10 bedroom house with a bunch of Ladies of the Evening, yeah, shock to me too, the bar patrons would come and party with us every night after closing, lot’s of stories there, but I was good, really I was. That week on a Friday night the Rolling Stones played in town. After they finished, we had a line of people trying to get in the club that went around the block. Anyway, there were some talent scouts in the audience that night, Chuck Wright with Satyr who went on to be the bass payer with Quiet Riot offered Stephen a sweet deal to move out to LA and that was the end of that version of the band Alien as I knew it, no tour, such a bummer. Different versions of the band went on for a while with lots of member changes til it fizzled. I left the band after Stephen did, as we couldn’t find a singer with an amazing voice like his.
When did you get back in to the music scene and how did Out There come about?

KK: I took a break to raise two boys, married twice, was a photographer and headhunter for many years. Once the kids left the nest and with me being single, I joined a cover band called RoadRage in 2007 where I met lead guitar player Tom Vanderginst. When things went south with that band, I asked Tom to join me at my home studio to start recording original material. After about a year we dubbed the band name ‘Out There’ with the studio being called DreamLand Studios, owned by Kirk Krein.

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What can you tell me about the band’s previous 2 albums – when were these done, how were they received [locally?], any press reviews, etc?

KK: Our first album was called “From the Beginning” and the second called “Out There”; both were released in November 2013 after several years in the making. We really didn’t know what to expect or how to market them, it was a total learning curve for us, just did it for the fun of it. I did the recording, engineering, producing, lead vocals, harmonies, bass and keyboards, Tom did all the guitar work and Sean Medhi did the drum work. There are some rockers on the Out There album such as Taken Away, No Place To Hide, Time Will Tell, Flight Through Time, Out There, Into The Night, Good Time Tonight, Got My Shades On and Hold On Tight. A lot of people say I sound like Ozzy. Maybe?

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Had you heard much from Fontaine over the years and how did you end up reconnecting?

KK: I hadn’t heard from Fontaine until this past year. I reached out to him in 2013 and he finally responded around July or August of 2014 after he found our web site and heard some of our material.

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Most of the songs on your new album appeared on the band’s previous 2 recordings without Fontaine on vocals!? How was this song selection done, as opposed to coming up with new material?

KK: After Fontaine contacted me, we decided he should listen the tracks on our albums and he should pick the songs he wanted to sing on. He loves ballads and rockers so, hence the reason for the songs on the new album. He had two goals, number one, to prove he could still sing and two, just to enjoy doing it again. It was a cool experience for us too, especially me, having played with Fontaine before! The new Album is called “Out There Again” – kind of a remix of past songs we did mostly from the first album.
You’ve included 3 covers – Stealin, Space Truckin, and Love welcome Home [I wasn’t familiar with that one] — why these particular songs?

KK: Well, Stealin was my idea, to make a point out there that Stephen still had it together vocally and can still stand up with the big guys, Space Truckin was Steff’s idea, we all love that song and had a blast doing it, Love Welcome Home was Steff’s idea, thinking women out there would love it, plus, it never was a hit back in the day; it was one of the hardest songs to play musically that we’ve ever tried to do.
Would you be able to give me a line or 2 about the tracks [aside from above covers] on the new album?

KK: Well, as stated before, all the songs were written by Kirk Krein and Tom Vanderginst with a new spin put on them with Stephen Fontaine’s vocals. Apocalypse, Cruzin Down The Highway and RoadKill Cafe are some of my favorites on the Out There Again Album, they all are, really. Stephen just felt these were the songs he could shine on, and he did!.

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One thing I notice, is you guys include a cool mix of sounds – acoustics, hard rockers, some cool keyboards on occasion, but you don’t tend to stretch out the songs with lengthy instrumental features. Can you kinda explain how songs come about and get put to tape?

KK: I guess we could have gone crazy with extended instrumental parts, but we chose not to, in order to keep the overall song time down under 5 minutes.
Our recording process usually begins with an idea, phrase or chord progression to start with, maybe only a few seconds long, then I/we scrutinize to put some structure in the overall product, with choruses, lead parts, harmonies etc. things start to flow from there, one track at a time. Then we pick it apart, maybe to much sometimes, LOL!!.
Are you guys booking / planning any live shows? Is Fontaine living back in Phoenix?

