Although it was quite obviously the fact from the start that Iron Maiden’s Steve Harris had to approach his solo vehicle, British Lion, in a completely different fashion to his day job, his efforts on BL’s first, self-titled album still surprised many fans of the man.
Most notable amongst these surprises was the vocal performance of Richard Taylor, a man for whom heavy rock singing didn’t seem to come as second nature, let alone a viable career choice.
Harris is famously stubborn on matters of his own judgement, and so, with Taylor as his nominated throat for the British Lion project, we’re stuck with him again for this next album, The Burning.
Has he improved? Well, to be honest, no he hasn’t. His strained, reedy vocals are still going to mar your enjoyment of tracks like the Lizzyesque title track, if only because of the awfully dry production that affords his voice absolutely no cover at all. Steve Harris, who produced the album, isn’t a vocalist, it’s true, but surely all his years in the studio with legendary knob-twiddlers like Martin Birch and Kevin Shirley must surely have given the man a few pointers as to get the most out of a voice? If so, he certainly hasn’t chosen to employ them on The Burning.
Which is a shame, because as ever Harris has come up with some great work on the song writing side of things, whilst guitarists David Hawkins and Graeme Leslie both perform valuable and skilful supporting roles. The edgy Lightning is particularly accomplished in it’s construction, building steadily to a compelling chorus – only to be robbed of it’s due by another disappointing vocal from Taylor, who delivers a limp Chris Martin/Bono hybrid when the song requires something altogether more overblown indeed.
I noted in my review for the first British Lion album that maybe Harris would have been better suited by bringing in singers on a song-by-song basis, singers who would serve the song rather than bring it to it’s knees, and again I think that would have been a good ploy here – he surely wouldn’t have been short of capable volunteers. Maybe next time.
Best track Last Chance doesn’t get off Scott free either, but does have at least enough excitement and raw energy about it to take the listener’s mind off of the elephant in the recording studio. It’s a bona fide piece of top-drawer Harris songsmithery, full of anthemic hooks and blazing guitar battery (and a Maiden ending circa 1983 for those feeling starved of such things), and it’ll go down a storm on British Lion’s current American tour, of that there’s no doubt. On the plus side again, fans of the man’s more melodic side will lap up Land Of The Perfect People, which is undeniable in it’s melodic heft and basic listenability.
And that’s that, really – The Burning certainly contains enough good song ideas to warrant a listen, and to suggest that British Lion is certainly a project worth persisting with – but it’s hard to see this album really appealing to anyone beyond Harris’ coterie of uber fans. A missed opportunity.
The Burning is out now.