Fireworks

Fiona - 'Fiona' / 'Beyond The Pale' / 'Heart Like A Gun' http://www.rocktopia.co.uk/media/reviews/photos/thumbnail/200x200s/8d/2b/11/Fiona-Fiona-91-1445624638.jpg Hot

Added by Central Electronic Brain     October 23, 2015    
 
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If you don't have them then this is a perfect way to check out a much under-rated artist.

Fairly recently back on the radar after a new album and some European shows (including, of course, our own Firefest!), U.S. singer Fiona Flanagan probably came closer to hitting the big time in the eighties than most people realise. Several of her singles sold pretty well, she appeared in Miami Vice and starred in the film 'Hearts Of Fire' alongside Bob Dylan, but disappeared right after her fourth album, 'Squeeze'.

Back in1985 Fiona was paired with Good Rats leader Peppi Marchello as the writer and producer of a pretty solid AOR release, which she raised a notch with her spirited delivery. Opener 'Hang Your Heart On Me' was a great self-penned Rocker that is bettered only by the wonderful stab at the Shanghai classic 'Talk To Me' that follows it. The mostly Marchello-written remainder features some great playing from ex-Starz guitarist Bobby Messano and Good Rats/Twisted Sister drummer Joe Franco, with bassist Donnie Kisselback also contributing the lively 'Over Now'. Of the Marchello songs, he had a couple of crackers in the catchy 'Rescue You' and the nice ballad 'Love Makes You Blind', but the twee 'Na Na Song' didn't do anyone any favours. Sound-wise it holds up pretty well, with Messano's guitar and Benjy King's keyboards making all the right noises, Franco thumping away like only he can and Fiona herself well up in the mix and firing on all cylinders.

By her 1986 offering 'Beyond The Pale' she was working with her then boyfriend Beau Hill, who was hot property after producing Ratt's multi-platinum albums and had ironically written the best track on her debut. Bringing in his regular session guitarists Reb Beach and Mike Slamer alongside her original band, Beau took complete control, playing several instruments and co-writing some songs and bringing in others. Despite a fairly strong set of tunes, he also updated the sound, perhaps in a bid to make Fiona the next Cyndi Lauper.

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The adventurous synth-heavy sound was at odds with Fiona's powerful voice, in fact at times she's far too low in the mix and there's so much going on that even the guitar dream-team are somewhat redundant. 'Hopelessly Love You', 'Living In A Boy's World' and 'Running Out Of Night', for instance, are all flaccid Synth-Pop with all the raw edginess of her voice produced out, only 'Tragedy', 'Thunder And Lightning', 'Keeper Of The Flame' and 'You Better Wait' Rocked out with any kind of urgency. The ballad 'He's On My Side' and 'In My Blood' have trademark Slamer solos that make you smile, but even though the album sounds fine when you turn it up, it lacks the organic feel and the vocal power of the debut. I've long thought that the best thing about this album is that Beach and Kip Winger met while recording it.

To be totally honest I filed away 1989's 'Heart Like A Gun' the same week that I bought it, dismissing it as another watered down, over-produced effort from Hill. Revisiting it now, I feel a bit silly as it's nowhere near as bad as I first thought, mostly due to Fiona working with some skilled co-writers and the production assistance of the great Keith Olsen. The jangly Pop opener 'Little Jeannie (Got The Look Of Love)' isn't a perfect way to hook you in, but it does at least see the return of Fiona's raunchy vocal edge before the album starts properly with the Winger duet 'Everything You Do (You're Sexing Me)', a great upbeat song with a wonderful Brad Gillis solo, not the ballad you would expect from the title. There are a few other highlights too, like the superb high notes on the Fiona/Mark Mangold ballad 'Mariel', and the Rocky 'Draw The Line' with the unmistakeable Slamer stamp all over it. 'Look At Me Now' is another upbeat Pop Rocker and even the Van Stephenson co-write 'When Pink Turns To Blue' defies its low-key style by being a superb song that should have been a huge U.S. hit. Some of Fiona's best vocals are on this record, like the heartfelt 'Victoria Cross' and the Heart-like 'Here It Comes Again', placing the album just behind the debut and well in front of 'Beyond The Pale'.

I don't usually say this about Rock Candy's output but the re-mastering of the first two records is actually pretty indistinguishable from the Wounded Bird re-issues of a decade ago, although '...Gun' does sound punchier than the original CD, so if you don't have them then this is a perfect way to check out a much under-rated artist.

Phil Ashcroft

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