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Little Caesar - 'Little Caesar / Influence' http://rocktopia.co.uk/media/reviews/photos/thumbnail/200x200s/86/b5/77/1470_littlecaesarinfluence_1311544860.jpg Hot

Added by Central Electronic Brain     July 24, 2011    
 
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Both albums for effectively the price of one is way too good an offer to miss.

Little Caesar have had a bit of a resurgence of late, much to my glee. For those not in the know, the band were put together in the back end of the eighties by former bouncer Ron Young, who would serve as the group's vocalist. I won't dwell too much on the group's history because I covered it all in my in-depth interview with Ron about the band in Issue #41* (if you missed it, you only have yourself to blame! Fear not, it's archived on my website like all my articles) but the top and bottom of it was Little Caesar were a bunch of biker dudes who played classic rock with a dash of soul. They were signed to Geffen after attracting attention with an EP and made a start on their debut album.

With A&R handled by the legendary John Kalodner, and production from Bob Rock, you would think that all the band had to worry about was delivering some good material. Well, they had that covered - the album was packed with it. The classic opener 'Down And Dirty' set the stall perfectly, with Young's smoky voice sat atop a great guitar riff. Along with other cracking rockers like the awesome 'Drive It Home' (boasting some amusing double entendres), 'Little Queenie' and 'Rock-N-Roll State Of Mind' were the more laid back 'Cajun Panther' and power ballad 'From The Start'. What singled out Little Caesar was their treatment of Motown classics though - the album included an excellent rock version of The Temptations' 'I Wish It Would Rain' and a phenomenal rendition of Aretha Franklin's 'Chain Of Fools'.

Ultimately, that paid a part in the band's undoing. The record label chose 'Chain Of Fools' as a single, which Ron explained to me was against the band's wishes as they felt it was not indicative of who Little Caesar were. And he had a point. To look at Little Caesar you saw bikers, and songs like 'Wrong Side Of The Tracks' were a much better fit than their admittedly excellent Motown cover. Combine that with the fact the video went out right around the time when all the male groups had on enough hairspray to destroy the ozone layer, more make up than a $20 hooker and were all dressed in luminous spandex, and Little Caesar were doomed.

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The second album 'Influence' found Caesar left to their own devices. There was no Kalodner, no Bob Rock, and worse still, no chance of any promotion or touring. Little Caesar knew the writing was on the wall, but they turned in a terrific second album anyway. 'Influence' differs from its predecessor in the fact that it's a much tougher, rockier record. Gone are the Motown covers, in their place is a whole bunch of angry attitude, which ironically fitted the bands image much better. 'Stand Up' rocks hard, just like 'You're Mine', 'Pray For Me' and 'Piece Of The Action'. There's a great pair of ballads in 'Riding On' and 'Ballad Of Johnny', and more double entendres in the sleazy 'Slow Ride'. One other difference is guitarist Apache had quit, replaced by former Bowie and future Coverdale six stringer Earl Slick.

Little Caesar packed up after that, eventually returning in 2009 with a great new record 'Redemption'. As a result they played their first UK gig in twenty odd years (I was there and it ruled), recently performed on Rockpalast and they've reminded (or in some cases, introduced) who they are to people. With the reissue of these two albums, I can't recommend them highly enough. It was fashion, not the quality of the songs, which stopped Little Caesar being huge. Both records are works of excellence with no filler, and both albums for effectively the price of one is way too good an offer to miss. I've had these records ages - if you haven't got them, for the sake of just over a tenner, take a punt and see what you've missed out on.

James Gaden

(*of Fireworks Magazine)

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