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1 Mar 2017

Ironhorse "Ironhorse"1979 Canada Hard Rock

Ironhorse  "Ironhorse"1979 Canada Hard Rock

Winnipeg's Ironhorse were formed in 1978 after Randy Bachman had exited BTO and exeprienced failure as a solo artist. With new label backing by Scotti Brothers, Bachman assembled the band while recording demos for what would eventually become Ironhorse's debut album. The album hit the streets in 1979 and quickly their first single cracked the Billboard Top 40. Two subsequent singles and a North Amercian tour brought the band moderate success, but pressure from the label to refine the sound resulted in the ousting of keyboardist Tom Sparks. Ex-Trooper keysman Frank Ludwig stepped into the vacancy and the band's sophomore album "Everything Is Grey" was released in 1980. The singles from the album failed to chart and the band's fortunes went from hopeful to hopeless, prompting the band to split after their final tour stop in 1981. Bachman would soon draft Ex-BTO bassist CF Turner, as well as two Ironhorse members for his new project, Union. He has also issued numerous solo recordings over the years, as well as several brief reunions with BTO and The Guess Who.

"Ironhorse" unsurprisingly bears shades of late period BTO, with a greater emphasis on pop. Though the material is mostly decent, there does seem to be something lacking in the songwriting. Nothing major, but there's a homogenized sound that sees Bachman at his most frivolous. Without the contrast of Bachman & CF Turner's voices (as had been the case with BTO), Ironhorse simply suffers as a result of Bachman's rather unrefined vocals. Though Sparks vocals are significantly better, the lifeless production renders much of the material bland. Overall, "Ironhorse" is a pleasant album that just never quite reaches transcendence. It's still worth a listen, so be sure to check this offering from 'orchman' and see what Ironhorse was all about.......

Following the disappointing lack of success of FREEWAYS and growing musical differences, Randy Bachman left Bachman Turner Overdrive in the spring of 1977. He retreated to his west coast home to ponder his future. After serving as producer for other acts including Trooper, he began writing new material while searching out the supporting cast for his new group. He began writing with Washington State native Chris Sparks. Drummer Mike Baird and John Pierce on bass were recruited to round out the group.

A deal was struck in '78 with Scotti Brothers Records and the band travelled to Hollywood's Studio 55 to record the demos, with Bachman serving as executive producer. They released their self-titled debut the next spring. It was described as Bachman's outlet to let loose all his penned up musical frustrations, the album ran the gamut of rock's spectrum, from the gritty "Watch Me Fly" and "Old Fashioned" to the almost-eclectic "Stateline Blues". The first single "Sweet Lui-Luise" showed great promise, cracking the Top 100. By that summer their second single "He's A Joker" hit the airwaves and also gained moderate success. "She's Got It", penned by Sparks was quick to follow, while the band was on the road finishing up their first North American tour.

Pressure from the label to come up with a more main-stream album led to Sparks being replaced with vocalist / keyboardist Frank Ludwig, who'd recently left Trooper. Released in the summer of 1980, EVERYTHING IS GREY featured new bassist Ron Foos as well, and was a fitting epitaphe for the band, with nothing seemingly going right. Problems with management and the label's financial woes were affecting the band - on the air and onstage. Though tracks like "Try A Little Harder", "Only Way To Fly" and the title track all held their own, all the problems going on, plus the changing musical landscape in general spelled the end of Ironhorse. Now released from their contract with Scotti Brothers, they replaced Foos with Bachman's fellow Brave Belt and BTO'er C.F. Turner on bass, and carried on - now under the monikor of Union in 1981..............

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: ........

The death of Bachman Turner Overdrive was a bitter pill to swallow. They were never within throwing distance of being great but they unearthed a rich vein of musical appreciation within me which still hasn’t been played out today. Almost in gratitude, I followed Randy Bachman through his biographic album Survivor which was far too personal and divorced from heavy rock to be anything other than indulgent. My hopes were higher for Ironhorse as within the close-knit environment of a band was how I was used to seeing him work and the preceding single, "Sweet Lui-Louise", bolstered that belief. Unfortunately, whilst not as tame as Survivor, this is more akin to pleasant rock and roll rather than raucous rawk.

The only tracks remotely like Bachman Turner Overdrive are "There Ain't No Cure" and "Old Fashioned", dedicated to "Slowhand" Clapton but with a vocal performance reminiscent of Hendrix. The rest are a likeable mix of rock-cum-pop with all the big guns appearing on side one: "Sweet Lui-Louise", "Jump Back In The Light", "One And Only" and "You Gotta Let Go". The three tracks penned by Tom Sparks are more blues orientated and fine in themselves but it's a mistake for Bachman to step down from lead vocals.

Not a thoroughbred but certainly worth a bit of a .......

- Randy Bachman - vocals, guitars, Roland synthesizer guitar, producer
- Tom Sparks - vocals, guitars
- John Pierce - bass
- Mike Baird - drums
- Barry Allen, Mavis McCauley - backing vocals

A1 One And Only 3:32
A2 Sweet Lui-Louise 3:11
A3 Jump Back In The Light 3:11
A4 You Gotta Let Go 4:00
A5 Tumbleweed 3:19
B1 Stateline Blues
Backing Vocals – Barry Allen, Mavis McCauley
B2 Watch Me Fly 3:41
B3 Old Fashioned (Dedicated To Slowhand) 3:10
B4 She's Got It 3:12
B5 There Ain't No Cure 3:57 

johnkatsmc5, welcome music..





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