|Musical Style: Hard Rock||Produced By: John Garner|
|Record Label: Independent||Country Of Origin: USA|
|Year Released: 2006||Artist Website: Sir Lord Baltimore|
|Tracks: 6||Rating: 85%|
|Running Time: 28:03|
Any discussion in regards to the origin of heavy metal as an art form almost inevitably revolves around several pioneering bands - with Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath and Deep Purple being the most noteworthy – that by and large define the genre. One lesser-known act that deserves equal consideration, however, is Sir Lord Baltimore. A Brooklyn, New York based outfit that got its start in the late sixties, Sir Lord Baltimore is renowned for being the first band to be associated with the term “heavy metal”. If in doubt then be sure to read the review of the bands 1970 debut Kingdom Come, appearing in the May 1971 issue of Creem, in which the following statement was made:
This album is a far cry from the currently prevalent Grand Funk sludge, because Sir Lord Baltimore seems to have down
pat most all the best heavy metal tricks in the book.1
Sir Lord Baltimore, unfortunately, did not remain around long enough to capitalize on this momentum in that following the release of its 1971 self-titled sophomore effort its members, mostly due to circumstances beyond their control, went their separate ways.
Now, the definition of “heavy metal” has gone through its share of transformations over the years; with that in mind, the bands earlier material could easily fall under the label of heavy metal- as defined by the times. But its most recent outing, the bluesy Zeppelin influenced hard rock of its 2006 release III Raw, certainly features the heavier sound but might not be classified as heavy metal by today’s standards. Close in places, but that is not the point. Irregardless, if you are searching for a retro-seventies hard rock sound reflecting a heavy Zeppelin vibe then look no further than III Raw. Yes, an abundance of guitar driven momentum prevails here, particularly on hard rockers such as “(Gonna) Fill The World With Fire” and “Love Slave”. On the other hand, the album delivers its share of catchy hooks as well, best showcased on “Rising Son” and “Mission” in addition to the seven minute acoustic laced semi-ballad “Wild White Horses”.
It is worth noting that the six songs encompassing III Raw were originally written back in the band’s heyday and intended for inclusion on its third album, which would have seen the light of day in the mid-seventies. Yet, despite the passage of nearly 30 years, founding member’s vocalist/drummer John Garner and guitarist Louis Dambra recently re-united and recorded their classic material from scratch. The one place where the newer versions of the songs in question differ from the originals, however, resides in the area of lyrical direction. And that is where the faith of Garner and Dambra comes into play. For example, check out the following line to “Love Slave”:
I heard a voice from above, He said,
“I want to know that it’s you that I love
I am that I am, the God of true love”
“Cosmic Voice” hits the point home as well:
Blazing eyes of fire, time is at the wire, only hope is Jesus Christ
Apocalypse won’t wait, don’t ya hesitate, receive power from on high
“(Gonna) Fill The World With Fire” also makes a strong statement:
On the narrow road, burn chariots of fire, living on a hope, make God your desire
If ya see Satan coming, better change your stride, don’t try and stick with him, kid
It’ll be suicide
The aptly title “Rising Son”, on the other hand, sums things up best:
Victorious persistence, will crush resistance, unleash the rivers of your mind
Spirit resolution, find a solution
You could be the chosen living beneath the rising’ Son, only one
As a power trio, Sir Lord Baltimore showcases the clean and smooth sounding vocal style of John Garner. Heavily rooted in the classic rock flavorings of the seventies, Garner adds some grit and gravel to his delivery on “Love Slave” while adding a more even touch on “Wild White Horses”. “Rising Son” even finds him mixing in some very well done Plant-like falsettos as well. Garner also handles drums and proves quite the adept timekeeper, contributing a style that is heavy footed by technical at the same time. Louis Dambra effectively buries the album in layer upon layer of tight sounding rhythm guitar in addition to furnishing the needed amount of bluesy and at times fluid work on lead guitar. Tony Franklin, who replaces original bassist Gary Justin, helps to anchor the low end strong and steady.
Production values, benefiting from advancements in studio technology not available in the early seventies, are of a very high quality in combining an ample amount of rhythm guitar with a rhythm section characterized by pronounced bass lines and crisp sounding drums.
Please see the bands website for ordering information and samples. You can also hear several songs from Kingdom Come at the “unofficial” Sir Lord Baltimore MySpace page: www.myspace.com/goodcheese
The album gets off to a strong start with two straightforward hard rockers in “(Gonna) Fill The World With Fire” and “Love Slave”.
“(Gonna) Fill The World With Fire” commences to a drum solo before a metal-edged rhythm guitar kicks in. Crunching its way forward in determined fashion, the song culminates for a groove-laden chorus highlighted by Garner’s smooth sounding vocal delivery. Dambra adds to the scene with his bluesy work on lead guitar.
The clanging cowbells at the start of the gritty “Love Slave” are soon underscored by a grinding riff. The song proceeds to advance through its first and second verse as a crunchy rhythm guitar plays a prominent role in the mix, an even transition made as it obtains a brief but prevailing blues soaked chorus.
The seven minute semi-ballad “Wild White Horses” opens to a serene blend of crisp rhythm guitar and punchy bass lines. Maintaining the gentle acoustic based direction during its verse portions, the song picks up in pace as the drums step forward in time to shore up a melodic based chorus giving rise to a plethora of ethereal ambience. Once the rhythm guitar interweaves with the acoustic guitar, it leads the way to a sweeping instrumental section sustained by more of Dambra’s fluid work on lead guitar.
“Rising Son” gets underway to several seconds of distorted guitar effects as the rhythm section pounds away in the background. Taking off at an upbeat tempo to Garner’s high end vocal stylings, an energetic setting is put in place as the song obtains an infectious chorus reflecting the heart of the Psalmist:
Your love is deep as the ocean
Your heart, stirs the emotion
Your words are deep as the ocean
Like a love potion
Dambra closes out the songs final minute with a fervid guitar solo. This one really grooves from front to back.
“Cosmic Voice” jumps out of the gate excitedly before rushing ahead in near frenzied fashion, an abundance of breakneck impetus maintained as it moves on to a vocal harmony driven chorus fortified by a prominently placed bass line. Briefly pausing, “Cosmic Voice” moves on to an instrumental section highlighted by a guitar solo of the blazing variety.
“Mission” strides through its first verse to a forward wall of crunchy filled rhythm guitar, not tapering off until a smooth changeover is made to its melodic flavored pre-chorus. The catchy momentum is held up for the non-stop hook-filled chorus that follows. A sharp sounding guitar solo holds sway over the instrumental section closing out the songs final minute.
Review by: Andrew Rockwell
John Garner – Lead Vocals & Drums
Louis Dambra – Guitars
Tony Franklin – Bass
Anthony Guido – Guitars
Sam Powell - Bass
Track Listing: “(Gonna) Fill The World With Fire” (3:39), “Love Slave” (3:42), “Wild White Horses” (7:00), “Rising Son” (4:44), “Cosmic Voice” (3:58), “Mission” (4:57)
1. Mike Saunders, Kingdom Come review, Creem 3 (May 1971).