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Warrior – S/T (2017 Remaster)

They could’ve, should’ve, but didn’t . . .

Reviewed by Brian McGowan and released by Cherry Red Records in September 2017.

Ninety days in 1982. That’s how long the love affair lasted between three quarters of the band, New England and Vinnie (Kiss) Cusano/Vincent.

Vincent’s concurrent but unconsummated love affair with Kiss, brought about by Ace Frehley’s sacking, was on a shoogly peg, so he was clearly hedging his bets, double shifting each day in the studio, allocating time to both bands.

It was an undesirable and untenable set of circumstances created by vocalist/guitarist John Fannon’s departure from New England. Vincent had been recommended as a replacement, and so impressed were Hirsh Gardner, Jimmy Waldo and Gary Shea with Vincent’s axework and songwriting that they agreed to record with him, discard the New England name and call themselves Warrior.

This CD release consists firstly of the six, extensively bootlegged, Vincent penned tracks laid down by the new band in the studio, followed by instrumental versions, plus recordings of some of the songs with a different vocalist…more on that later. They are relatively primitive recordings – this was 35 years ago – but are a level or two above demo quality thanks to the skill and patience of Tony Dixon’s Masterpiece company in remastering the tracks.

All that said, there’s a considerable variation in the writing quality of these six songs. ‘Boys Gonna Rock’ and ‘It’s Not Pretty Being Easy’ are exactly what the titles suggest – cliched, anodyne melodic rock.

‘Gypsy In Her Eyes’ stands head and shoulders above the rest. An eminently melodic AOR song, buoyed by Waldo’s elegantly contoured keyboard swells. It would’ve been an odds on favourite contender for inclusion in any of New England’s albums. The balladic ‘Back On The Street’ isn’t too far behind. You could easily imagine Lou Gramm and a swaying Gospel choir accelerating from the verse’s whisper into the song’s climactic chorus. Of the remaining two tracks, ‘I Need Love’s clanging riff perfectly suits Vincent’s urgent vocal, but ‘Baby Oh Why’ seems curiously satisfied with recycling over-familiar eighties’ melodic rock riffery.

That “different vocalist” turned out to be Fergie Frederiksen, later of Toto fame. He is featured on 5 tracks here, 3 from the original 6 that open the album and on 2 only so far included as instrumentals.

To be fair, these are described as “Rehearsals” in the Liner Notes, and they are clearly unfiltered, unvarnished live-in-the-studio recordings. Still, while Vincent’s version of ‘Back On The Street’ was perfectly palatable, Frederiksen’s version, virtually untouched by mixing desk spit and polish, sounds immense. You can hear him feeling his way into the song, then grabbing it by the short’n’curlies and just not letting go. Similar story on ‘Gypsy In Her Eyes’. Frederiksen breathes further life into an already airborne melody, making it fly higher and further.

In the end, the label, CBS, who had funded the recordings, declined to offer the new band a contract.

Oh what might have been.

Track List:

Studio Recordings, 1982:Warrior_HNECD092

  1. Boys Gonna Rock
  2. It’s Not Pretty Being Easy
  3. Gypsy In her Eyes
  4. Back On The Street
  5. I Need Love
  6. Baby Oh Why

Instrumental Rehearsals:

  1. Betrayed
  2. Hot Nights
  3. Baby Oh Why
  4. Back On The Streets
  5. I Need Love

Rehearsals Featuring Fergie Frederiksen:

  1. Back On The Street
  2. Gypsy In her Eyes
  3. Baby Oh Why
  4. Hot Nights
  5. Betrayed
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