CD Reviews

Helix - 'Long Way To Heaven' Hot

Added by Central Electronic Brain     March 09, 2012    
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Re-issue of a strong album that still stands up well today.

Back in 1985, Canada's hardest working band were faced with the task of recording a follow-up to the successful 'Walkin' The Razor's Edge' during the briefest of breaks in their busy touring schedule. After two self-released albums and two platinum discs on the Capitol label with 'No Rest For The Wicked' and 'Walkin'...', the pressure was on to come up with another hit album, but the main problem for Helix had been that they were never prolific writers. Some of their most successful songs had been written by outsiders, so the band again turned to Bob Halligan Jr to co-write a couple of songs after he'd penned their biggest hit from the previous album, 'Rock You'.

Like their previous two releases, 'Long Way To Heaven' was again produced by Tom Tremeuth, and whilst you could perhaps argue that Helix wrote to a tried and tested formula that varied little from album to album, they were first and foremost a great heavy rock and roll band and a great live act, so the trick was trying to capture the electricity of a Helix concert in the studio. For the most part it worked and once again we were treated to simple but effective rockers you could chant along to and punch the air.

Highlights included anthems like 'The Kids Are All Shakin', 'Ride The Rocket' and the title track, but the band knew how to inject a bit of pace as evidenced on the killer 'House On Fire' and the frantic, curiously titled closer 'Bangin' Off-A The Bricks', each with those incendiary twin guitar riffs from Brent Doerner and the sadly departed Paul Hackman, and the throaty roar of the irrepressible Brian Vollmer. They could get all melodic when they wanted to, with the gentle ballad 'Without You (Jasmine's Song)' and the light and shade of what would turn out to be the album's hit single, the brilliant Halligan/Hackman penned 'Deep Cuts The Knife'.

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You had to feel sorry for bassist Daryl Gray, who despite having been in the band at the time this album and its predecessor were recorded, didn't actually play on either, Tremeuth instead opting to use Streetheart and current Loverboy bassist Ken 'Spider' Sinnaeve, but more of that later. The sound Tremeuth got on the three albums with the band was quite unique, if a little spacey and echoey at times, but the album scored heavily in Canada and did even better in Sweden, but unfortunately lost ground in the US and would never be regained.

The remastering is perhaps not the best Rock Candy have achieved, but outshines the version that Vollmer licensed from Capitol a decade ago, although I do find it odd that Canadian music expert Paul Suter didn't interview anyone in the band for the sleeve notes, especially as he was a good friend, worked tirelessly at getting them press in Europe and interviewed Vollmer at length for the previous two remasters. 'Long Way To Heaven' was a strong album and still stands up well today.

Phil Ashcroft

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