KK: Right now we are trying to discover if people like what we’re doing, it’s been a studio recording endeavor for the most part. We would consider doing a live show or tour in the future should an opportunity come forth and the circumstances were right.
Stephen is currently residing in California, and the rest of us, Kirk, Tom and Sean are based here in Arizona, we’ve been sending tracks back and forth and I’ve been mixing them here in AZ.
Just an additional note: if you search the web for Out There, search for Out There Tunes or Out There Band, It’s kind of hard to find otherwise.
Kirk Krein
Contact: info@outtheretunes.com
Website: http://outtheretunes.com

My Top Ten List of The Works of Mick Box : Favorite Songs and Performances from Uriah Heep’s Guitarist.

uh mick box 73mickbox1

With June 9 having been the Uriah Heep guitarist’s latest birthday, I thought I’d visit a bit of his story and selection of some of my favorite Heep tracks that feature some of his best work writing and/or playing.

[*Mick shared birthdays with longtime Heep member – Trevor Bolder – RIP]. This page is to celebrate Mick’s work and efforts in keeping Uriah Heep going strong for the fans throughout the years.

 www.mick-box.net

Mick is the lone founding member left in the British band, after he – along with David Byron [RIP], Alex Napier and Paul Newton were joined by Ken Hensley in late 1969 and changed the band’s name from Spice to Uriah Heep. Over the years he survived numerous band member changes, management and record company changes and hassles, and sadly a few passings. In 1981 he had become the only founding member and with the name and still a record deal – he rebooted the band with Lee Kerslake, Bob Daisley, Peter Goalby and John Sinclair [with longtime bassist Trevor Bolder returning not too long after]. Though the band had peaked in the ‘70s with David Byron on vocals and Ken Hensley writing the vast majority of the material, and both members being the focal point of the band – Box remained a steady contributor and the ‘80s saw him move to the front. By the end of the ‘80s he was the band’s major songwriter [along with Phil Lanzon] and by the mid ‘90s he was managing the band. I think it is safe to say Mick has done more of his best writing and studio recording over the past 20 years [since 1995’s Sea Of Light brought the band back to life for many old fans, new fans, and critics].

http://www.uriah-heep.com

UH - mick washburn ad

“Mick has always been a great player, and he’s been what I call a “team player”. I used to run in to Mick a lot in England, and he always such a great guy. In fact we used to rehearse in the same studio a lot. I don’t know why he never got more acclaim than he did, because i think he was due a lot more.” – Stuart Smith [Heaven & Earth]

Here’s my list — I didn’t pick all the predictable ones either! Feel free to comment and drop your own list or recommendations in the comments….

I’ll Keep On Trying – from the first Heep album, credited to Mick and David Byron. Although this song really shows the immediate impact of Ken Hensley with the band – Mick’s heavy playing here is the highlight; that lengthy solo where he turns it up and lets loose. Classic stuff!

The Magicians Birthday – with the song built around a story Ken Hensley had written, it is the guitar & drum interplay in this song that became what this song is known for. According to Lee Kerslake, the instrumental section was done in one take. The band has re-added this to the set list over the past year or so and it is a concert high point with Mick and Russell Gilbrook sparring it out on stage.

Devils Daughter – from 1975’s Return To Fantasy, and co-credited to the bandmembers [though newcomer John Wetton was left off the writing credits at the time]. So not sure who all contributed what, but one has to suspect Mick had a good hand in this with one of his more memorable riffs, and a cool lengthy solo exchange of guitar and keyboard interplay with Ken Hensley. A seldom mentioned gem, which the band resurrected in the early ‘90s and used as a live show opener for a few tours.

Free N Easy – a song John Lawton brought in for Innocent Victim, but with the help of Mick it became the heaviest song the band had done in years, and much needed as the band was in the confused state of becoming a middle of the road pop band. Killer riff, worked great with Hensley playing slide as alongside Mick. The band brought this song back in to the live show a few years ago, providing a highlight of the evening when they’d invite ladies on stage to jump around to the song.

