Great Rock Albums of 1984: Blackfoot- Vertical Smiles

Another great Southern Rock or in my view Southern metal band who went for a more commercial rock sound in 1984 was Blackfoot with their album, “Vertical Smiles.” Keyboards player Ken Hensley from Uriah Heep became a permanent member and guitarist Charlie Hargrett left over disagreements with the band and management. However, I have always believed Charlie’s departure to be fairly amicable because written on the album cover is “Special thanks to Charlie Hargrett for fourteen years of agony and dedication.”

The move to more commercial rock comes out in the very first song, “Morning Dew,” which was released as the album’s only single. I remember it getting limited airplay on radio. While I have always liked this song, it was certainly a departure from traditional Blackfoot. The keyboards lead into the song and it’s present throughout, although this isn’t a bad thing. I also love the military sounding snare drums complements of Mr Spires and Rick Medlocke pelts a good guitar solo on it. So there is a lot to like with “Morning Dew.”

Things go decisively harder for the next few songs after. “Living in the Limelight” is a pure belter and Medlocke’s signature vocals are present. The song rocks! The same can be said for “Get It On.” This too is a good rocker from the more memorable days of Blackfoot. The song in between them, “Ride With You” isn’t bad either. It’s just too much keyboards where some good guitar stuff should be and that lets it down a little. Then, the album slows right down with two power ballad type songs, “Young Girl” and “Summer Days.” It does show a more tender side to the band and both songs are done very well. Happily, things go back to more familiar ground with the blazing “A Legend Never Dies.” I have always thought “this is more like it.”  It proves that Blackfoot can effectively employ guitar and keyboard together in a song. But the most true old style Blackfoot track is the pen ultimate, “Heartbeat and Heels.” This song casts aside any doubt that Blackfoot have completely abandoned their past. It is the hidden gem on the album. I’ve never been too sure about the closer. You would think that any song titled, “In For the Kill” would be a hard rocker and though this song has moments, it doesn’t move me in for any kill. Still, it’s probably the best song to close the album.

Track Listing:

  1. Morning Dew
  2. Living In the Limelight
  3. Ride With You
  4. Get it On
  5. Young Girl
  6. Summer Days
  7. A Legend Never Dies
  8. Heartbeat and Heels
  9. In For the Kill


Rick Medlocke- guitar, lead vocals

Ken Hensley- keyboards, backing vocals

Greg T Walker- bass, backing vocals

Jackson Spires- drums, backing vocals

Sherri Jarrell- backing vocals

Note: This was a band photo from the last album but I thought I’d use out it of respect for Charlie Hargrett

All in all, “Vertical Smiles” is a pretty decent album. True, they incorporate keyboards where a harder guitar sound should be in places but it’s not bad. The album does have good songs. Still, it’s not near the same level as their three famous albums, “Strikes,” “Tomcattin'” and “Marauder.”

Next post: Survivor- Vital Signs

To buy Rock and Roll Children go to:













23 Responses to “Great Rock Albums of 1984: Blackfoot- Vertical Smiles”

  1. I saw Blackfoot in 82 at Hammersmith Odean, hell of a gig, Siogo was too much of a change for me though, Strikes, Tomcattin’ and Marauder were a hell of a trilogy of albums though, and Highway Song Live is a brilliant live album, difficult to follow them with something new.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Those three albums are the real classics and the ones they will be most remembered for and I share your thoughts about “Highway Song.” I’m also jealous that you got to see them live.


  2. Interesting! I only got as far as Siogo. Never heard this one.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I’ve only recently heard Marauder (thanks to HMO) and I like it a whole lot. So much so that I’m gonna pick up some more, but sounds like I should wait before checking this one.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I love the three albums before this (and the two before that are decent enough too) but I never tried this one, too many negative reviews scared me off, its interesting to see a positive review 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Cover art and album title make me stop and wonder what they mean by vertical smiles 😁

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I have two old Blackfoot albums on vinyl that I haven’t listened too yet. I might actually need to pull them out and give them a spin.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Here’s a fact: Warrant were originally going to name their second album “Vertical Smile”. I had no idea where they stole that from. And guess what they covered on that album? Train Train, by Blackfoot!

    Liked by 2 people

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: