Hot & Slow: The Best of the Ballads
Released: 1997, RCA
Hidden Gem Review
If you observe the metal industry it is uncanny how some bands follow an extremely similar career trajectory. In this case I am referring to Bonfire and Pretty Maids. Each European melodic metal act has been going since 1981 or so with very few line up changes, each has had 10 studio CD’s, a Live CD, a Best of CD and a few rare releases. Each had huge success in the 80’s, each lost ground in the early 90’s, but resigned with major labels in Europe and Japan. Both are virtually unknown in North America but continue to make kick-ass music to this very day! Coincidence? How I came to review this CD is virtually identical to that of my two Pretty Maids reviews this month! I recommend you checkout those reviews as well.
Ahhh…sweet Bonfire…How I burn for thee!
Have you ever been looking through your collection and been hit by the realization that you have almost the entire catalogue of band but didn’t really know it? That happened to me with Bonfire. I actually have nine Bonfire albums! Weird. There haven’t been any reviews of Metal-Rules of this great band who have been around for over 20 years. Accordingly, I picked out two CD’s to review, a live and a compilation, to give an overview of their career because I am too lazy to review all ten, studio albums. Check out my review of LIVE…THE BEST for this month!
Don’t let the title fool you! Some of you are thinking, “JP, Are you nuts?! A four out of five for a ballad compilation?” Well, not exactly. The title is not really accurate. This s not truly a best of ballads per se. Yes, there ARE several ballads on this 17 track compilation. I like power ballads! The band likes doing power ballads! So there really is no shame in such a collection. Hell, Axel Rudi Pell has done two ballad compilations!
What is it with Germans and these damn ballad compilations?… Seriously…
This CD is subtitled Recordings from 1986-1997. It really is a nice little decade retrospective from when the band dropped the name Cacumen, became Bonfire, signed to RCA and did several popular albums. The packaging is adequate, again like their Live CD makes me believe that this was a contractual obligation CD of sorts. Again another dull cover with the band logo, but it does have a discography of sorts, credits and a few photos.
The songs are where this really shines. If you don’t feel like going and finding five, out of print Bonfire studio CD’s (two of them quite rare) this is a great introduction to the band which is really one of the better and longer running classic melodic hard rock acts around today. The production quality of these guys has always been top notch over the years Michael Wagener and Mack (queen) at the helm. The caliber of musicianship has always been good, especially the guitar work of ex-Pretty Maids member Angel Schleifer, and briefly Ken Mary on drums. The powerful, soulful voice of Claus Lessman has been a constant focal point, not too smooth but not to rough either.
There are a few hidden treasures on this disc, a cover of Billy Squier’s, “The Stroke” and a tune penned by Joe Lynn turner called, “Sweet Obsession”. The disc also has an unreleased acoustic version of their tune, “Rock ‘n’ roll Cowboy and one of my favorite power ballads of all time, “Sleeping All Alone”, featuring a massively catchy, giant harmonized, background gang-vocal chorus! The songs really do have an American hard rock quality to them that these Germans have perfected.
If you have yet to discover Bonfire this is certainly the disc to start with, it is an excellent representation of the most successful years of their career. If you like this they now have 10 studio CD’s under their belt for you to enjoy.