Cherry Red 2015
High ‘n’ mighty cast a glance back on their glory road and pick up where they left off.
Long before the current crop of international prog metal ensembles, there were LUCIFER’S FRIEND. A German band fronted by Englishman John Lawton, they uncompromisingly melded heaviness with complex time signatures, from 1970 on, and coated it all in memorable tunes, which prompted URIAH HEEP to whisk the singer away six years later. The group carried on, though, but he was back for a short spell in 1981, before the breakup, and in 1994, for another three-year run that was thought to be their last, yet two decades later the veterans came together again. Unlike previous resurrections, each resulting in an album, this time it’s marked with a compilation and four new tracks to reconnect the surviving members to their own past.
There’s a direct path from the jagged riff of Zeppelinesque “Ride The Sky” off the band’s debut through 1976’s disco-kissed “Moonshine Rider” to the freshly shaped drama of “Riding High” – and that’s just the hard rock side of things. The art element elevates the gothic funk of “Toxic Shadows” and enhances the magnificent “Burning Ships” with its acoustic undercurrent and cosmic synthesizer. Quite strange, given it was fans who selected the tracks, the band’s most exquisite serving, “Banquet” from 1974, is represented here only by the luxurious vocal showcase of “Dirty Old Town” while nothing from its predecessor “I’m Just A Rock ‘n’ Roll Singer” and the ’90s “Sumo Grip” landed on this collection.
The stomping elegance of “Fire And Rain” from 1981 is dancefloor-bound but gripping, though, and powerful rocking keeps the moment of “Keep Going,” where Dieter Horns’ bass underpins Peter Hesslein’s blues guitar, and draws an arc to the ’80s gallop on “Hey Driver” and 2014’s “This Road” with its hefty Eastern twist. New songs are as strong as the old ones, the sharp “Pray” demonstrating the same edge, and Lawton’s voice, showing no sign of age, provides a fine texture to the piece’s flamenco flavor and orchestral scope flowing into “Did You Ever.” It’s unlikely the group will expand on these, and the classics’ selection may not be to everyone’s taste, yet here’s as gracious an exit as it gets. On to dream again!