Welcome to the musical meandering insights of Aaron Joy. Here you'll find 600 reviews of CDs & DVDs of rock & metal in all its variations, mainstream & indie. What they all share is that the album or band is unique in some way & not every submission was reviewed. Please share these reviews or link to them if you like what you read. Reviews are no longer being posted here but feel free to e-mail Aaron & post comments. (Formerly the Roman Midnight Music Blog)

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Steve Harris ~ British Lion

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Style: heavy metal, hard rock
Label: EMI
Year: 2012
Home: n/a

Members: Steve Harris ~ bass
Richard Taylor ~ vocals
David Hawkins ~ guitar/keyboards
Grahame Leslie ~ guitar

Additional: Barry Fitzgibbon ~ guitar
Simon Dawson, Ian Roberts, Richard Cook ~ drums


"This Is My God" opens the Iron Maiden bassist's first, & so far only, solo album with a great Led Zeppelin-y or Soundgarden-esque heavy grunge riff, sounding nothing like the clean elaborate lines of Iron Maiden. But, moving on one will also find meandering out of time quasi-psychedelica with "Karma Killer" & "Us Against The World". "The Chosen Ones" & "A World Without Heaven" might be the most pop-rock SH has ever created, not just musically but also lyrically. SH even goes a step further in this direction with the folksy pop of "Eyes Of The Young". Pop is a very strong element of the album, which starts hard - what we expect to hear - but ending much lighter. Judas Priest to Bon Jovi in three easy steps, or something like that. The album even ends with "The Lesson" that features acoustic guitars & strings. This is quite a fascinating release, not for what it is but for what it isn't. Actually, it isn't even a solo album, according to SH. It started off as SH helping a band called British Lion, but it broke up & he kept in touch with two members. So, from the first step to the last it defies our expectations. It shows sides to composer SH that most of us have never heard or have rarely. If anything this albums shows us listeners that we may not truly know what SH is capable of musically, particularly when given new musicians to create with. It's quite shocking to hear how far SH has distanced himself from the trademarked in your face Iron Maiden sound. I want to equate this more to the folksy solo album of Smashing Pumpkins guitarist James Iha or some of Keith Richards' X-Pensive Winos or even Charlie Watts' jazz orchestra, versus the imitative Fish Out Of Water by Chris Squire that screams Yes membership. I'll confess a problem I always have had with Iron Maiden was the in your face progressive feeling. They're a bit draining for me to sit & listen to for more than a few songs, while I just don't get into Bruce Dickinson's singing. SH still has the complicated basslines & rhythms here, though not as busy as you'd expect as he creates grooves & repetitions that you won't find in Iron Maiden. But, while it hooks me in there's is a major problem with the album, well, weakness might be a better word. Former British Lion vocalist Richard Taylor isn't a strong singer. He might be technically fine but he doesn't have much power. He's got a soft voice that against heavy rhythms finds him lost in the mix & not moving the music to more powerful levels. The weakness of his voice is most obvious in the heavier songs, thus the the pop rock approach while unexpected from SH is a better match. If this was any other songwriter the weak vocals might kill the album, but SH is far from any other songwriter, even if some of the songs are a bit too pop lyrically. I will say that this is an album that gets better with repeated listeners. Will it spawn more solo albums? Will we see this side of SH again? It's hard to say. But, this is a necessary part to the SH story. Anyone who looks at him as a composer ignoring this album is like discussing Obama's entry into the Presidency without discussing his race. You kinda have to in order to properly see the big picture, even if it's not the most defining factor of his world.

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