Just when I thought that 2017 was an amazing year for new music, along comes 2018. I am literally buried in rock solid releases that are fighting for my ipod time. I will also proudly point out that among these fantastic new records (YES, I still refer to them as records!) is a healthy dose of Canadian rock and metal. This is from both new and classic acts. One such case in point is Lee Aaron‘s Diamond Baby Blues, set to be released April 27th.
I was introduced to Lee Aaron in early 1984, around the release of her Metal Queen album. As a fourteen year old proud Canadian metalhead, copies of both Metal Queen and her 1982 debut album The Lee Aaron Project were completely worn out in my boom box (is that even a term anymore?). I remember clearly her free concert atop of Hamilton’s Jackson Square shopping centre, as I was far too young to see her in the clubs back then.
Luckily, I was nineteen and in college when she released one of her best efforts, 1989’s Bodyrock. I probably saw her half a dozen times during that period, including a front row centre spot at my college pub, The Arnie. Ahhhhh, the beer soaked memories of that show. Lee, for those who may not be familiar is the real deal. An absolutely killer vocalist, with the power to peel paint and send shivers up your spine.
LEE AARON – Diamond Baby Blues
It seems that Canada’s own Metal Queen has serious plans for 2018. It appears the Lee Aaron Band will be traversing the country and the world as they get ready to promote Diamond Baby Blues. If you see a show in your town, get off your ass and get a ticket. Sean Kelly (guitar), Dave Reimer (bass) and John Cody (drums) are as solid a band as you will ever find. If you’re in doubt, just have a listen to this new record.
What a record! After a dozen (maybe more) complete listens, I will go on record to say that Diamond Baby Blues is far and away Lee Aaron‘s best release since Bodyrock! In fact, it might just be better. Opening with her latest video, “Diamond Baby“, the hook is set and set hard. The band kicks in with a punch you in the gut descending riff, Lee‘s vocals soar through the mix with such intensity. Speaking of intensity, Kelly‘s solo here is sheer brilliance. Track one is a home run!
Before getting too deep into the review, I should point out that Diamond Baby Blues is 12 tracks, 7 covers and 5 originals. I spoke briefly to Sean Kelly and he told me, “this is an old school way of making an album, finding great songs for a great singer to sing and then Lee makes them her own“.
Make no mistake, this is very different from the stereotypical “covers” albums that many bands have dialed in. What Lee and the band did is pick out some songs that fit completely with the vibe and flavour of the originals they were writing. The covers chosen were not based on commercial appeal, some of them I have never even heard before, and the band created a very “cohesive” sounding blues rock album.
The Deep Purple classic “Mistreated” sounds so thick, heavy and bluesy. Total goosebumps and Sean Kelly sounds like a kid in a candy store on this one. You can almost feel him smiling as he gets to let loose on those Purple guitar licks.
“American High” is the second original track. A snotty little bluesy rocker with a big arena fist pumping sing along chorus. The world could use many more like this. Refreshing to hear melodic rock songs that are FUN.
“I’m A Woman” is next. The album is called Diamond Baby BLUES for a reason. Here, Lee lets rip with a cover of Koko Taylor. Pure blues in all it’s pretty glory. If this vocal doesn’t send shivers up your spine, get to the hospital, as there is something wrong with you.
Following on, “Miss Mercy” is a signature Lee Aaron rocker. This track could have seamlessly been included on Bodyrock or Some Girls Do. If new rock was actually played on mainstream radio, I would suggest this as the second single.
“The Best Thing” is this album’s Power Ballad and it’s just huge! Clocking in at over 6 minutes, it’s an emotional gut-wrenching break up song with a message. Great lyrics, great melody and just a great song all around.
“Black Cat” is that “Black Cat”! Janet Jackson‘s 1990 #1 hit single has never sounded cooler. I have always thought that song was a killer rock song in disguise. I understand that Sean Kelly suggested this one and God bless him. This is absolutely my favourite cover on the record. Janet Jackson meets the Metal Queen!
The next song is “Hard Road”. I don’t know about you, but I love it when bands choose to cover a tune that is completely unknown to my ears. For one thing, it allows me to judge the song without comparison. However, I then get to uncover the original and sometimes I get totally turned on to something new. Lee‘s cover of the Stevie Wright‘s track is pretty true to the original and a solid barn burning rocker. Thanks for the tip Lee! I have already been digging into Stevie‘s back catalogue.
Since the release of Bodyrock album, Lee has always had a great (if not cheeky) sense of humour when it comes to matters of everyone’s favourite three letter word. In ’89, it was “Whatcha Do To My Body“. In ’91, it was “Sex With Love“. Now in 2018, the cheekiness remains with “In The Bedroom“.
“Cut Way Back” is a wickedly fun blues number that works so well with Lee‘s vocals, but also with her sense of humour. Originally written and released in 2004 on Tom Hambridge‘s Bang and Roll album, Lee and the boys seem to be having fun with this one. That fun is shared with the listener.
“You’re No Good” is a great song with staying power. Originally written for Dee Dee Warwick in 1963, it has been covered over and over again. Betty Everett, Dusty Springfield, Linda Rondstadt, Van Halen have coverd it. Lee Aaron now takes a swing at this classic.
One more traditional blues cover to close out the record. “My Babe” mixes Little Walter with Lee‘s sultry blues tone vocals.
I absolutely am loving this album. I know the term all killer no filler is a ridiculous cliche but I am loving every song on this album. It totally plays through as a complete record and in today’s bubblegum world of disposable singles this is both rare and damn well refreshing. Lee Aaron’s best album? Maybe so. Pretty cool to be saying that thirty six years since her debut album dropped.
Cover Photo by Andreja Irving
Band Photo by UK Roland
Be sure to check out Lee Aaron doing battle in the CGCM Podcast’s Buzzsaw Battle of the Bands Playlist Tournament..https://cgcmpodcast.wordpress.com/2018/04/16/cgcm-podcast-episode-32-b-b-b-greg-frazer-vs-lee-aaron-1988/
To vote for your favourite 1988 Playlist…https://fans.vote/vote/ACv8O0spfgM/cgcm-podcast/bbb-battle-4-lee-aaron-lee-aaron-vs-greg-fraser-brighton-rock
Buy: Diamond Baby Blues