Lucifers Records [Release date 26.04.19]
If ‘Black Moon’ doesn’t quite reach the heady heights/atmosphere of the early 1970s when John Lawton released a string of albums pre-Uriah Heep, we still have no right to expect a brand new offering in 2019.
Lucifer’s Friend also features the two original members Peter Hesslein and Dieter Horns who both have the distinction that they formed the basis of James Last’s rhythm section and a parallel career playing “non-stop dancing” with the German pop bandleader.
Equally fascinating, Lawton worked in the seventies with the middle-of-the-road ensemble The Les Humphries Singers and appeared with that band in the Eurovision Song Contest in 1976, the year he joined Uriah Heep.
I chatted to John Lawton for Get Ready to ROCK! Radio in 2012 but at that time there was no indication of a reformation. Lucifer’s Friend made something of a comeback in 2015 releasing ‘Awakening’ – a tentative stab at some new songs and remixed old ones – and appearing at Sweden Rock Festival (also released on album). And in between times they have released ‘Too Late To Hate’ in 2016 .
‘Black Moon’ does give a reasonable flavour of former glories and of course with higher production values. Lawton himself has more recently kept his hand in with local musicians, living and working in Bulgaria. His vocal is still powerful and distinctive.
Seventies Uriah Heep fans will appreciate the album, not only for the connection but the fact that early Lucifer’s Friend may have even informed Heep and – at least on the eponymous 1970 debut album - fashioned a similar mix of heavy/progressive rock with guitar/organ to the fore.
Peter Hesslein’s contributions on guitar (and keyboards) are classy throughout and arrangements that reflect his own professional background.
The title track is enhanced by excellent brass interjections courtesy of guest Chuck Findley and punctuated by characteristic Hammond organ stabs. All tracks are very accessible and frequently with an AOR sensibility. There is a lot to like and it should at very least get you seeking out the earlier obscurities most of which have been reissued on CD. A triple album of later stuff (1978-81) was also released in 2016. ****
Review by David Randall
Album review (Awakening, 2015)
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David Randall presents a weekly show on Get Ready to ROCK! Radio, Sundays at 22:00 BST (GMT+1, repeated on Mondays and Fridays), when he invites listeners to ‘Assume The Position’. This show was first broadcast on 26 September 2021 and includes the Top 10 albums at www.getreadytorock.com for that week.
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