Tuesday, April 9, 2013

WAM BAM GLAM! Waterloo (UK 1974 Great Glam/Pop/Prog/Rock) And Brighton Rock's (Canada 1988 Glam/AOR/Melodic Metal) Take A Deep Breath Underrated No Longer!

I've always had a really soft spot for glam rock/glitter rock whatever you want to call it that has included Sweet, Slade, Bowie, some T. Rex before Marc Bolan's ego eclipsed his talent and 80s bands like Skagarack and Treat (Denmark and Sweden respectively) always hit the right spot for me. Sparks are a great band who never made it huge on the same level as Sweet or Slade, but who did make quite a few really good records. Queen at one point were considered glam, but to me they were always more progressive rock. During the height of glam rock and the rediscovery of the roots of British rock in the 70s there were some terrible bands who capitalized on the glitter rock craze with snazzy clothes and horrible throwaway pop like Paper Lace and Gary Glitter that pedophile bastard, but these artists/bands will only be remembered for how horrible they were. Most of the bands active during the 1972 to 1977 period were high quality rock and later on in the heyday of big hair bands we had some with killer songs and intelligence to match of which Toronto Canada's Brighton Rock had an ace up their sleeve in TAKE A DEEP BREATH. Some bands had a glam image and fiercer music like the Danish heavy metallers Pretty Maids, but Pretty Maids had something most metal completely lacks- great lyrics.
     It has always been a case of too much and too many with a lot of bands failing to get the respect they so rightfully deserve usually because of the management, their record label, bad marketing, or just bad timing. Some of these bands become highly sought after collectors items or achieve huge cult status, but way too many of them just disappear. Waterloo are such a band. Whoever was writing the script didn't like this band. They came out in one of the most strikingly Godawful covers of the glam era with the band going down the throat of a screaming transvestite on a doily with the guy still with his lipstick on in the band photo! That and the fact of the progressive rock Belgian multi thousand Euro Waterloo from 1971 did this band no favors. In truth they beat the living shit out of the Belgian band whose album is a hodgepodge of sometimes brilliant late psychedelic rock/prog rock and sometimes horrible sludgy blues rock, but the British Waterloo didn't win this battle for Britain.
      Just like Bulldog Breed who went by completely unnoticed and then disappeared Waterloo are a band who exemplify the best England had to offer, but theirs is a different era and a different music. There are the blasting hard rockers on here that's true, but the songs all of which Ian Pearce wrote vary from Kinks meets Move gone heavy glam rock to laid back melodic almost McCartney numbers to a few skiffle/1960s influenced whimsical songs to the heavy progressive/psychedelic blowout "Strangers From The Sky." How a band with this much depth, power, and emotion went by with no notice is beyond me. There will always be bands that just don't get the respect they deserve at the time and Waterloo together with Circus from Cleveland Ohio are the number one bands who should have been huge nationally if not internationally, but who hit a brick wall. That brick wall is called OBSCURITY. You start in the dollar/cut out bin and then you end up pretty much with same fate among collectors although Circus and their 1973 masterpiece have gone on to be quite a collector's favorite (certainly one of mine!).     
     Unfortunately, Waterloo are still completely overlooked. I don't know why. The cover, ugly as it may be, catches the eye and the songs catch the ear. The influence of Ray Davis and The Kinks is obvious in a lot of tracks, but the real secret weapon is one of the two or 3 lead singers in the multitalented foursome sounds just like Dave Davies! Really. When they rock out on the second track "Ask Me" the guy is so close to Dave that he even throws in a few tasty guitar licks and heavy plowing riffs just like brilliant Dave! The first track, "Uncle Tom," sounds like "Victoria" meets an earlier British Invasion just post skiffle song with a lead vocal that is reminiscent of Ray! I never think there is anything wrong with a heavy influence of a great band so if Waterloo were obsessed with The Kinks more power to them! There aren't enough bands that sound like them. In 1974 the best band in the world (The Kinks) were having a bit of a lapse and Ray Davis was writing less inspired material than usual, but all that would change with SCHOOLBOYS IN DISGRACE which may have been 1974 I'm not sure. They really wouldn't hit their stride again until 1977 and SLEEPWALKER where Ray and Dave got back to their brilliant rollicking melodic rock which means that there was a gap and Waterloo filled it quite nicely thank you.
  "Joe Barrow" is a very silly lyric, but it is a fun good song that again is reminiscent of the mid to late 60s period of The Kinks- Great British pop/rock with nice use of acoustic and electric guitars and offbeat carefree vocals. "Winter Rose" sounds like McCartney if he'd rocked it up a bit more post BAND ON THE RUN and is one of the album's major highlights, but with "Ask Me" the jaw dropper on Side One is the over 8 minute last track on the side "Strangers From The Sky." This song is heavy progressive power rock with psychedelic overtones and screaming bombastic vocals about how aliens created the world! The female vocal bits are really spooky and there's a long percussion blow out in the middle before the song explodes again into the screaming Dave Davies gone mad vocals and the frenzied riffing. A really brilliant track this should be put on a compilation of best concept songs of the 70s.
    Side Two sticks to the straight melodic rock of much of Side One, but it gets even better in the writing department with amazing melodies and great vocals especially on the first two tracks. "Come And Have A Good Time" could be a lower pitched Pilot and "In The Heat Of The Afternoon" reminds me of The Move and maybe even more The Idle Race. The Kinks influence is still abundant too and maybe Waterloo missed out because their music was so classy that it was unfashionable- more late 60s/early 70s than mid 70s. 1974 was the year when the early 70s were ending and the best part of the mid 70s was beginning. Many throwback records appeared and another masterpiece still overlooked is Ex Tomorrow front man Keith West's brilliant German only release WHEREVER MY LOVE GOES- an album that appeared in 1974 and was recorded a full two years previously in 1972. Like Waterloo that album is hopelessly rare and obscure when it should have been a hit. Without support from your home base it gets really hard to break through.
