Review Summary: They may never have lived up to the strenght of this album, but with their debut album, Firehouse staked their claim as one of the good bands in the later period of glamourized hard rock.
Firehouse is one of those bands with which I share a long and storied history. Their debut album, about to be reviewed here, is probably one of the first ten records I ever owned, at the ripe old age of about ten or eleven. The album landed in my hands as a birthday present from an old aunt, who had bought it on the merits of what she thought was an interesting cover for an 11-year-old boy. She was right. That hot lady with the match in front of a burning house immediately captured my attention, and made me want to give the CD a spin and see what was inside. I wasn’t disappointed, and nearly thirteen years later I still love this CD as much as I did when I was eleven.
Firehouse’s recipe wasn’t complicated: typical late 80’s hard rock, stylistically similar to Bon Jovi or Winger. The band’s looks followed along those lines, too: fluffed up, but far from the over-the-top makeup usage of Poison or Mötley Crüe. All in all, a slightly rugged, but still heart-throbbish hair metal band.
However, a few surprises were contained within the full-lenght itself. The first and most blatant of them was lead singer C.J. Snare. His vocal register is unique and instantly recognizable, sounding sort of like Jon Bon Jovi with a severe case of haemorrhoids. This distinctive voice helps give Firehouse a clear-cut identity they may not have had otherwise. He also has some clear chops, as he is unafraid to show at the beginning of Overnight Sensation
or the end of Oughta Be a Law
. Guitarist Bill Leverty adds to this advantage, being somewhat more prone to shredding than others in his genre. At times, his tecchy solos flirt with melodic “virtuoso” metal, but his solid, pounding riffs ground the band within the realm of mid-tempo hard rock. He even gets his minute and a half of wankery on Seasons of Change
, probably the most pointless track on here.
But more on that later on; right now, it’s time to discuss Firehouse’s rhythm section, comprised of bass player Perry Richardson and drummer Michael Foster. None of them has a groundbreaking performance, but they both help lend the tracks a solid background. The later, in particular, benefits from the production, which makes his drums come through crystal-clear and pounding, often making them the main drawing point to the song. As for the former, he often keeps a good, steady base while Leverty deviates from the norm with his riffs and solos. Overall, nothing spectacular, but certainly pleasant enough.
And now, it’s time to discuss the most important thing: the songs. Are they any good? Do they break any new ground? Well, Johnny, to answer your questions, yes they are and no, they don’t. As noted, the overall sound is not dissimilar from that of other bands from the period; however, the songwriting quality is undeniably high, to the point where there is hardly a weak song among these 13 tracks. Well, maybe Seasons Of Change
and Oughta Be A Law
, but even they have some salvaging point or another.
However, there is no denying that this is the kind of album where the standouts jump at you and grab you by the throat. In this case, there are four of them, and each will ingrain itself in your head within the first couple of listens.
The first one appears right at the outset of the album, with the fabulous Rock On The Radio
. From the weird-ass tribal beginning (props for not calling it an Intro
) right through to the huge chorus and stomping rhythm, this is one heck of a rock’n’roll track sure to blow the roof off of any room it is played in. Matching it blow by blow is our requisite power ballad, Love Of a Lifetime
. To call this track awesome would be an understatement; it is, purely and simply, one of the best hard rock ballads I have ever heard. Leverty’s solo is understated and elegant, and Snare has a genuinely rousing performance, all backed by a solid slow beat. Rounding up the power trio of songs is Shake And Tumble
. Stylistically very similar to Rock On The Radio
, this track is just as infectious, and even though it doesn’t feature much by way of lyrics, it’s still absolutely irresistible. Try not to fist-pump along to this song; if you manage, you’re a better man then me. The fourth and final standout, and the “odd-man-out” of the group, is Lovers’ Lane
. With its boogieriffic rhythm and spewed-out words from Snare, it’s an instantly catchy song that proves Firehouse fare well in a slightly faster rhythm, too.
Following close on the heels of these four tracks are three “almost-standouts”. Overnight Sensation
features a powerhouse performance from C.J.Snare, who stakes his claim with the initial scream (it holds out even longer
live), and then proceeds to a confident performance that raises the song above the workmanlike quality of the instrumental portion. All She Wrote
, on the other hand, is a fully satisfactory track that comes just close to being a standout, but never quite achieves that status. Still, it perfectly balances cheesiness and a good chorus to make for a wholly pleasant listening experience. But probably the closest this album comes to a bona-fide fifth standout is the stomping blues of Don’t Walk Away
. This song once again validates the axiom that “you can never go wrong with the good ol’ blues”, offering a great piece of electrified boogie that any wizened rocker will enjoy.
Sadly, the rest of the album is not as stellar, being comprised mostly of cute songs that don’t stand a chance in Hell of being standouts. Most are far from bad, but Seasons of Change
is an entirely pointless interlude – negating the whole “not having an intro” philosophy – and Oughta Be a Law
is a little limp, its lyrics riddled with awful law-enforcement-related puns. Home Is Where The Heart Is
is also slightly too cheesy for its own good, not coming across as pleasantly as most of the other tracks.
Still, it’s hard to be mad at this band. Even with the aforementioned flaws and the overtly predictable song structures, Firehouse deliver an immensely pleasurable debut opus, which launched an underground, but deservedly respectable, career, which lasts to this day. They may never have lived up to the strenght of this album, but they staked their claim as one of the good bands in the later period of glamourized hard rock – which is far from a bad achievement for a band debuting in 1990.
Rock On The Radio
Shake and Tumble
Love of a Lifetime