Saturday, March 28, 2009

Lone Star - Firing On All Six

Stylish, Welsh Hard Rock merchants centered upon former UNIVERSE and SKID ROW guitarist PAUL CHAPMAN.LONE STAR was originally called IONA Prior to adopting the LONE STAR title, a formative drummer, Steve Williams, joined QUEST in 1973 before he journeyed onto premier Welsh rockers BUDGIE.In turn QUEST bassist Ray Jones joined LONE STAR in 1974.During 1975, with original vocalist Kenny Driscoll, LONE STAR debuted with a British support slot to TED NUGENT to promote the Epic released ‘Lone Star’ album. Driscoll was to pack his bags in 1977 and was replaced by former TRAPPER vocalist JOHN SLOMAN, who recorded the second album, 'Firing On All Six', with the group. The group failed to survive though and guitarist Paul Chapman, following rehearsals with German act the SCORPIONS, rejoined UFO replacing the errant Michael Schenker whom he had covered for previously. A proposed third LONE STAR album 'Riding High' was shelved,finally seeing a belated release in 1999.Sloman would, after contributing keyboards to UFO's'The Wild, The Willing And The Innocent' album, end up joining URIAH HEEP for a period. Post URIAH HEEP Sloman formed part of the short lived BADLANDS project assembled by ex-TYGERS OF PAN TANG guitarist JOHN SYKES and ex WHITESNAKE bassist Neil Murray. BADLANDS folded when Sykes got the call to join THIN LIZZY and Sloman went solo.Drummer Dixie Lee teamed up with WILD HORSES before joining Canadian act STARCHILD then British Metal act PERSIAN RISK.He would also sit in on demos for the proto OZZY OSBOURNEband. Chapman's guitar partner Tony Smith formed SCREEN IDOLS with whom he released one album, 'Premiere', in 1979.

"Firing on all six" is one of those albums which many of those of us of a certain age remember with warm affection. Although with the passing of time it may now sound rather prosaic, at the time of its release it was actually quite exciting and original.
Some of that originality stemmed from the multi-phonic tones of the synthesizer keyboards, something which was still quite a novelty in the late 1970s. By the time of this album, original vocalist Ken Driscoll had moved on, to be replaced by a 20 year old John Sloman. Sloman's introduction brought with it hints of the LED ZEPPELIN sound, especially on tracks such as "The Ballad Of Crafty Jack" and "Lovely Lubina", the latter sounding spookily like the music on the "Presence" album at times. He would later go on to work for a short while with URIAH HEEP, where it was generally felt he was a fish out of water. Here though his high vocals are perfect for the style of music Lone Star create.
The sound of Lone Star (not to be confused with the US band of that name, these lads are Welsh) is fresh, it's exciting. Admittedly it is not particularly progressive, generally sticking to formulaic structures with strong harmonised choruses and sweeping synth or guitar breaks. The opening "Bells of Berlin" sets out the stall perfectly. There is perhaps a hint of ASIA in the power chords and big sound. Interestingly, this song and "Hypnotic mover" were written by the band before Driscoll departed. Sloman however does a wonderful job on making "Bells.." his own.
The eight tracks all clock in around the five minute mark, affording the band a little more space to move beyond the brief pop tenets on which the songs are based. The delicate ballad "Seasons in your eyes" offers the only let up in the pace, the orchestration reportedly being the work of Jeff Wayne.
There are a couple of fillers along the way. "Rivers overflowing" is a rather directionless funky number, although even here the chorus is adequate if not remarkable.
The other stand out track is the closing "All of us to all of you". If ever a track was written to become a band's anthem, this is it. From the opening unaccompanied guitar chords we are immediately swept along by swirling organ and a powerful beat. Sloman rattles out a brief verse and we're into a harmonic "No time to lose" chorus. As the synth solo builds the excitement, the drums lift the pace and the band leave the stage in an ever rising burst of the song title.
Listening to the album now, time has not been as kind to it as it might have been. The bookend tracks still sound wonderful, but the songs in-between have lost some of their bite. This though, for those of us who were there is an album to be remembered with true fondness.

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