Too Scared To Run – though brought in to the band by [then] singer Peter Goalby, it is Mick’s riff and solo performance here that scream “Heep is back”. Fittingly the lead off track to 1982’s Abominog, and featured in the band’s live show [off and on] for years.

Poor Little Rich Girl – another track from the Goalby era, and perhaps from one of the band’s lowest rated albums by longtime fans. I believe Goalby wrote most of this, but you gotta love Mick’s acoustic playing and that big dramatic solo.

Against The Odds – after 1991’s less than stellar Different World and a few years of no new recording this lead off track from 1995’s Sea Of Light was so welcomed and so exciting and easily set aside any fears that Mick and the band couldn’t come up with great rockers anymore. A real blazer, co-written by Mick with Phil Lanzon, and featuring a killer riff and 2 [!] huge solos from Mick.

Between Two Worlds – from 1998’s Sonic Origami. Another huge lead off rocker, and my favorite Heep classic from the past 30 years! Co-written by Mick with Phil, and lyrically about the chance of meeting those you lost in another world. A cool guitar break, and a huge lengthy solo that races to the finale on this one. The heaviest from a fairly lighter [but excellent] Heep album.

Ghost Of The Ocean – from 2008’s Wake The Sleeper; written by Mick and Phil about female pirates(!) This song just blares out right from the start with Mick’s riff and sound [and Russell beating the hell out of it], add Mick’s hooks and solo – a classic modern Heep rocker.

Jesse – from the latest Heep studio album [Outsider]; this album was a bit of a grower for me, but this song (written by Mick & Phil) I liked upon first listen – a bit more of a commercial rock tune, with a great little intro from Mick and one very different and killer sounding solo from anything else here. My favorite song from this album; too bad it didn’t make it to the live show or as a single.

mick box carparelli

 

KJJ

A look at some classic live albums [part one]

Well, I started this out as a pile of reviews of some of my favorite Live albums, but find myself enjoying rifling throughout [and a few newer] live albums in my collection. There was a time when live albums were a bit more rarely released and held more meaning — such as they capped off a period for a band or captured a band on a special occasion… Now a-days live albums seem pretty regular for most bands, releasing them after almost every tour – or more than one per tour. Though there’s some great single live albums out there [and I’ve included a few here] – there is something special about those big double LP gatefold releases – and every great band of the ’70s has such a legendary album in their catalogue – Thin Lizzy, UFO, Uriah Heep, Humble Pie, Deep Purple …. well – except for Black Sabbath [with Ozzy] and Alice Cooper [the band!]. Anyway, more to come next time – as I have pulled a pile of these from the shelf to revisit, as well as I have a few new[er] great releases too.

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Kiss – Alive
The first ‘used’ albums I ever bought were from a school friend’s older brother – he was kind enough to sell me his LP copies of a few early Sabbath albums and a couple of Kiss albums for a mere 50 cents  each! A great deal then [and still] for a grade 5’er, even if the guy had bothered to print his damn name on the front of each LP cover! For me tho, this was my first hearing of a band ‘live’, and it was an exciting experience! Kiss Alive was my first and easily still my fave Kiss live release [Alive 2 was ridiculous and I hardly played it even when i got it]. Something about the band’s material from the first 3 albums that makes that period their best for me, and the infusion of volume and a live crowd to a band that was young, energetic, eager to please and cool back then – was pretty spectacular! Alive was just a great set of guitar rock; sure Kiss lyrics were fairly lame even back then [they got worse after this period] – side one just packed with Kiss early classics like “Deuce”, “Strutter”, “Got To Choose”, “Hotter Than Hell”, and “Firehouse”. Elsewhere, faves include “C’mon and Love Me”, “Black Diamond” [w/ Peter Criss singing], “Rock Bottom” [w/ that cool light intro] and “Cold Gin” [w/ Paul Stanley’s goofy story beforehand]. This album was highlighted by the single “Rock And Roll All Nite” – which became the band’s first hit — and one of those songs I just can’t stand!
Classic packaging courtesy of Fin Costello, who used a similar concept he’d done on Uriah Heep’s “Live …January 1973” release – with memorable photos [front and back], and a gatefold cover that includes a program featuring a pile more live band and individual photos [note the bandmember close ups signed, just as the Heep ones were].  This was Kiss at their peak, before they tried being a pop-rock band of cartoon characters on the next several albums. I should add i enjoyed Alive 3 in the ’90s, as well as the live Unplugged [reunion] release, but for me Kiss – up until Alive was the most magical for this band – no dolls, lunch boxes, comic books and stupid solo albums – just a solid and exciting guitar heavy rock band!

