Warrior featuring Vinnie Vincent, Jimmy Waldo, Gary Shea, Hirsh Gardner: S/T
Having released three studio albums between 1979 and 1981, the band New England found themselves at something of a crossroads. With their deal with Elektra going south and their guitarist and singer John Fannon deciding he'd had enough, it mattered not that Paul Stanley (Kiss) had produced the band's stellar debut, that Mike Stone had done likewise for the Explorer Suite follow up, or that Todd Rundgren had taken on the role for 1981's Walking Wild. With Fannon gone, it was time to start again, and as they searched for a new guitarist (and singer) the remaining trio of keyboardist Jimmy Waldo, bassist Gary Shea and drummer Hirsh Gardner, began phoning their contacts, including a certain Gene Simmons of Kiss (both bands having been managed by Bill Aucoin).
With Kiss quickly reaching the end of the road with their then guitarist Ace Frehley, they'd enlisted a young six stringer named Vincent Cusano to help write and record their Creatures Of The Night album, but believing him to be too short to join the band full-time, Simmons suggested he'd be perfect for New England. Having heard his demo tape, the trio agreed not only to meet Cusano, but set about learning his songs so they could rehearse together. The quartet clicked immediately, the only problem being that Cusano had his sights set on forming his own band, rather than joining another. Agreeing to leave New England behind them, the new outfit settled on the name Warrior and recorded a six song demo with Cusano not only playing guitar, but singing, as they fashioned tracks from the material he'd written.
Amazingly the guitarist was still working on Creatures Of The Night at the time and as he worked in Warrior through the day, he'd record with Kiss at night, flipping a coin to try and decide which band would get which of the songs he was writing (Warrior working on "I Love It Loud" at one point…). With Cusano keen to focus on his guitar work, ex-Le Roux man Fergie Frederiksen was briefly drafted in to record vocals on five songs but with the rest of the band believing that with Cusano they already had the vocalist they wanted, Frederiksen moved on to eventually join Toto.
As quickly as it all began, things ground to a halt, and while it would be Frehley's face on the cover of the Kiss album Creatures Of The Night, he was no longer in the band; Cusano, now renamed Vinnie Vincent, asked to join. Ninety days after Warrior had first met, they were over… Waldo and Shea would go on to form Alcatrazz with ex-Rainbow frontman Graham Bonnet and guitarist Yngwie Malmsteen (and then Steve Vai), while Gardner would move into production work. Vincent's tenure in Kiss would be a brief one, departing the band in 1984 after only one official album, their first 'unmasked' release, Lick It Up. He'd go on to form the Vinnie Vincent Invasion not long after, the guitar-pyrotechnic fixated band lasting only two albums, before the rest of his outfit would ditch their leader and morph into Slaughter.
Released by HNE/Cherry Red, what this Warrior retrospective brings together is the six song demo with Vinnie on vocals, three of the same songs and two others in an instrumental guise and then the five tracks Frederiksen cut with them. Admittedly most Kiss/VVI fans will already have most of these recordings, as many of them have been floating around the bootleg circuit for years in various different guises. Having them brought together here shows the chemistry that clearly existed between this quartet and, to be fair to him, the strength of Vinnie's song writing. Thankfully they are also (slightly) better in terms of sound quality too. From the original sessions "Boys Gonna Rock" morphed into "And On The 8th Day" on Kiss's Lick It Up, while also being reinvented alongside "Back On The Streets" and "Baby Oh Baby" on the debut Invasion album. Interestingly "It's Not Pretty (Being Easy)" and "I Need Love" illustrate just how key Vinnie had become in the Kiss machine, as it's easy to imagine Gene Simmons singing the former, while hearing Paul Stanley take on the latter would have been a joy.
Unsurprisingly it's those initial six songs that prove the strongest and most engaging on show, although "Betrayed" and "Hot Nights" also show promise (the latter allowing Vinnie to reveal his inner shredder - which would prove his undoing in Kiss). The Frederiksen fronted tracks are cool too, if a little rougher. As a singer he was clearly superior to the double V and yet, he never sounds all that comfortable handling this material.
There's no doubt this is a collection of tarted up demos and yet the heart of what the four guys that were nearly Warrior were hoping to achieve, is clearly on show. While the excellent liner notes shine a light on what was a turbulent time for all concerned through the insightful contributions from Shea himself.
For Kiss, Vinnie Vincent, New England and Fergie Frederiksen fans this collection isn't just welcome, it's long overdue.
STUDIO RECORDINGS 1982
1. BOYS GONNA ROCK
2. IT'S NOT PRETTY (BEING EASY)
3. GYPSY IN HER EYES
4. BACK ON THE STREETS
5. I NEED LOVE
6. BABY OH WHY
8. HOT NIGHTS
9. BABY OH WHY
10. BACK ON THE STREETS
11. I NEED LOVE
REHEARSALS FEATURING FERGIE FREDERIKSEN
12. BACK ON THE STREETS
13. GYPSY IN HER EYES
14. BABY OH WHY
15. HOT NIGHTS
Added: October 1st 2017
Reviewer: Steven Reid
Related Link: Warrior at Cherry Red
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