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Ironhorse - Ironhorse (LP)

Ironhorse - Ironhorse (LP)

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Genre: rock
Rating: 3 stars ***
Title:  Ironhorse
Company: Scotti Brothers
Catalog: SB 7103
Year: 1979
Country/State: Vancouver, Canada
Grade (cover/record): VG+ / VG+
Comments: cut out notch lower edge
Available: 1
Catalog ID: 6220
Price: $10.00

Ironhorse apparently evolved out of recording sessions for what was planned as Randy Bachman's second post-Bachman Turner Overdrive solo album (the first, 1978's "Survivor" having disappeared with little attention). The recording sessions brought Bachman into contact with drummer Mike Baird, bassist John Pierce, and singer/guitarist Tom Sparks and the planned solo album was eventually dropped in favor of the first Ironhorse project.

I remember hearing this album when it first came out and thinking it was a new (and not very good) Bachman Turner Overdrive album. Singer/guitarist randy Bachman's prominent role in the band certainly fed some of my confusion. Not only did Bachman produce "Ironhorse", he wrote most of the ten tracks, handled most of the lead vocals (Sparks was featured on a couple of tracks), and provided lead guitar. As you'd probably guess, the result was a collection of pop-rock that bore more than a passing resemblance to the BTO catalog, So that serves to set the baseline for many folks. If you were a big BTO fan this set was likely to strike a chord with you. If you thought BTO were a waste of vinyl, then don't go any further ... In retrospect, I think my initial impressions were probably way too critical. Mind you, there wasn't anything particularly original on this set, but Bachman and his cronies (drummer Mike Baird, bassist John Pierce, and guitarist Tom Sparks) turned in a solid set of late-70s AOR. Virtually every one of these ten tracks had commercial potential and at least half of the album rivaled anything in the late-inning BTO catalog.

- Bachman's always demonstrated a knack for crafting hideously catchy material and that was the case with the opener 'One and Only'. Every time I hear this one I struggle between my critical view which tells me this song is an abysmal slice of crap and the 17 year old in me that's always loved this kind of mindless AOR fun. Add a stomping melody and Bachman's instantly recognizable voice ... like I said, all these years later and I'm still torn. The song was also tapped as the album's second single. rating: *** stars
- Built on a BTO-styled jangle guitar riff and Bachman's patented stutter vocals, 'Sweet Lui-Louise' was tapped as the album's single and deservedly went top-40 in the US and Canada. Every time I hear this one it reminds me what a great party band BTO were. Anyone care for another Stella ? rating: **** stars
- With a slightly funkier edge and some great harmony vocals, 'Jump Back In the Light' was another personal favorite - the cheesy synthesizer solo also struck a chord with me. rating: *** stars
- Opening up with some tasty Bachman lead guitar, 'You Gotta Let Go' had the album's best AOR hook. It also showcased Bachman the singer. I've always loved it when he trotted out the tougher, ravaged voice (the one where he sounded like he'd been gurgling with steel wool). Yeah, he didn't have the best instrument you've ever heard, but list someone who managed to make as much out of his limitations as Bachman. rating: *** stars
- It may have been a throwaway number, but 'Tumbleweed' had more energy than most late-70s 'hair bands' could generate across an entire album. Mindless fun with a hysterical set of lyrics.. rating: *** star
- 'Stateline Blues' managed to epitomize the album's strengths and weaknesses. Musically this was a by-the-numbers slice of AOR. You could almost see the band calculating the song's catchiness factor while being sure not to borrow too much from any particular source. At the same time, there was not denying the end result was catchy. Combined with more cheesy synthesizers, I'll admit this one was another guilty pleasure. rating: *** stars
- The lone non-Bachman original, 'Watch Me Fly' was penned by Sparks. To be honest the differences were marginal with the song offering up another slice of textbook AOR. In fact, Sparks voice lacked the rough hewn character of Bachman leaving this one to sound like something Whitesnake might have churned out. rating: ** stars
- Dedicated to Eric Clapton, 'Old Fashioned' found the band returning to BTO-styled sledgehammer rock. No subtleties on this one. Quite nice. rating: **** stars
- With Sparks handling lead vocals, 'She's Got It' was another professional, but anonymous rocker. The catchy refrain pushed the song towards the pop end of their repertoire and Bachman turned in a nice solo, but the overall effect was forgettable. rating: ** stars
- I've always loved Bachman's howl of a voice and he's seldom displayed it with as much energy as on the pounding bar band anthem 'There Ain't No Cure'. Yes I recognize this one had zilch in terms of artistic value, but I remember this was the one track I originally thought was pretty good. All these years later it still stands out as a personal favorite. rating: **** stars

As mentioned above, the album spun of a couple of singles:

- 1979's 'Sweet Lui-Louise' b/w "Watch me Fly' (Scotti Brothers catalog number SB-406)
- 1979's 'One and Only' b/w 'She's Got It' (Scotti Brothers catalog number SB-406)

Supported by the hit, the parent album provided the band with a modest seller, peaking at # 152 on the US charts.

"Ironhorse" track listing:
(side 1)
1.) One and Only (Randy Bachman) - 3:32
2.) Sweet Lui-Louise (Randy Bachman) - 3:14
3.) Jump Back In the Light (Randy Bachman) - 3:11
4.) You Gotta Let Go (Randy Bachman) - 4:00
5.) Tumbleweed (Randy Bachman) - 3:19

(side 2)
1.) Stateline Blues (Randy Bachman) - 3:47
2.) Watch Me Fly (Tom Sparks) - 3:41
3.) Old Fashioned (Randy Bachman) - 3:10
4.) She's Got It (Randy Bachman) - 3:12
5.) There Ain't No Cure (Randy Bachman) - 3:57

Following a line-up change that saw Bachman ditch the rest of the band, the Ironhorse nameplate released a 1980 follow-on "Everything Is Grey" (Scotti Brothers catalog number SB-7108). Ironhorse was then put to rest with Bachman, drummer Chris Leighton, keyboardist Frank Ludwig, and former BTO alumni/bassist Fred Turner recording an album as Union (1981's "On Strike Portrait catalog number FR-37368).
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