Archive for November, 2020

Rest in Peace Ken Hensley

Posted in 1980s, Death, Music, Rock, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , on November 6, 2020 by 80smetalman
Ken Hensley

Once more, we can boldly declare that 2020 sucks Communist donkey dick! Not only are we losing so many great rockers, we are losing members of the same band. Less than two months ago, Uriah Heep and Ozzy drummer Lee Kerslake left us. Now, I must sadly announce the passing of Uriah Heep keyboardist, Ken Hensley. He was a great but underrated keyboards player for Heep all throughout the 1970s. In 1983, he joined Southern rock greats, Blackfoot and his contributions helped make keyboards in Southern rock acceptable.

Blackfoot

Rest in peace Ken!

Great Metal Albums of 1986: Saxon- Rock the Nations

Posted in 1980s, Concerts, Heavy Metal, Heavy Metal and the 1980s, Music, Rock, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , on November 4, 2020 by 80smetalman

October 11, 1986 was my first time attending a concert at the famous Hammersmith Odeon in London. No prizes for guessing who the headline band was or I wouldn’t be writing about it now. The support act will get the treatment in the next post but that night, I was excited about finally getting to see NWOBHM stars, Saxon and they didn’t disappoint.

An additional bonus on the night was that Saxon were on tour for their latest album, “Rock the Nations.” While I might have been there to hear some of my favourites from earlier years like “Wheels of Steel” and “Princess of the Night,” (they played both), the new material they played that night was just as good and of course, I had to get the album.

According to some critics, (I never pay attention to them anyway), “Rock the Nations” sounded cliche-ridden and sighted the departure of bassist and key song writer Steve Dawson as the reason why. Having only just started exploring Saxon in detail at the time, I didn’t know the internal politics of the band and for me, the album had everything I liked about Saxon in it.

“Rock the Nations” opens with the title track and makes it no secret that this is a Saxon album. Critics might have called it cliche but to me it was typical Saxon. If they wanted to pick on any track and they do, it’s the first single, “Waiting for the Night.” First, I can’t fathom why it was called a sappy ballad because I find it a radio- friendly, mid-tempo metal song. The other so-called sappy ballad is the closer, “Northern Lady.” Yes, it’s a ballad but in no way is it sappy. It’s a power ballad to the max with a great guitar solo. Furthermore, being married to a northern lady, it holds a special place for me in my metal heart.

Singles and ballads aside, there are some real cookers on this album. “Battle Cry” and “We Came to Rock” are great ones but if you want full on power chords and great solos, then you must listen to “You’re No Angel.” That track is the power rocker and its successor, “Running Hot,” gives it a one-two punch. “Empty Promises” walks the tightrope between all out power rock and the more radio friendly melodic metal. Actually, I thought this one would have made a better single.

This leads me to the hidden gem and the one track that’s definitely different. I’m talking about “Party ’til You Puke.” Something I did more times than I’d like to admit back then. There is a jazz feel on the song, mainly down to the fact that the band got some pianist named Elton John, (you might have heard of him), to tinkle the ivories on it. But while it has a jazz feel, there is enough power chords on here to let you remember that it’s still a Saxon metal song. The guitar work here says it all!

Track Listing:

  1. Rock the Nations
  2. Battle Cry
  3. Waiting for the Night
  4. We Came to Rock
  5. You’re No Angel
  6. Running Hot
  7. Party ’til You Puke
  8. Empty Promises
  9. Northern Lady
Saxon

Biff Byford- lead vocals, bass

Graham Oliver- guitar

Paul Quinn- guitar

Nigel Glockler- drums

Paul Johnson- bass (doesn’t not actually play on the album)

Elton John- piano on “Party ’til You Puke”

Those same critics once said “Rock the Nations” will be an album quickly forgotten by the Saxon faithful. I have never forgotten this album. I’ve always considered it Saxon’s “Welcome to England” present for me.

Next post: Loudness- Lightning Strikes

To buy Rock and Roll Children, email me at: tobychainsaw@hotmail.com

Great Metal Albums of 1986: Sword- Metalized

Posted in 1980s, Heavy Metal, Heavy Metal and the 1980s, Music, Rock, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , on November 1, 2020 by 80smetalman

Touring with Motorhead on their “Orgasmatron” tour in 1986, in the UK, was a little known band from Canada called “Sword.” Unfortunately, I didn’t see this great gig, but I wish I had. No use crying over spilt milk, I suppose. However, Sword’s support of Motorhead did get them some notice, enough that their single from their debut “Metalized” album got played at metal clubs in London. That song was “Stoned Again.”

I can see why it was released as a single. The catchy chorus with lyrics which probably caught the attention of the PMRC in the US definitely got my attention. In the late Autumn of 86, I found myself singing to myself, “God damn stoned again,” quite a lot. But it just wasn’t the amusing chorus, the guitar riff is one that has you banging your head away to it and there is a cool bass line at the intro and of course a cool guitar solo.

Insert tired cliche: one song doesn’t make an album and I can say that the rest of “Metalized” pulls its weight in support of the single. It starts with the opener, “F.T.W.” These days, some might say that the opening riffs to it are typical but back then, I loved those riffs. In fact, I still do!

Whoever wrote about this album on Wikipedia stated that the album explores the many subgenres of metal. Of course, back in 86, those subgenres were starting to emerge, so I didn’t really notice it. I still don’t really notice them now. True, the track, “Outta Control,” is a very fast speed metal song but I don’t think it’s enough to say that Sword were experimenting with thrash metal on it. While it makes me want to bang my head faster while I’m listening to it, it doesn’t have me searching for a mosh pit either. Besides, the following track, “The End of the Night,” is almost as fast. It does have some heavier chords and a great bass line.

What is good but a little frustrating about “Metalized” is the fact that the nine tracks apart from “Stoned Again,” are so good, that I find it nigh impossible to find the hidden gem. Many of the songs have something that makes them stand out, like the strong bass line or in the case of “Runaway,” a ear catching lead guitar intro and cool guitar solo in the middle. Listening to that track, that is nearly thrash as well, which makes me wonder why the writer on Wikipedia singled out “Outta Control” as the thrash song.

Apart from the small differences between the songs, they all have several things which in common which unite them. All songs have great power chords, cool guitar solos and great vocals. However, what stands out for me here is the bass playing Mike Larock. It really impresses me and while I wonder why Sword weren’t a more household name in the metal world outside The Great White North, I also wonder why Mike isn’t mentioned more among great bassists like Sheehan, Anthony, Burton, Lemmy and so on. (Feel free to add to this list.)

Track Listing:

  1. F.T.W.
  2. Children of Heaven
  3. Stoned Again
  4. Dare to Spit
  5. Outta Control
  6. The End of the Night
  7. Runaway
  8. Where to Hide
  9. Stuck in Rock
  10. Evil Spell
Sword

Rick Hughes- vocals, keyboards

Mike Plant- guitar, keyboards

Mike Larock- bass

Dan Hughes- drums

Listening to the debut album from Sword reinforces my belief that Canadian bands don’t get the respect they deserve. “Metalized” is a great album and I think that Sword should have been a household name beyond just 1986.

Next post: Saxon- Rock the Nations

To buy Rock and Roll Children, email me at: tobychainsaw@hotmail.com