Sound — 8
Well, welcome to another one of my reviews, now for something that promises to spare you from having to hear a certain fella' named "Kurt" mentioned - Loverboy time...
Assuming you don't know this band, Loverboy is a Canadian rock band that formed in Calgary, Alberta... or was it Vancouver? In 1979 when ex-Streetheart guitarist/songwriter Paul Dean met bluesy singer and multi-instrumentalist Michael Rynoski (Mike Reno) and penned out Always On My Mind from what became Loverboy's self-titled New Wave debut. Grabbing former Streetheart alumni Matt Frenette, Fosterchild keyboardist Doug Johnson, and bassist Scott Smith - Loverboy were sort of a good catch-all band in the early '80s...
But now it's 1985, and well, so-called "Hair Metal" is taking over, and apparently to keep current, Paul Dean donned a Kramer guitar and the rest of the band just got hairier in sound and looks and decided to follow suit somewhat for this release - "Lovin' Every Minute of It."
Now for the whose who of Loverboy as they were in 1985...
Mike Reno - Mike Reno is pretty much the same as he always was, great singer, wide range, bluesy delivery which is a good contrast to Loverboy's Pop and Classical inspired leanings musically (the classical side shows up quite a bit here). Reno's voice though has changed a tad, little Mikey is growing up and so's his voice, and he hangs out in the lower registers to sound grittier here, giving more of a harder-edge in the vocal department compared to previous Loverboy records.
Paul Dean - The Afrod' Canadian guitar monster is back again, and he's got a whole new line of axes to peddle (for awhile even ALONG SIDE the Hondo models!) - the new, some Larrivee built - Kramer Paul Dean. Dean's tone starts sounding more like Modern Loverboy here - Dean moved away from using Hiwatt Hylyte DR105s to using Marshall JCM800 or 900 heads - so he has a more growly, british tone here. I can still hear him using his favoirite strat on some songs (1964 Fender Stratocaster, chambered body, Gibson Stop Tail Tailpiece, hot DiMarzio single coil pickuips, and 1v 1t wiring with 5-way switch and a chambered, home-built, tele-style neck), and I think the Paul Dean Odyssey guitars are on this in a few places on rhythm. Dean's guitar skills here are even better than ever, now he's added right-hand hammer-on's, tapped harmonics, and whammy bar to his vocabulary to go with the slide and blues-infused lead-work. And the way Dean does it, it still sounds like Paul Dean and not a Eddie Van-Halen Ripoff. Probably because Dean has his ego reeled in enough and enough maturity to play FOR the song and not just blast at people all day to wow them. The new instrument Paul is peddling is a all mahogany, neck through version of his previous guitar with an SSH pickup setup (JB at the bridge), individual pickup switching, and an original German Floyd Rose, typically decked to the body EVH style.
Scott Smith - Scott's here again, clad with his Warwick and now Spector basses (probably through Paul's Kramer deal as Spector was owned by Kramer guitars around this time). Scott lays a little lower in the mix on this album with a thicker sound that is a bit warmer but less punchier than the previous albums.
Doug Johnson - Keyboardist influenced by classical music. And surprisingly, it seems Doug just sticks with what works still, because I don't see THAT much of a change in the synth side of things except more layered pads in the back of the ballads and some wild DX7-like digital warfare going on. Gone are some of the early 80's beeps and bloops of the Yamaha CS-50 and that Vocoder that just screams 1981 from the last album.
Matt Frenette - Matt's sound has gotten thicker here as well, and a bit more atmospheric. But he's still good ole' Frenetic Mat Frenette beating the ever lovin' crap out of the skins with that "Four on the floor" when necessary.
The overall sound is basically Loverboy starting their move toward a heavier sound, which they would do all the way to the end of the 1980's with their compilation with 3 originals - Big Ones in 1989 - being the end of the trek.
It's hard to tell how much of this was because of trying to stay relevant, because that's what you did in the eighties - you followed the trends to stay relevant whilst keeping what makes your band sound special, and Loverboy did that here. They sound like Loverboy, just Loverboy in 1985 instead of 1983.
