|Diamond Head – ‘The MCA Years Box Set’ (Universal)|
|Written by Johnny H|
|Wednesday, 16 September 2009 13:53|
It's safe to say that if it were not for the New Wave of British Heavy Metal, this Uber Rock Soldier would more than likely not be listening to music these days. The simple fact is that most of my early teens years were spent watching, listening or reading about the next big thing the UK had to offer as I marched on my very own musical road to Damascus.
Step forward then Sean Harris, Brian Tatler, Duncan Scott and Colin Kimberley, collectively known as Diamond Head.
In 2009 the name is most probably recognised for the influence they had on a certain Bay Area Uber popular thrash combo but, at the dawn of the Eighties, Diamond Head were most certainly the band everyone wanted a piece of.
Releasing a self financed seminal 'White Label' album in 1980, the band were already courting major labels, whilst also gigging like road dogs with such diverse acts as Krokus, Foreigner and Pat Travers. The band's raw punk like energy and struttin blues driven rifferama winning the usually difficult UK rock press over, with Sounds proclaiming them "the natural successors to Led Zeppelin".
It wasn't too long (late in 1981 to be exact) before MCA had secured the band's signatures, and what happened next musically is by and large captured within this box set. Which brings you the band's output from this era on CD for the very first time in the UK.
The band's major label debut 'Borrowed Time' was always something of a let down for me after the visceral energy of the self financed release. And this is in my opinion was largely down to the rather subdued sound, that maybe showed some signs of too many cooks spoiling the NWOBHM broth, who knows? The likes of 'Am I Evil?' and 'Lightning To The Nations' still soared and swooped like vicious metallions, but this time ones with slightly blunt beaks? It was however on the newer single tracks 'In The Heat Of The Night', and 'Call Me' that this all came together for me, with the latter track the top ten hit that never was.
The 'Borrowed Time' remastered pressing in this box does sound a touch brighter than my trusty old vinyl and you get four Radio 1 sessions and the remaining three 'Four Cuts' EP tracks as a bonus, making this something of a real pleasure to rediscover on CD.
1983 and album number two, 'Canterbury', saw Diamond Head take the most career defining move they could make, by effectively reinventing their sound, with a heavier emphasis on the pop angle they had dipped tentative toes into with the aforementioned 'Call Me'. Shorn of locks and two band members, (Colin and Duncan making way for Merv Goldsworthy and Robbie France respectively) fans started to scratch their head wondering just what was up with the UK's new Led Zeppelin? In hindsight, 'Canterbury' was perhaps just a way too daring move in 1983, when the rest of the UK music buying public and press were only just waking up to what was happening in the US, and Diamond Head were perhaps just too early with this album.
But you know what? I always have loved 'Canterbury' and this CD release means you can once again delight in what a lost gem of an album it really is. Check out 'Makin' Music', 'One More Night', 'Out Of Phase' and 'Ishmael' and tell me these aren't great pop rock tracks.
This CD is bolstered by three demo tracks, which oddly sound more like 'Borrowed Time' outtakes, (can anyone shed some light here on their origins?) and a 'Makin' Music' remix, but to finally have a copy of 'Canterbury' on CD is worth every penny of this handsome looking clam shell box set, that incidentally also comes bolstered with a very extensive booklet and mini LP sleeve reproductions (sadly no gatefold on Borrowed Time).
Disc three is made up of two Radio One In Concert live broadcasts from the 'Borrowed Time' era, and finally sees the Reading 1982 Manowar replacing headline set available once again on CD. But I can't help feeling that this disc (in fact the set) could have been an absolute must have purchase by simply adding the B Sides that the Metal Mind and recent Japanese Mini LP releases both had. As it stands any completists will still need either or both of these in their collections.
In 2009 Diamond Head are still very much a musical force to be (dead) reckoning with, but this four year tenure with MCA is the era that influenced my generation to pick up guitars and do it themselves, some in turn have made themselves millionaires many times over. Those who chose to pick up a pen and write reviews are still waiting with every digit crossed.