I’ve been obsessed with this album ever since I heard “Baby’s So Cool” a few months ago and I just cannot wait to introduce it to people who have no idea of this treasure right here. After familiarizing myself with what feels like a million and one late’80s/early-90s hard rock bands, sharing tons of similarities in image and sound, digging up an album that will make me say “Hold on a damn minute, there’s something here!!” became a formidable task. However, every now and then a band with a release like this one comes in and transforms my music library into an even more colorful and electrifying experience.
I will just leave this here before I move on…
A few things you gotta know about the band and this album before I let the music speak for itself!
Baton Rouge formed in Louisiana (hence the name) but just like any other rock band with big dreams, moved to Las Angeles in the late-80s, looking for that desired big break. They did manage to hop in the last hard rock train before the grunge scene totally occupied the industry and released a smashing debut album, titled “Shake Your Soul” (via Atlantic Records.)
The story is well-known – the spark faded away and during those transitional periods in music industry, only the toughest and more experienced artists managed to survive. Baton Rouge weren’t exactly one of those. Two albums and a long-overdue junior (demo) album were the products of their career. I must say, I have yet to befriend the sophomore album but the debut – “Shake Your Soul” blew me away so I have high hopes.
One of the most interesting things surrounding Baton Rouge is that all of its members spread their wings and went on to collaborate with some of the biggest names in the industry, including John Norum, John Sykes, Dokken, etc. or formed their own bands. For example, the impeccable vocals of Kelly Keeling brought richness to the Trans-Siberian Orchestra and guitarist Lance Bulen was being a very busy man, forming one band after another with members of XYZ, White Lion and many others.
Let’s go back to the debut album (sorry about that I just get so much into the background stories of the rock bands. The songs I want you to definitely check out (in addition the that first one I knocked your socks with at the beginning of this publication) are “Doctor”, “Walks Like a Woman” and of course the POWER BALLADS “It’s About Time” and “There Was A Time (The Storm)”. If those songs don’t conquer you, don’t talk to me at all! That’s not the end of it though. “Shake Your Soul” is an excellent selection of underrated gems and when I say underrated I don’t mean XYZ or Hardline level of underrated – I mean one level below that!!! Absolutely unforgivable!! “Big Trouble” and “Young Hearts” are as ear-pleasing as you can imagine.
Don’t get me wrong – this is not an innovative, out-of-this-world piece of music. But it’s refreshing, different and it just STANDS OUT!! Your choice to believe me or not.
Last but not least, I want to bow down to vocalist Kelly Keeling for capturing my heart and filling it with so many emotions! You just don’t get to listen to a vocalist like that every day.
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You never get a second chance to make a first impression and that applies in every sphere of life, including music. A debut album can make or break a musician’s career. That first release is like an immensely important first date with the biggest, most relevant judge in the world – the audience. Therefore, the artists need to strike with their strongest, most exceptional creative weapons right from the very beginning if they want to make a name for themselves in this competitive music market. A successful debut album is essential in the sense that it’s a key to establish a fanbase, not to mention that it sets some sort of standards and expectations for the following projects. Having a powerful debut album doesn’t always walk hand in hand with a powerful, everlasting career; however, it’s indeed a significant aspect to think about when building a reputation. Some great rock acts, like Guns N’ Roses, Boston, Bad Company, even The Beatles, of course, spawned enormously impactful debut albums that stood the test of time. Unfortunately you can’t build a career on just one debut album – you need to develop artistically and be consistent with your releases. Some other rock acts like Elton John, Thin Lizzy and even the great Journey had a rather weak debut but managed to rise from the ashes and come back stronger than ever.
So many rock albums are on my list of “favorite rock debuts of all time”, I don’t even know where to begin with – from Def Leppard’s “On through the Night” to Bad Company’s self-titled debut, from ASIA to Rainbow, the list goes on and on. One of those albums is the album I will be focusing on throughout this publication – the 1990 coming out party of the American glam rocker, FireHouse. Intrigued by the gorgeous power-ballad, “Love of a Lifetime”, I followed its footsteps back to this record where I found out that there was indeed a reason why it was certified double platinum. The album showcases so much talent, effort and what’s so fascinating is that it somehow managed to make a statement during a transitional, rather shaky period in the music world. The time for a debut wasn’t that suitable because grunge basically took over and media, along with fans, just stopped caring about glam rock. Still, what’s good is good and I am sure many people, just like me, appreciate FireHouse and this marvelous album, full of explosive melodic-rockers.