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BOC – Some Enchanted Evening
The first Blue Oyster Cult album I ever bought, and heck I’m not even sure why[!?] – likely the cover-art combined with it being on display and sale at the local Sam The Record Man [and I knew “The Reaper”!].  Taken from various shows around the globe in 1978, Some Enchanted Evening was a mere single LP release [the band’s previous and next live releases would be doubles, but not sure of the reasoning behind this release!?],  w/ color photo’d sleeve. Some Enchanted Evening would be my introduction to this seemingly scary band with songs about death – “The Reaper”, monsters – “Godzilla”, and unknown  / other worlds – “Astronomy” and “ETI [Extra Terrestrial Intelligence”], 4 of the best known BOC classics – all here! and for the longest time – my favorite BOC songs [til I much later completed buying the band’s catalogue].  Side one kicks off with “R U Ready 2 Rock” [from Spectres] – turn up loud because this IS BOC at their best! The song comes off heavier, and rocks harder – Albert Bouchard kicks the shit out of it on drums.  A prime example of why BOC was never remotely the same after he [and brother Joe] left. ETI follows with that classic riff, and a cool vocal delivery from Eric Bloom, but it’s the performance of “Astronomy” here that really got me early on and remains my favorite BOC tune; delivered as more of a heavy bass / guitar track; it wasn’t for a long time that i realized this was in fact a piano based song originally – and both are pretty different but classic recordings. Side 2 opens with a huge rocking rendition of “Kick Out The Jams” and closes with a smooth cover of The Animals “We Gotta Get Out of This Place”, in between is “Godzilla” and the band’s biggest hit “[Don’t Fear] The Reaper” – all beefed up in guitar and sound, with strong backing vox. BOC :  Eric Bloom, Donald Roeser, Allen Lanier [RIP], Joe Bouchard, and Albert Bouchard – that was it for me! I enjoyed subsequent studio albums – Mirrors [despite it being a bit lightweight], Cultosaurus Erectus, and Fire Of Unknown Origin, but definitely things began to fade when Albert left, and aside from a few tracks ’80s releases The Revolution By Night and Club Ninja [minus Joe as well] i rarely got beyond a couple of tracks. 1989’s Imaginos was a great record, but too many guests and not a real reunion to follow. Oh well. Some Enchanted Evening captured BOC at their peak, and it’s fun to revisit and crank up loud still. I should add that tho I lost interest in the band throughout the ’90s, it was really Joe’s first solo album and Blue Coupe shows that I really got back in to the BOC catalogue, but this remains my favorite release from them [studio or live!] and their biggest seller. *Note: the remastered CD version of this album adds a pile of songs as well.

