Fireworks

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Helix - 'Smash Hits Unplugged' http://www.rocktopia.co.uk/media/reviews/photos/thumbnail/200x200s/79/58/1a/1207_helixsmashhitsunplugged_1304537621.jpg Hot

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A gentle romp through some truly catchy material.

If ever a title was self-explanatory then 'Smash Hits Unplugged' by excellent Canadian rockers Helix is a prime example. Having had a string of hit singles in the 80s and 90s in their native country - and Sweden too where their 1985 'Long Way To Heaven' album reached number one - the band have been touring incessantly for almost four decades with a mind-boggling amount of line-up changes, singer Brian Vollmer being the only ever-present. For the last couple of years the four surviving members from their heyday have been reunited: Vollmer, drummer Greg 'Fritz' Hinz, bassist Daryl Gray and guitarist Brent 'The Doctor' Doerner - guitarist Paul Hackman died in a tour bus accident in 1992, the second guitar slot is filled here by Kaleb 'Duckman' Duck. Despite the fact that you'd think their brand of high energy rock wouldn't work in a mostly acoustic scenario, it really does, and SHU is a gentle romp through some truly catchy material.

 It may be a bit of a surprise to hear some of these songs played in an almost country style (if you've ever heard Hayseed Dixie…) but the likes of 'Gimme Gimme Good Lovin', 'The Kids Are All Shakin' (featuring guest fiddle from Wendy Wright) and 'Heavy Metal Love' all work better than you would expect, similarly their trademark song 'Rock You' features Sean Kelly's banjo and slide guitar as well as the raucous gang vocals. Brian Vollmer is in great voice on these songs and the ballads work perfectly with 'Make Me Do (Anything You Want)', 'Deep Cuts The Knife' and 'Good To The Last Drop' being probably the most effective on the whole disc.

Fireworks - The Ultimate Magazine For Melodic Rock Music

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Surprises include the lesser known 'That Day Is Gonna Come' and covers of cult Canadian singer James LeRoy's 'Touch Of Magic' and Nazareth's 'Dream On', whilst the pairing of 'Wild In The Streets' and 'No Rest For The Wicked' is a certain crowd-pleaser for the established fan. It's interesting to hear what the band came up with on the interesting re-arrangements with guitarist Brent Doerner playing some mandolin, Daryl Gray playing keyboards, bodhran and harmonica alongside bass and his excellent backing vocals, and 'Fritz' playing drums with brushes (who'd have expected that?) 'Smash Hits Unplugged' is a great album that will be nice to dig out occasionally when the mood suits.

Phil Ashcroft

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