This album is a bit darker than the previous albums as well with themes of abusive relationships, one-upmanship, unstable relationships, with a title-track dark late night party at the beginning and topping it off with a gun-sex double entendre cherry with "Bullet in the Chamber"
But something just seems up with these guys, you can kind of feel through the music, through the vibe, there's trouble in "Almost Paradise" (referencing the Anne Wilson (Heart) and Mike Reno duet from the Footloose Soundtrack of the previous year)... and there was...
Overall, I give it an eight but that vibe does keep me scratching my head... then I learned...
Lyrics — 7
When Loverboy started, they did most of their own songwriting via the band itself with occasional guest writers here and there that seemed to fit with wherever they were hanging out at the time - friends, family, industry pals, whatnot...
At this point though, noted through a later interview, the well was starting to run dry around this time, it seems to me part of the darker atmosphere may have been because of Paul Dean being the primary main songwriter - Paul Dean I always saw as the guy who penned the darker songs for Loverboy (though he did create some pop hits like Working for the Weekend, but he also does seem to have a bit of a Neil Young-like streak at times with things like "Strike Zone" and "Destruction") - but now he's collaborating with everyone, and even some songs are not even by the band - the Title Track was penned by John Mutt Lange himself, Bryan Adams and his pal Jim Vallance are back contributing one song with little alteration by the band, and more than half the stuff on the album has a hand in it by Davitt and Siergerson or somesuch... who are those guys?
Let's do a track by track play by play...
"Lovin Every Minute Of It" - This just feels like a commercially penned piece, and it was, by the band's PRODUCER. But it is a good party track and it kind of sets the tone of the album and the band moving forward into a current direction.
"Steal the Thunder" - This obviously Dean penned track complate with the classic Paul Dean F#-A thing going on (used on Teenage Overdose '80, Lucky Ones '81, and Passion Pit '83 - just to name a few) and with a darker feel to it. Apparently it's about competitiveness amongst humans...
"Friday Night" - Now this is classic Loverboy returning to the fold, with a song about women, cars, and using up your paycheck on the weekend with a almost Ted Nugent-like A-string drone and possibly one of the most dramatic beginnings to a guitar solo I've ever heard - it takes the ever-expanding Delay thing Dean did on "One-Sided Love Affair" on the previous album and does it up one as a killer lead-in.
"This Could Be the Night" - This is one of Loverboy's big ballads, and kind oa sign that we have entered the late 80's. However, it does have a cheesy side but also a deeper side to it too. Loverboy gets some songwriting help from Journey Balladmeister Jonathan Cain on this one giving it a slight Journey-esque undertone. But hey, anything to get the girls in the audience... umm... need a towel?
"Too Much Too Soon" - Wonders don't cease if Paul was going through some kind of relationship drama at this time...well, I guess they do, because like a lot of this album, it seems more directed at some guy or guys who are in some kind of situation that probably should not be competitive but is. Sounds kind of like the rich, handsome dude gets the girl but does not really love her - sort of a less as soft version of "When It's Over" from the second album in a way.
"Lead a Double Life" - Hmm, are we in aforementioned guy from "Too Much Too Soon"'s house? Champaigne Milkshakes? Blue Eyed Earthquake? In this Paul Dean Whammy-bar-fest with Reno singing probably the lowest in pitch he ever has for an extended time on any album... only to go out screaming on the chorus, and then we're met with another 10 foot wall of guitar by Dean before another Whammy Bar freakout of a chorus.
"Destination Heartbreak" - Loverboy starts to dig deeper than they ever have before here lyric-wise. Is it a relationship that got un-friend zoned and now has gone wrong? Did someone get preggers... an STD... die? Whatever impending relationship doom this song is about - and it could be any or all of those - got to give it to Loverboy for taking a new avenue and being almost as cryptic as a Nirvana song here... oh jeeze, I slipped again - the solo is also very fitting, my god, George Harrison's guitar does not gently weep that well!
"Dangerous" - This could-have-been-Bryan Adams hard rocker carries on the theme of the album being relationship troubles, now this Adama/Vallance contribution to the album focuses on lamenting how dangerous his girl is. Now we are back in regular Loverboy-land of blatant lyrics, and...
...ya know what, every so often on a Loverboy record, I get reminded of the time Mike Reno said Nirvana killed their careers - kind of funny considering almost every single loverboy Album Dean has some kind of Cobain-esque mangly-guitar solo moment.....lady of the 80's, Jump, One-Sided Love Affair, and now Dangerous.....kind of funny how total opposites can be so much alike. And ya' know what, those are some of the BEST solos on the albums from an emotional/feel standpoint because they punch the point home perfectly, and this one is no exception.