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Saga – In Transit
One of the first albums I bought, In Transit covered material from the band’s first 4 albums – easily their strongest era, and (in my opinion!) – a period that ended with 1983’s Heads Or Tales.
Originally from Toronto, Saga would make a bigger name for themselves in Europe where their more progressive approach was far more appreciated, and with this album being recorded at shows in West Germany and Denmark. I can clearly remember first hearing this album at a friend’s when it came out and then buying it soon after at the Eaton’s in the Rexdale Mall [a time when department stores had decent sized music sections; sadly Eaton’s and that mall are long gone].  Though part of a great up and coming Toronto scene in the late 70s and early 80s, Saga’s more keyboard / prog approach and more thought provoking lyrical approach set them apart – a good bit of drama and melody in this band’s music. And frankly most of my fave Saga songs are still all found on this single LP, full of classics like “Careful Where You Step” [a cool intro for this young new fan at the time], followed by “Don’t Be Late” and Humble Stance”. Side one closes with “Wind Him Up” from the band’s [then] latest World’s Apart – which had a couple of big radio hits at the time [and 2 of the few Saga tunes that still get any radio play]. Side 2 boasts “How Long”, the ballad “No Regrets” (w/ Jim Gilmour singing lead), a short drum solo aptly titled “A Brief Case”, the dramatic “You’re Not Alone”, and the other big hit from World’s Apart “On The Loose”. After hearing the studio versions, In Transit showed what a great live band Saga were [are] – bringing a lot of energy and life to already great songs.  On this upswing in their career the band followed up with Heads or Tales, which featured classics like “The Flyer”, “Cat Walk” and “Social Orphan”, though to me – the studio stuff just lacks that energy. Of note – the band was to play the Niagara Falls Memorial Arena on February 29 [!] of 1984, which I’d planned to go, but this was cancelled when a blizzard at the time close schools for a few days and cancelled the show. The band’s last album with that classic line-up of Michael Sadler, Jim Gilmour, Jim Crichton, Steve Negus, and Ian Crichton was 1985’s Behaviour, but saw the band heading in a more commercial/ aor direction with the hit “What Do I Know”. 1987’s Wildest Dreams saw Negus & Gilmour gone from the band [both return later, tho Negus has since departed permanently] – a totally forgettable album for me [aside from the fact that Curt Cress, who’d played with Lucifers Friend was on drums!]. I never got back to being a big Saga fan, though In Transit remains my fave album by them, and one of my favorite Live albums. Sometime in the early ’90s Saga played a club in St.Catharines, and I was able to take and get all those early Saga LPs fully signed [i recall the drummer taking them for me and commenting “wow, someone has vinyl!”].  Interesting also that last years Saga-City album, though a decent sounding album [def sounds like Saga] – added a bonus disc of live material – much of which is still from the In Transit era.

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Uriah Heep – Live in Europe ’79
My fellow Heep fans may disagree, but this is my favorite Heep live album. Granted Heep’s “Live – Janurary 1973” is legendary as it captures the classic line up at their peak as well as set a standard for live album packaging, courtesy of Fin Costello.  But this post-David Byron line up release of the band then fronted by John Lawton in 1979 – his last tour before being dropped, came out in 1986 [Raw Power / Castle]. A shame it didn’t come out at the time it was made, may have helped the band at a declining time. Though the band’s profile in North America had sank pretty far since the band’s heyday from 72-75, Heep still had a string of hits throughout various European countries during the Lawton era and still played to decent crowds there. Believe it or not, there are still those Heep fans that gave up after Byron was canned [sad for them] – and even sadder if someone didn’t give this line-up a listen here. Lawton’s debut with Heep was on Firefly – a classic album!, though i find the next 2 a bit inconsistent and softer, with songs seemingly more hurried in the studio and not given the full classic Heep production. Having said that – Lawton and bassist Trevor Bolder [RIP] really added some new life to the Heep classics here, while the band really beefs up and adds energy to tracks from [then current album] Fallen Angel. Actually wish they’d chosen more from the Lawton period here [btw the remastered CD release includes a couple of Lawton era tunes not on the original LP set]. While Lawton adds a powerful voice to classics like “Easy Livin”, “Stealin”, “Sweet Lorraine”, and mixes well with Ken Hensley’s vocals on “July Morning” – it is side 3 here that is my fave, with Fallen Angel tracks “Falling In Love” running into “Woman Of The Night”, followed by “I’m Alive” – heavier than the studio and sounding better IMO. That side ends with Lee Kerslake’s “Who Needs Me” – complete with drum solo, though i’d prefer less drum solo and another Firefly track! [*Drum solos not my thing, especially hearing more than once.] L:awton era lightweight hit “Free Me” even comes off a bit heavier on the opening side of this album [sitting comfortably after “Look At Yourself” and “Lady In Black”. Love the way Hensley’s keyboards would connect “The Wizard” into “July Morning”! Last side features Mick Box’s moment in the spotlight during “Sweet Lorraine”, before the it winds down with blaze-throughs of Innocent Victim’s lone rocker “Free N Easy” [w/ Hensley adding slide guitar] and old classic “Gypsy”.
Original packaging was lacking – a nice brief band overview on the back, the front featuring just photos of Box and Hensley, as well as photos of Box, Hensley [the same pic!] and Kerslake only featured in the gatefold [someone couldn’t make the effort to include Lawton or Bolder at the time!?]. Oh well, definitely a great listen to a classic band, capping a period that should’ve been bigger and more successful. Interesting that this came out at the end of Heep’s period with Peter Goalby fronting the band; makes me think we’re long overdue for a Goalby era Heep double-live release!?

