Coming from a small town in southern Minnesota I think myself lucky to have discovered Bonfire at the end of the 80’s. Finding a cassette copy of Don’t Touch The Light at the Cedar Mall drug store in early 87’ was like finding the Golden Ticket in a can of Pawtucket Patriot Ale. Month’s earlier I had heard this amazing song called “Starin’ Eyes” on Hot Rockin’ 104 and as quickly as I heard it, like a box of Fruity Pebbles on a snow day, it was gone. By the time I saw the cassette behind the glass I had started to think I had dreamt the song. I suppose that’s RCA’s fault. Few labels sucked more at marketing rock bands.
By the time Fireworks came out later that year I had spent approximately 6 weeks of pay from my job at the Country Kitchen to buy a CD player. Imagine the joy of owning a slab of German metal on this “new” format. Fireworks remains a testament to the music of that era. Somewhere between the Scorpions and Accept on the heavy scale Bonfire really had their game figured out by 1987. And just like that they were gone. I had heard rumors of a record called Point Blank. If it existed Big Foot must have had the only copy at the time as I never got to hear in until the early 2000’s. Another record called Knock Out came out sometime after which I also didn’t hear until over a decade later.
Imagine my surprise when I was given the opportunity to review a “New” Bonfire record. As with any band that slagged through the 90’s and first decade of the 2000’s they had changed their lineup more than Billy Martin in July. Until recently though any lineup had largely included lead singer Claus Lessman and guitarist Hans Ziller. Earlier this year it was announced that Lessman was leaving. His replacement, an at least part time resident of Minnesota and former Dare Force singer, David Reece. You probably know him more from either Bangalore Choir or his brief stint in Accept. Or quite possibly in Ziller’s side band EZ Livin’ but I wanted to show off some off with an obscure reference. Which brings us back to Bonfire and their latest release. Glorious.
The opening song “21Gun Salute” starts with an intro that, I can’t believe I am saying this, is reminiscent of an intro to a Jesus Chrysler song called “Behind.” Any resemblance has to be coincidental as I doubt anyone reading this has actually heard it. Regardless its like a tease as I wait to hear what David Reece sounds like in Bonfire. When it does kick in it’s classic 80’s. Doesn’t sound like Dave’s lost much.
From there the song “Nothing At All” harkens more to the Fireworks era Bonfire. The drums may be a little more modern but the overall tone is there. “Remember” is another song in the Fireworks vein. While “Can’t Break” may try too hard to be current. During “Falling Out Of Love”, Reece actually draws a straight line to Ian Gillan. And in an odd twist the song ‘Supernatural Disguise” has a verse guitar part removed straight from “Balls To The Wall.” Which as we know is from a band Mr. Reece is quite familiar.
This may not be the best Bonfire record but it’s in the conversation. I will always take good to great from a band that has been around as long as Bonfire has. You’re not going to confuse David Reece for Claus Lessman. And this is a guy who took a lot of shit for not being Udo when he joined Accept for their Eat The Heat record. I doubt that will be the case here as 25 years later Reece takes the mic for another German metal band as record sales matter less and Bonfire is a more natural fit for him. And that’s not to say Reece is the only talking point band wise. Ziller’s guitar playing and song writing deserve our respect. The band takes a run at a few different styles over this record and while it may at times stray from the classic Bonfire sound. At no point is it bad and more importantly it’s never forgettable.
Stand out tracks. “21 Gun Salute”, “Put Out The Flames” and “Free Wind Desperado.” They tossed in remakes of Fireworks tracks “Sweet Obsession” and “American Nights” which while intetersting to hear Reece’s take on them, aren’t really necessary. And when I saw “A Little Help From My Friends” on the track list I immediatly thought “Uh oh” as my brain harkened back to Winger taking a giant shit on “Purple Haze” in 1988. Some songs just shouldn’t be performed by 80’s era bands and this sure seems like one. Alas I was relieved to find it a fun listen borrowing more from the Cocker version than the Beatles. Definitely nothing to apologize for.
I must say. 2015 is turning out surprisngly good for new music. Buy this record. Use the Amazon link found on the front page when you do. And if someone can convince Bonfire to play somewhere near my zip code I’d appreciate it.