Released in 1990 (CBS Records) and 2010 (Rock Candy Records)
Billboard Chart Position #141
02. Play Dirty
03. Skin To Skin
04. Find Another Way
05. Up Against The Wall
06. Hold On To Tonight
07. Can’t Catch Me
08. Bad Reputation
09. Daddy’s Little Girl
10. Is That All You Want?
11. Come Play The Game
12. Don’t Stop, Don’t Go
2010 Reissue Bonus Tracks:
13. Superstition (demo)
14. U Got It (demo)
15. Just Another Fire (demo)
Mark Evans – vocals and acoustic guitar
Reggie Wu – guitar, keyboards and background vocals
Steven Parry – guitar and background vocals
G.G. Guidotti – bass and background vocals
David Rath – drums and percussion
Ray Koob – additional vocals
Mike French – additional vocals
Produced by Neil Kernon.
Fresh off my first attendance of Maryland’s M3 Rock Festival, the first CD I bought upon my return to Canadian soil was the debut from the first band to play on day 2 of the festival — Heavens Edge. I am well aware that Heavens Edge‘s self-titled debut album was released almost twenty five years ago, however I was (for the most part) unfamiliar with the Philadelphia quintet until heading to M3. I only caught three songs from their set before heading off to the main stage to catch Keel (you can read my M3 review here) but heard enough to pique my interest.
Given my lack of familiarity with Heavens Edge, this review will be devoid of any nostalgic feelings of any kind towards the band. I’m straying a little bit off topic now, but let me give you an example of how reviewing a record released decades ago, that you grew up listening to, might well result in a skewed non-objective review. A prime example for me would be Alice Cooper‘s Special Forces, an album I recently heard again after a lengthy hiatus. For many people, Special Forces is one of the worst Cooper records out there, but for me it conjures many great childhood memories and has me singing along even when a lot of the songs are admittedly not that good. Needless to say, it would get a good review in my book.
There are two things that I noticed right from the start while listening to Heavens Edge‘s debut. First of all, Reggie Wu, who presumably handles the leads, is one fantastic guitarist — sounding like a hybrid between George Lynch and a good Vinnie Vincent. Second of all, Heavens Edge is definitely an album from the late ’80s/early ’90s, capturing a lot of the cheesy cliches from that era including Vincent-esque guitar shredding and sappy keyboard oriented ‘power’ ballads. That being said, if you don’t mind being transplanted back in time, Heavens Edge is for the most part a pretty rocking CD.
The disc kicks off with “Play Dirty”, a catchy song highlighted by some wicked Wu solos, and “Skin To Skin”, which is probably Heavens Edge‘s best known song given that they shot a video for it and which I consider to be the band’s best composition. “Find Another Way” is best described as a ‘fast’ ballad laced with keyboards and a typical ’80s chorus — it is actually pretty catchy. Apparently, back in the day, “Find Another Way” was gaining steam on the radio and the band was filming a video for it when their record label pulled the marketing budget — with that turn of event, Heavens Edge‘s short lived career took a turn for the worse. As the linear notes in the repackaged CD booklet indicate, the band members still ponder whether they should have released “Find Another Way” instead of “Skin To Skin” as the lead-off single. Next up is “Up Against The Wall” which is another fast paced rocker with some serious guitar shredding.
If every song on Heavens Edge’ was nearly as strong as the first four, this would be one heck of a debut — unfortunately that is not the case. I find that the song quality goes down after the four openers and I have had a hard time listening to the whole album in its entirety in one shot. The ballad “Hold On To Tonight” was really painful to listen to the first few times, but amazingly I am warming up to it. It is the type of cheesy ballad that KISS would have come up with during their short-lived and keyboard infested period in the late ’80s (think Crazy Nights). Luckily the next song, “Can’t Catch Me”, speeds things up although it suffers from guitar shredding excess and the part leading up to the chorus is pretty awful. “Bad Reputation” is a disappointment with its very slow ’80-esque keyboard filled intro before launching into a faster rocker and then slowing down once again. From there it feels like the rest of the CD plods along, full of ’80s cliches — but the live version of “Is That All You Want?” is interesting with its long bluesy and slide guitar intro. “Come Play The Game” is a confusing track — it starts with an easy sing along chorus that sets the scene for a faster pace but then it slows down almost to a halt for the verses. Not surprisingly, Heavens Edge closes with a hard rocker — in this case “Don’t Stop, Don’t Go” — which would likely be a good song live.
The 2010 remaster of the album contains three demo tracks, all of which could easily have replaced some of the songs that made the original pressing. “Superstition” is probably better than half of the songs on Heavens Edge while “U Got It” is better than a quarter of them. The last demo, the ballad “Just Another Fire”, is surprisingly good (considering some of the awful ballads here) and brims with emotion without cheesy keyboards all over it. If Heavens Edge had included those three demos, and dropped the number of songs to nine or ten on the original release, Heavens Edge could have been one heck of an album.
Reviewed by Olivier for Sleaze Roxx, September 2014