My latest listening and ramblings! Harm’s Way Project, Europe, Trapper….

 

Well, here I am – writing lengthier reviews than I intended [again] and rambling on. Not sure why, but I’ll try to be inconsistant! After all, isn’t that what these forums are for?
Still got lots to cover from the latter part of 2014 and first half of this year. Currently still playing the hell out of the latest Europe album “War Of Kings”; in fact I had to go back and pick up all the studio albums since their 2004 comeback – quite an impressive string of releases, especially “Bag Of Bones” and love the live releases from Shepherd’s Bush [London] and Sweden Rock Fest.

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Recently saw the band in Niagara Falls, NY to a small crowd – apparently their first trip over here in 10 years. Lots of ground to cover and it seems a heck of a hurdle to overcome with the ‘hair band’ tag from the ’80s. Telling people I saw Europe – the band that did “The Final Countdown” usually gets an odd look, which i follow with – ‘their new stuff ain’t like that!’ Was bummed that Michael Schenker’s Temple of Rock show was cancelled in Toronto, but oh well – hopefully there’ll be a return with Doogie White. Here’s an interview I did with Doogie years ago [look under October 1999] – http://www.travellersintime.com/uw/
Maybe it’s an age thing, but I’m finding as I get older, I am listening to and buying more stuff I never thought to or got in to in the past. Also revisiting those Lucifers Friend albums from the ’70s, since the new release.

Hmm, maybe I’ll get to revisiting catalogues of favorite bands here!? There is just not enough time in this life to get to it all tho! Here’s hoping the new someone will drop me a copy of the new Tommy Bolin “Teaser” box — 3 LPs! Amazing, how much this guy did in such a short life time, and we’re still gettting cool releases like the “Whirwind” set a couple of years ago, as well as reissues of his stuff with the James Gang and Zephyr, among others. You can never go wrong checking out Bolin’s music, if you’re not familiar! Also, looking forward to getting Dennis Dunaway’s new book about his Alice Cooper days; then we’ll just be awaiting for Neal Smith’s account of those days.

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Another new vinyl shop has opened in nearby Thorold [“Our Favorite Record Store”]. Mostly used LPs, but it’s a neat little store, clean and reasonably priced. Funny that when people were hurrying to ditch vinyl, shops and vendors were selling used stuff for $5 and less, now that it’s back – every crappy dime-o-dozen release is somehow a collectable worth $10 and up. Not everything is worth big $. If anyone could pick up big selling LPs like Fleetwood Mac’s “Rumours”, the first 2 Boston albums, or late ’70s Foreigner records were worth $3 five to 10 years, why would anyone expect to pay over $10 a-piece now??
anyway, more to come….

