Steve Harris - British Lion

Steve Harris
British Lion
Steve Harris, the “Boss” of Iron Maiden is busy touring the States, reliving some of his main band’s most glorious moments at this time. He’s chosen the same time to release his decade in the making – tracked whenever he could get time, on the backburner of Maiden activities - solo album, which I suppose is not entirely – him, flying solo, but more of a collaborative effort. Apparently, Steve was managing this "band", in the early 90s and kinda liked them a bit too much and while the project really went no-where at the time, and his solo company “Beast Records” went into limbo, he kept in contact with them and decided to salvage the material which he also got involved with, playing the bass and co-writing some of the songs by issuing it under his name, as a solo album.
So does this Lion (All-though the cover depicts something more akin to a wolf, really!?) roar, or is it a cowardly one? Let’s see.
Richard Taylor, the band’s singer, is a bit of a weird case. He’s got a good voice... reminding of a lesser Glenn Hughes, or a much lesser,  not very passionate and rather flatter Robert Plant. To compare him with Dickinson would also be a mistake, as he’s not as powerful or throaty and he's got a much leaner voice. A little grit, would have given him, so much more appeal, but alas, it’s not meant to be. He’s not bad, but he’s slightly, “underselling” these songs in my humble opinion, lacking real conviction in delivering the material. I even had Bono flash-backs, when listening to some of the songs.
Without being too long, the songs tend to dwell in mid-tempo territory mostly and sound a bit long winded. Graham Leslie, on guitar along with another chap I guess, is economic but sufficient. The entire band is “good” and British as it comes, but there’s a bit of “lack of real enthusiasm” plaguing the entire project.
The production, of the album, which was primarily done in the world-class Black Rock Studios here in Greece, at Santorini, is clear and second to none, but Kevin Shirley proves himself to be nothing more than a button pusher. His mix is “good” but flat and he hasn’t apparently given two $hit$, to suggest a more aggressive sound and a bit tighter playing and more spirited vocal performances, in certain songs that would have benefited them strongly. Even some double vocals, or gang choruses here or there would have worked better, than what's gone on record, but I guess, he’s happy collecting the cheques and doing what he’s being told to, a thing clearly apparent by his lackluster job on the Maiden albums of late. Whereas, I bet my ass, that a Martin Birch or a Chris Tsangarides, would have pulled a great product, out of every band they worked with, Shirley, doesn’t seem to want to interfere with the band’s sound or style, too much, which is a CRYING SHAME, as the songwriting is NOT BAD at all, but the way in which it is presented leaves, MUCH to be desired.
Repeated spins, make the album grow, but you’d really expect something more from the boss, than an average to good album, especially after some ten years.
“This is my God” really reminded me a bit, of Thunder and Zeppelin and while it has a nice groove and generally good ideas, it just ends up sounding like a U2 track with better leads than those “Edgy” ideas.
“Lost Worlds” is also a bit thunderesque, but has hints of Maiden, in the form of a really, long expressive part, where Taylor sings rather passionately over some really, epic bit and it even has a short sing a long- oh,ooooh,ohhhhh, harmony part.
“Karma Killer” is almost how things should have been. It’s got a nasty, groovy and instantly recognizable riff and grooves, although it should have been even groovier. Taylor, even convinces thoroughly on this one... good chorus.
“Us Against the World” is mixing Maiden with UFO and the Scorpions, quite nicely too. Taylor’s melodic ideas are very smooth and nice, and there are some very smart guitar flourishes. But a bit more of emphasis, should have given to the chorus, while it’s rather great, it almost sounds, as if was just another verse.
“The Chosen Ones” is very Lizzyesque, and simply quite good. But even here, in such a feelgood song, there seems to be a bit of uncertainty. Taylor, exclaims a “yeah” at some point and it almost sounds forced and not that spontaneous. Another great song, but a little more flair, would have made it an anthem. I dunno, maybe, the Boss, should have taken these lads on a short tour, or allowed them to tour with some-one else, in his place if he wanted to deny-involvement. There’s apparent chemistry here, but there’s also something missing – an X factor, (pardon the pun) that would have made this album, an almost classic.
“World Without Heaven” apart from the obvious, hint, has strong Lizzy leanings, but in a far more modernized version. Also the guitars are lower in the mix than they should, really battling with the bass at point, not because of volume, but because they are just not as fat and sharp as they should... they should have been “dryer” in most parts! There’s so much dynamic lost, it’s criminal. I was also scratching my head, what, other singer, Taylor sort of reminded me here and it would be a very primal, much lesser or more current Joey Tempest. Hehe!
“Judas” is darker, carrying the same marks, but sounding like something that could have possibly been on the “Blaze” era maiden albums. It has a very abrupt drop out, in the middle, that’s really not a good idea and then it just goes into acoustic mode for a chorus, that grows and grows and becomes quite electric again towards the end. It could have been massive, but it marginally isn’t!
“Eyes of The Young” is a more carefree, tune, a bit of a teenage reminiscence, sweet almost ballad that rocks hard. Again, there’s a very Thin Lizzy-esque vibe here, running strongly through the track.
“These Are the Hands” is mainly because of the vocal, but also, of some of the guitar-riffing, Thunder-esque. Not as good as Thunder, but it would have not irked you, if it were included in a Thunder album.
Finally, “The Lesson” is a ballad, rich in strings that, bears resemblances to Dio, Sabbath and I dunno what else, maybe even Marillion? I really, protest against how, a guitar is mixed on there, but what the heck. Taylor “proves” himself, as a singer on this one. Heck, it’s bad, that he’s not a “bad” one, but he might take a lot of flak for “not being” Bruce Dickinson, or somebody else. For better or worse, if there’s another “album” by this line up, he could prove to be quite the revelation if given more space.
'Array, really, takes a chance by lending his name, to this project, when he could have called it, just “British Lion” and be done with, possibly making some people expect, something-or-other that’s not a million miles away from Maiden. What we get is an album, with pretty good, solid songwriting, but a lack of “bite” and a very clinical production, that ends up being detrimental to the overall result.
Ugh, almost got it right chief, but you narrowly missed hitting the nail in the head. Maybe next time, as the “man in black” would put it. Here’s also, to hoping, that all this extra-curricular activity, along with a projected, Dickinson solo album, might rejuvenate them, solo flying lads and help ‘em to come up with a more interesting and back to the roots Maiden album, next time!