Vocalist C. J. Snare, guitarist Bill Leverty, drummer Michael Foster, and bassist Perry Richardson caught the last wave of the glam rock era with a firm grab. What they did with that first release not only got them prestigious awards, including Best Newcomer in the States, but also launched their international success in many countries, including Canada and Japan. FireHouse is yet another band to brag with its supportive fandom and strong presence in the Japanese market and this first album has a lot to do with it.
The band, along with that debut album turned into a much needed breath of fresh air. People were losing interest in melodic AOR records and were waiting for the next big thing. The strong force, known as hair metal, was losing its powers. Suddenly, however, those talented guys came along and spawned a double platinum album in 1990. No one saw that coming but everyone loved it. The quartet, along with producer David Prater, who worked with Dream Theatre, obviously knew how to craft some good old, enduring American hard rock.
Songs and Style
FireHouse was an absolute glam rock revolution, in the sense that they brought so much more than glitter and gold to the table. The critical and audience appreciation was on point – those four guys weren’t joking around – armed with great talent, for FireHouse the sky was the limit. On the surface, to many people it may seem like a regular hair metal album, stuffed with ordinary party rockers with little substance, however once you get to know the songs a little bit better; you will understand why exactly this debut album conquered the world.
“FireHouse” offers a selection of twelve, well-polished pop/metal jewels, which respectfully clogged he radio stations and mesmerized (and still do) the fans with gorgeous riffs and superb vocals. “All She Wrote” – a catchy, humorous rocker which just begs you to find your inner (in my case non-existing) vocal strength and sing your heart out – it’s that captivating! This was the first FireHouse song I heard years ago and it grabbed my attention instantaneously. “All She Wrote” deserved so much more than it got, but then again, chart positions aren’t all that matter, right? “Shake & Tumble” gets its hands on you right from the beginning – those mindblowing riffs are like an energy drink; I can almost taste the power coming out of that tune. The opening track – “Rock on the Radio” is your typical party hard rocker, generating tons of excitement. “Don’t Treat Me Bad” is a sweet mid-tempo radio favorite, showcasing appealing acoustic elements. Another highly compelling tune has to be “Home is Where the Heart is” – I am beyond fascinated with Snare’s vocal delivery on this one, he absolutely kills it.
All She Wrote
Shake & Tumble
Don’t Treat Me Bad
I’m saving the best for last! In case you wonder which band released the greatest power ballad of all time, here’s your answer – it’s FireHouse and you can find it on this album! “Love of a Lifetime” is a simply a ballad of a lifetime. Written by vocalist C.J. Snare, it quickly became a worldwide sensation and their most well known song up to date. Not only that, but it turned into an absolute necessity for every wedding ceremony – the impact and fan love for that song just goes beyond any limits. There’s no surprise, though – just listen to the tune and let it reach every little part of your rock n’ roll heart. Dreamy lyrics, full of hope and encouragement, beautiful solo and heartmelting melody – “Love of a Lifetime” has the whole package.
Love of a Lifetime
What followed was indeed pure fire! “Hold Your Fire” was released in 1992 and though it couldn’t compete with the debut one in terms of sales, it still left a mark of its own. “When I Look Into Your Eyes”, “Hold Your Fire”, “Reach for the Sky” – all immensely successful hit singles and fan favorites. This right here is a perfect example of a worthy sophomore effort – an album that delivered what the fans expected after the first one. Unfortunately, those were the last good albums we got before grunge hit the music scene and kicked hard rock out of the picture. Nevertheless, I am still here, along with many other fans, who love and haven’t forgotten about bands such as FireHouse! Cheers!
P.S. I don’t own any audio or visual material used in this publication. All the rights and credits go to the owners and/publishers. The publication expresses my personal opinion and in no way is trying to make a generalized statement. Please be kind and considerate when you read and/or comment.