   Waterloo rock out again on Side Two with "I've Been Thinking" and the Dave Davies gone funky hard rocker "Wandering" with its killer screaming vocals that again sound just like Dave! I love Ray Davis and I love Dave Davies- a band who try to sound like them is only gonna get one rating from me- TOPS! There's a mellow track on Side Two in "Sunny Old Days" which again recalls ARTHUR era Kinks and both bands shared the same arranger- Lew Warburton. I wonder if something was going on that we'll not know about. One thing is for sure, funny silly lovely-to-imagine out and out pop closing track "People Of The World" aside this album rocks out like The Kinks do at their best and like them is a melodic masterpiece. Ray AND Dave would be proud of them. I bet Ray would give this a thumb's up too and he certainly was in a bit of a rough period at the time, but he'd pull out of it as said with SLEEPWALKER- an album that like most Kinks records is amazing.
         Brighton Rock are a whole completely different thing. A different glam era and a different glam sound. They look like a perfect pin up group gone dark rather like if you crossed Shy with Def Leppard and that is a bit of their sound. TAKE A DEEP BREATH from 1988 may have saved my life had I heard it then when I was a beaten down and destroyed 12 year old wreck in a horrible school system and at the lowest ebb of my whole childhood, but now the album serves its purpose to comfort me and gives me fantasies of revenge. A year previous Brighton Rock debuted with the inconsistent YOUNG WILD AND FREE which does have its great moments, but not like this. TAKE A DEEP BREATH is hard rock/AOR/melodic glam metal genius and one of the deepest hardest hitting records ever made for its emotional content. Sometimes lead vocalist Gerald McGhee sounds joyful and like he's having a great time such as on the ebullient first track "Can't Stop The Earth From Shaking," but they follow that up with one of the most tortured and emotionally riveting songs ever recorded "Outlaw." "Outlaw" is about Jack The Ripper, a favourite subject of McGhee first dealt with on the first album's "Jack Is Back," but this song is something totally different. It has a really dark keyboard sound and dramatic soaring wailing vocals that sound like a plea or some kind of cry for help from a tormented soul. Gerald hits notes that are practically and at least for me impossible in the chorus of the beautiful song "One More Try" which must be the best power ballad ever written- even better than Shy's equally momentous "When The Love Is Over." "Hangin' High 'N Dry" is a moment of melodic glam AOR/hard rock keyboard heaven between the two stunning tracks "Outlaw" and "One More Try" with all of the songs on Side One alone making it seem impossible that the usual Canadian content problem wrecked everything for Brighton Rock.
      Unfortunately, the impossible proved possible. Whilst earning huge acclaim in their homeland and going gold the rest of the hard rock world turned their fickle noses up at Brighton Rock. That is really unforgivable. They were labelled as a second division band when they were better than ANY AND ALL METAL BANDS FROM ANYWHERE ELSE AT THE TIME! Iron Maiden were making stale garbage as usual and Brighton Rock were making real music. This was not going to go down well in the metal world and Brighton Rock give the ultimate middle finger to anybody who doesn't believe in them with Side One's awesome closing track "Unleash The Rage." This song rocks harder than anything Iron Maiden ever did with their plodding fascist nonsense and takes to the sky. McGhee wasn't the only trick up Brighton Rock's sleeve. They had an excellent co writer and inventive guitarist in Greg Fraser and a brilliant keyboard player in Johnny Rogers. They also had a really good rhythm section, but it seems like TAKE A DEEP BREATH was a one off. It's an album that speaks volumes and therefore doesn't need anything else from this band. I don't know their third album LOVE MACHINE at all well, but YOUNG WILD AND FREE isn't quite as good. There are some great songs like "We Came To Rock" and "Can't Wait For The Night," but also some laughable ones like "Sudden Change Of Heart." That said, Brighton Rock should be given a lot of credit for just how much talent they had. Coming out of Canada they had a Canadian sound up there with bands like Haywire and Haywire were another band who just didn't get anywhere outside of Canada. Brighton Rock and Haywire suffered the same fate as Birmingham's Shy and Sweden's Treat- glam bands of the lowest level made it a lot bigger than the best ones. I would prefer to think of glam as something musical rather than all image-oriented, but for a lot of bands that made it they were almost as insufferable musically as bad grease metal as I call it with just the love lyrics not hate lyrics the only thing to put them a bit higher.
       Side Two of TAKE A DEEP BREATH is as strong as Side One is. Every track from "Power Overload" to "Ride The Rainbow" which is an amazing song to the too-good-to-be-true-but-it-is closing track "Rebels With A Cause" should have been number 1, but the album and the band soon after went into the budget section and still can be found there today if you are lucky enough to find it. That is the biggest similarity with Waterloo. Neither of these is gonna cost you a huge amount, but prepare yourself to have to order these online as you won't find them in a record store nowadays unless you are very lucky. A different glam for a different era. A different hard rock for a different era. One thing is exactly equal, though, this is quality music that deserves to be given just as Brighton Rock say at least "One More Try." Waterloo and Brighton Rock should be given a try by you and they should be rediscovered from the "Underrated-In-The-Extreme" place they still reside in today. Give them a try and give them your support. They should have it.

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