The Harm’s Way Project – Everything Works If You Let It [CHA]
The 2nd Harm’s Way Project release, and quite a project it has become! The musicians being those that have found each other on the internet, largely though Uriah Heep forums and online groups, so you’ll understand if there’s a good bit of the Heep influence.  Tho I enjoyed the first album, this one is a major step up – in concept, sound, performance, production and flow.   This is a major production – and i dont mean that in a ridiculous Mutt Lange kinda way!
As I understand, lyrically based around the life journeys of lyric writers Ron Mann and Allie Segars, and tho this may be one or two peoples personal tales and outlooks – it is definately something many of us can relate to.  70s rock fans will easily dig this for the feel and sounds that come from classic rock influences of that era – a good bit of hard rock, progressive, folk….and it all flows so well musically and lyrically. Big praise to Jon Binder who handles most of the lead vocals here, as well as guitarists Keith Shaw, Dave White, Mac Steagall [who also doubles on bass and as major music writer], Micheal Fedysky [bass] and Staf Pypen [on drums], as well as the backing singers. The use of Hammond organ and Moog Synthesizer [courtesy of Jim Lynch] add to the whole feel of a time gone by when bands made these sort of albums. Frankly it is hard to pick favorites because i just throw this on, enjoy it in full as old Heep styled lead off track Time simply flows nicely in My Song, then on to the ballad Forever In The Night [the backing harmonies are a great touch throughout this].  A great mix of tunes with rockers like Cries In Winters Rain [this one musically reminds me Heep’s Time To Live], Battles, and Lost In A Fog, and outstanding ballads like It’s All My Fault [nicely done on piano with violin sounds adding a nice touch] and Searching For An Angel – [love the female lead vocals here, backing vocals, and keyboards adding the string sounds]. Again, this album is a FULL listen – not something you can simply jump through select tracks.  Lots to listen to musically and lyrically. Seems like a fine album to throw on for those outside summer evenings!
Well packaged too [tho i’d love to have it on vinyl!] A classic unknown 70s release, made in 2014!
http://www.harms-way.net
*and look ’em up on Facebook Reverbnation

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Trapper – Go For The Heart
Holy shit, it’s like early ’80s Canuck rock made a comeback here! Trapper’s the new band formed by Canadian guitarist Sean Kelly – who’s become a legend in the last couple of years here – with his book Metal On Ice, and having wrote andrecorded with Helix, played live with Coney Hatch, Lee Aaron…. Trapper tho, is his brand new band with singer Emm Gryner and they have a 5 track CD that is a cool throwback to that period in Canadian rock when the likes of Harlequin, Trooper, Loverboy, Toronto, etc…  were big on the radio airwaves, albeit a good bit heavier with no keyboards, more guitar… Lonely Nights, Technology Killed Our Love and Grand Bender are cool memorable rockers, catchy hooks and choruses, big solos, great production; and then there’s 2 covers in The Warrior and Your Love – neither of which i cared for way back, but they’ve got a bit more bite and fit so well on this disc.  Check Trapper out > http://www.maplemusic.com/artists/trp/bio.asp

Dennis DeYoung – Plays The Music of Styx [Frontiers]
Styx was one of my first favorite bands, “Paradise Theater” being the first LP I ever bought (at a record outlet at the CNE In Toronto!).  The albums from 1975 (Equinox) up until “Pieces Of Eight” are classic albums, and tho they softened up and became more ‘aor’ for the last few albums before splitting in the mid 80s, I thought they were still good. Stxy – the band, carried on without one of it’s founding and IMO it’s key figure some 15+ years ago, and DeYoung went off and did some different stuff, but this Live revisit of the Styx classics is outstanding! DeYoung and his band give a very authentic Styx sounding production, full of energy and accuracy faithful to the original recordings. And it sounds like DeYoung really enjoys performing this stuff still. Interesting to note he managed to find a great guitar player in August Zadra – who not only looks like a younger Tommy Shaw, but also pulls off the vocals on the Shaw written and sang classics like “Crystal Ball” and “Blue Collar Man”, sounding remarkably like the Styx guitarist. Highlights for me include “Suite Madame Blue” (w/ prelude), “Lorelei” and lone solo hit here “Desert Moon”.

