Lionheart – “Second Nature” (AOR Heaven)
A veritable super group when it was formed in 1980, Lionheart consisted of Dennis Stratton (lead guitar/backing vocals, ex-Iron Maiden), Steve Mann (lead guitar/backing vocals, ex-Liar), Rocky Newton (bass guitar/backing vocals, ex-Wildfire), Jess Cox (lead vocals, ex-Tygers of Pan Tang), and Frank Noon (drums, ex-Def Leppard)! Needless to say, there wasn’t any problem finding gigs with the band playing the Reading Festival and as well as supporting Def Leppard, Whitesnake and Saxon. However, keeping such a star line up together proved to be more challenging especially in the vocal dept and eventually they settled as a 4-piece with Dennis and Rocky sharing lead vocal duties. Nevertheless, the band secured a deal with CBS and went to America to record their debut “Hot Tonight” but sadly this fell between the bridges of their old fans clearly used to more heaviness but equally, their intended AOR audience who thought it too heavy! With yet more line up changes, the band eventually folded in 1986 and all the members moving onto other bands or to industry jobs. Fast forward 30 years and a one off reunion at the Rockingham Festival in 2016 caused such a stir that a mini tour in Japan followed as well as a performance at Sweden Rock adding the final motivation for the recording of this new album. Original members, Dennis Stratton, Steve Mann, Rocky Newton and Clive Edwards jumped at the chance and brought in ex-Shy front man Lee Small on lead vocals. Well what can I say, you can forget that 80s puff hairdo, synth driven, pouting n prancing style – this is real man’s AOR! Rather than fighting between melody n heavy, today’s Lionheart have simply embraced both and put them together in 10 gutsy but catchy tracks – along with a roaring but heart racing cover of Chris de Burgh’s ‘Don’t Pay The Ferryman’! Clearly recognizing the 2nd chance they’ve been given and now wiser to act upon it, “Second Nature” is a top quality release befitting the band’s pedigree produced, engineered and mastered by Steve Mann in his own studio Flying Vivaldi in Hannover. From the pure metal of ‘Lionheart’ with its heavy drumming, deep bass and chugging riffs, Small leads the melodic onslaught with his own highs and harmonies before some searing guitar work definitely gets the heads banging on this one. Pumping up the AOR is ‘Heartbreak Radio’ with Small’s soulful vocals dueling the melodic guitars to create an unbelievable singalong chorus completed by some 80s synth. Best of all is ‘Angels With Dirty Faces’ with its early 80s Scorpions style of irresistible melodic guitars mashed with even more Brit hard rock guitars and a US style AOR chorus – fantastic! All in all a stupendous comeback album that pretty much erases the bad luck of past and shows what potential the future holds for this still very much talented veteran band.