Lionheart - 'Second Nature'

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Lionheart - 'Second Nature'

I never expected another album but I'm really glad one came, and given that it remains true to its legacy, this is a most welcome sequel.

There's a sense of trepidation when it comes to the follow-up for an album you love. Lionheart issued a brilliant AOR album called 'Hot Tonight' back in 1984, but they never made another record (I'm not counting the 'Raiders Of The Lost Archives' release) until now... thirty-three years later!

Formed by ex-Iron Maiden guitarist Dennis Stratton, Lionheart followed a more commercial radio-friendly path with '...Tonight'. Bassist Rocky Newton, guitarist and keyboard player Steve Mann, drummer Bob Jenkins and vocalist Chad Brown locked together to make a Melodic Rock masterpiece. Guitars and layered keyboards combined beautifully, there was an effective use of a saxophone on several tracks and they had a real gem of a singer in Brown who delivered a vocal performance for the ages.

Lionheart would split, with Brown trying his hand at a Eurovision entry before joining Andy Scott's The Sweet. He then disappeared from the music scene, so a Lionheart reformation without him, and with three decades between records, did not instil me with confidence. Fortunately, the trio of Stratton, Newton and Mann, joined by Clive Edwards on drums, lured journeyman vocalist Lee Small into the fold to front their brand-new album 'Second Nature'.

They could have easily tried to replicate what went before and risk sounding dated, but as soon as 'Give Me The Light' hits you, the keyboards immediately sound like Lionheart, whereas the vibrant production and Small's voice bring everything else up to date. 'Angels With Dirty Faces' has the classic blend of crunching guitars and shimmering keys, while their cover of Chris De Burgh's 'Don't Pay The Ferryman' is superb, reminiscent of Domain's version... almost a cover of a cover if you will.

As the album progresses, it becomes increasingly obvious that Small is an excellent choice to front the group. I've always liked his voice but thought he was the guy you got if you couldn't afford Glenn Hughes. Here Small reins in the Hughes influences and delivers a top-notch performance that sounds like he's always been the Lionheart singer.

It took a couple of spins to get used to the new sound but once you do, it's really very good and unashamedly eighties in its influence, like on the borderline cheesy but fun 'Heartbeat Radio'. I never expected another album but I'm really glad one came, and given that it remains true to its legacy, this is a most welcome sequel!

James Gaden

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