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Lucifers Friend – Awakening

The debut album from Lucifers Friend was a classic early metal album, coming around the time of Heep’s debut and Deep Purple’s “In Rock”, it featured the classic “Ride The Sky”; it is the starting point for anyone looking in to this Germanband that would gather a strong underground following around the globe, especially in North America where their LPs came out on smaller labels, labels folded, the band switching labels, lack of any promo,  – you get the idea!? Singer John Lawton was the lone Englishman in the band which also features guitarist Peter Hesslein (He and other founding LF members were experienced in studio and on the circuit in their homeland throughout the late 60s), as well as original bass player Dieter Horns. Lawton left the band in ’76 to join Uriah Heep (having missed an invite to audition for Deep Purple a few years earlier), but returned for 1 classic hard rock album in 1981 (again on a label that did nothing to promote it or distribute it!). The band also reconvened in 1994 as Lucifers Friend II for the “Sumo Grip” album. Disc one of Awakening pulls the best known classic tracks from the albums Lawton sang on up until 1981 (note – the band continued on for 2 albums in the late 70s with Mike Starrs at the mic, but nothing is included from that period here).  The band’s debut being their best known, so we get 4 heavy tracks from it, though nothing from “I’m Just A Rock n Roll Singer”, and just 1 from fan favorite “Banquet” – but oh well, this is a cool collection with classics like “Burning Ships” and “Fugitive” (the latter from the highly recommeded, more progressive album “Mind Exploding”, from ’76 ).
With Lucifers Friend albums, the band was constantly changing, adding in some pretty diverse sounds and approaches from album to album, rock, blues, jazz, fusion, pop… it’s all in their repertoire with big brass arrangements, strings, etc.. 1981’s “Mean Machine” was a return to a direct hard-rock sound, likely influenced by the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal happening at the time (note – Lawton had a solo album in 1980 with LF members as back-up, and Hesslein co-writing).
Disc 2 of Awakening (and really – 14 tracks total probably could’ve fit on 1 disc!) consists of 4 brand new tracks the band recently recorded to coincide with this release and some live shows (note – this band was not a live band for the most part throughout the 70s). The band’s writing being closer to their 1994 album, a bit more pop, but first track “Pray” is the hardest hitting and easily enjoyable, John Lawton’s vocals show no sign of ageing. “Riding High” is a steady rock number, but i dig “Did You Ever” for the changes, and Lawton’s performance. “This Road” is more of a pop track, reminiscent of the Sumo Grip stuff, but it’s catchy, and we finally get to hear Peter Hesslein a bit louder with a riff and then let loose and solo a bit . Actually my only beef is that I’d like to hear more from Hesslein; he’s a great player, but man – more big solos! Oh well, a great intro to the band for anyone not familiar, and 4 solid tunes for those that enjoyed Lucifers Friend in the past.
http://shop.cherryred.co.uk/shopdisplayproducts.asp?search=yes&bc=no&artist=Lucifer

Dave Flett – Flying Blind
Pulled this one out again recently – The first album released by the real Dave Flett since his departure from the music scene in the UK in ’88. And i say the ‘real’ Dave Flett, as this whole project began with a track called “Stolen Identity”, which is based on a Canadian guy who’d been passing himself off as our Dave Flett for years, while the real deal was out of the music business! A pretty incredible tale, but hey – if it got Dave out of music retirement, so be it! Back to early days …. Dave Flett [for those not knowing], was the guitarist in Manfred Mann’s Earth Band in the mid 70s, playing on a couple of albums, most notably The Roaring Silence, which featured the Springsteen penned “Blinded By The Light”, a #1 hit for the band. He went on to tour with Thin Lizzy, and then various lesser name acts before relocating to the US and getting in to a new profession. And although Flett’s solo on Blinded By The Light is most memorable, this album is more mainstream alternative modern rock than classic rock with the guitar hero approach, but plenty of cool hooks and fitting solos.  This is comprised of upbeat rockers here with the title track standing out, as well as “The Only Thing”, “Walking With The Angels”, “Kings” and “Drive”. Singer / producer Tony Manna deserves a good bit of credit here, as this album has a fairly sound and feel, sounding more like a young energetic band here than a 70s rocker attempting a lame comeback.
*Manfred Mann guests on the track Flying Blind, and former MMEB member John Lingwood takes care of the drums throughout this album.
http://www.daveflett.com

dave flett fb joe bouchard - new solid black

Joe Bouchard – New Solid Black
Originally a 6 track EP, Joe added a couple of tunes making this closer to a full album. Both ‘bonus’ tracks being written with Helen Wheels [RIP] – “Light Years Of Love”, a fine ballad that originally appeared on BOC’s The Revolution By Night [which is why I didnt remember it much], and there’s the upbeat “O Jim” – which had a brief life with BOC in ’79, but never made it to album. These sit well along NSB’s other gems like the upbeat “Forget About Love”, “Love Takes Heart”, and “Roller Girls”.
http://www.joebouchard.com
http://www.hotrails.co.uk/blueskybag/joebouchard/new_solid_black.htm