Album review: GUNHILL – Nightheat/One Over The Eight (John Lawton)

In 2012 David Randall interviewed John Lawton for an hour-long special on Get Ready to ROCK! Radio.  In this exclusive edit he chats about the band Gunhill.  (2:36)

GUNHILL - Nightheat/One Over The Eight

JLB Media/Gunhill [Release date 08.07.16]

Gunhill is the missing link in the history of one-time Uriah Heep frontman John Lawton.  When we compiled an interview feature for Get Ready to ROCK! Radio in 2012 this was the one aspect of a fascinating career that we couldn’t lay our hands on.

Rock journeyman Lawton fronted the band in the 1990s, not a good decade for what was an essentially melodic hard rock configuration.  In his own words Gunhill was  “A fun band, no pressure, we went out and played when we wanted to play and people liked the band”.

This 2-CD brings together the fan club only ‘One Over The Night’ (1995) and the second album ‘Nightheat’ (1997).

Sonically 1995′s One Over The Eight suffers a little from the fact that originally it was a fan club only release on cassette and probably never intended for wider distribution.  This lends it an air of economy and spontaneity – as in not over-produced – allowing the musicianship, and not least Lawton’s vocals, space to breathe.

The tracks reflect the band’s live show at the time with a healthy mix of originals, re-workings and covers including ‘Walking In The Shadow Of The Blues’ and ‘Ain’t No Sunshine’.  ‘Can’t Get Enough’ is a powerful self-composition and – beefed up with some LA studio trickery – would have sat easily with any classic hair metal of the early 1990s whilst ‘Angel’ is also convincing.  The bonus track ‘River Of Dreams’ is more redolent of a later Lawton solo album and therefore not particularly complementary to this set.

From 1997′s Nightheat, ‘Don’t Stop Believing’ (not that song) was probably 10 years out of date at the time but nevertheless has a certain charm.  The music is again a mixture of originals and covers but there is little trace of Lawton’s earlier heavy blues rock of Lucifer’s Friend (except for two re-worked pieces) and Uriah Heep yields two bonus tracks in ‘Sympathy’ and ‘Come Back To Me’ from the Lawton/Hensley era of that band.

Amongst the covers ‘Ready For Love’ and ‘Clearwater Highway’ (bookending two eras of Bad Company) and ‘When A Man Loves A Woman’, are all great vehicles for Lawton’s vocals.

John Lawton’s musical past has received more attention in recent years with the revival of his early-1970s band Lucifer’s Friend and when we spoke in 2012 any thought that three years later they would be playing Sweden Rock would have been somewhat bizarre.

Sadly, the major omission from this crucial reissue is a complete absence of an enlightening liner note and any anecdotal material.   But, nevertheless, this welcome release shines a light on a little known but important corner of the John Lawton story.  ****

Review by David Randall

David Randall presents ‘Assume The Position’ on Get Ready to ROCK! Radio every Sunday at 22:00 GMT.


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