"Bullet in the Chamber" - finishing up, ends on a more traditional Loverboy-like feel... Paul Dean dons his slide, the CS-50 is back ala "DOA" or "Always on my Mind", and while the lyrics can get cringey here and there, they are not even near as bad as Passion Pit on the last album was. It's a fun little A bluesy romp with a sequenced synthesizer providing a small chassis to build the unibody of the band off on. Also, once again, Loveroby proves they CAN indeed be symbolic with their lyrics - albeit in a machismo sort of way, but hey, it was the 80's, being male was not a sin yet.
Reno shows a pure expansion of his range here, going from the lows of "Double Life's" verses to some really really high lines on "Bullet in the Chamber", and whatever change happened to his voice between Keep it UP and here has given the vocals an edgier sound than they used to have, Reno also screams and yells more on this album - which gives it that harder edge that kept them going when most of their early 80's contemporaries started to fall away...
And you might notice I added Dean's solos here, I wanted to man an interesting note that I've read a big part of this albums production, because Mutt Lange is a big guitar guy too - is that this is Loverboy's "Guitar" album. Surprisingly though, it does not sound overly contrived or overdubbed - hence the Nirvana reference - I always found it amusing that such an "overproduced" as I've heard it called album could sound so brutal and honest at best... it's no "Nevermind," but Dean's guitars on this album I feel are fare more a part of the song than they were on any previous release, including my favorite Keep It Up where the guitars seem like they could be pedestrian at times, or an afterhtought.
Overall though, I give it a seven... because for all the performance authenticity, it was marred by them not writing their own material. I can understand it though - the best music comes from pain, and it's hard to feel pain when you live a 24/7 party in the mid 1980's with a legendary status in your home country and working with one of the best known and most wanted producers of the time... seems Mutt jumped in with these guys as soon as he completed "Heartbeat City" with The Cars (something I find kind of funny because The Cars were one of Loverboy's influences - and a part of what lead me to Loverboy's work to begin with).
But I dunno, just something still does not seem... uh... right.
Overall Impression — 8
Loverboy by this point was kind of unique in a new and different way - they were a half-way home between the out-going New Wave and incoming pop metal. They had the all night party attitude of someone like Brett Michaels, but could be as quirky and reserved still as Ric Ocasek... very odd combination. This was Loverboy's transitional record, and despite lower grading than usual it's still one I really like and it does stand out in their catalog as a little special.
Standout tracks include "Steal the Thunder", "Friday Night", "This Could Be the Night", "Destination Heartbreak" and the Bryan Adams un-cover "Dangerous" to me I feel those best convey the sentiment of the album - it's sort of like the party's goin', but there's some trouble.
What I love about it is the mid '80s atmosphere, it feels fresh, but I kind of dislike that their well was drying up, with the lack of self-created lyrics and writing, it just seems... eh... a bit like their identity is trying to float away leaving them in a lump with all of the '80s corporate rock bands doing ballads... but the silver lining is Loverboy somehow manage to stay afloat through the '80s despite and still stay hard edged - it's just like what people say about modern rock music being dead - it's not, you just have to take the plunge and take a look yourself - so that's another aspect I love - it LEMOI encourages the listener to dig deeper than the one hit this album has and experience it. It's that lack of digging deeper that harmed bands like Night Ranger whom were a hard rock band that got buried by the '80s ballad curse (and I gotta review Night Ranger someday! Another great one from the '80s).
As for lost or stolen, I have it on digital already, but I also have it on vinyl as with most of my Loverboy stuff. It's just not an '80s weekend without Kramers, LPs, and Atari.
Overall, I give it an 8, the songwriting is good even if a bit outsider-ish, and the general spirit is there even though they have evolved into being more on the outskirts of pop-metal than New Wave by this point. And the guitar work on this one kicks ass - wish Paul Dean got more guitar magazine coverage in the '80s - hiding behind all the pretentious bullshit of '80s rock listerners, there was a lot of stuff to miss when you don't dig deep. Lots of cool ideas to expand upon. I'll probably also end up reviewing Paul Dean's solo work before too long as well.