THE GRACE OF A DRAGONFLY
Back in the 1980s, Lionheart had the potential to be one of the leading British bands but the hand of Rock fate meant that for a variety and combination of reasons, they were not to be. Their reunion in 2016 was initially met with warmth, the old guard together again, nostalgia and all that but it soon became apparent with the release of their second/reunion album, Second Nature in 2017, that there was a band here that never reached their full potential. Three years later, The Reality Of Miracles came out to unanimous praise, the band seemingly unleashing themselves in every aspect and now, The Grace Of A Dragonfly.
My word! If anyone ever had any doubts about whether this quintet has something new to offer, then this will shoot them down in flames as each aspect of the album, namely songwriting, performance and production have been taken to a new level by all concerned. Based around the theme of World War II (it’s not a concept album as such as the tracks stand-alone), with an overall plea for world peace, the songs deliver stories from the era and messages for today with aplomb, using powerful melodies and harmonies over music that is original and invigorating. There is power, drama and angst in the playing; tension, desperation and spirit in the vocals and The Longest Night is an outstanding example of this. Building tension until the solo section where the two guitars dual as the bass drums and keyboards keep the track pinned down, one can easily imagine being trapped on a tube station as the Luftwaffe rained bombs on London.
The balance between the five members is divine. Each member knows when to step up and step back and when they do step up, they jump to the front. Credit where it is due, these are highlighted by Steve Mann’s engineering, production and mixing. There are subtleties in the background that create atmosphere, and when the time is right, the combination of the five members comes at you like a panzer division. There is light and shade as well, something that is sadly lacking in many albums today and what that does is give you an extra emotion. It draws you in, overwhelms you and then, as if the skies clear, you are returned to calm; sonically, the album is a hi-fi dream.
This is Lionheart’s finest album to date and that was a big ask from all given how good The Reality Of Miracles is. That album was ‘Scramble!’, this is ‘Chocks away!’
V Is For Victory
This Is A Woman’s War
The Longest Night
The Eagle’s Nest
Just A Man
The Grace Of A Dragonfly
Remembrance, Praying For World Peace
*Towers Of Silver (Japanese edition bonus track)
Bernie’s last three albums, the inspiration series, paid homage to his heroes with, quite frankly, blistering renditions of Blues and Rock classics. Here, in sadly what has turned out to be his final album, we have fourteen of his own compositions and a bonus disc featuring more of those inspired covers.
It’s a marvellous piece of work. It’s an album for Classic Rock fans, Blues fans, anyone who misses the great song writing that used to exist in their youth and anyone who values production and playing as an integral part of an album. Above everything else though, is his guitar playing – ‘sublime’ is the word that just about covers it - because every note, every phrase and every riff makes you realise what a talent we lost this year. This album shouldn’t be listened to with sadness though as that’s not what Bernie would have wanted. Yes, there are moments where his playing and singing hit you in a soft spot but there are many more that will put a big Bernie smile on your face, starting from when you press the play button.
There’s more than a nod to his Whitesnake era in the opener and I suspect there was a twinkle in his eye when he wrote and recorded it. This and all the songs on disc one are Bernie originals (four are co-written) and each one is not only a great song, it’s well recorded, aurally pleasing and never goes on too long; the disc is not only a masterclass of how to write, it’s a lesson in production as well. Disc two comprises reimagining’s of some of his own compositions as well as some Blues classics. It’s generally a more laid-back selection of recordings and his ability to rearrange songs that are so familiar to us is extraordinary. There must be a hundred different recordings of Come On In My Kitchen out there already but Bernie’s take on it is as fresh as the day Robert Johnson wrote it and referring back to Whitesnake, this version of Here I Go Again far exceeds the original in may ways.
The thing is, this set proves that Bernie’s own songs can sit comfortably, side-by-side with the classics. It was an awful day when the news broke about him leaving this world but he’ll be with his old mates Jeff Beck and Cozy Powell now, plugging in, grinning from ear-to ear. Us mere mortals will have to wait a while before we see him play again but in the meantime, we can sit back and enjoy one final album from one of the best.
Son I've Never Known
Pick It Up*
Look At Me Now
Who's Fooling Who
Just Don't Have The Time
Here I Go Again
Ain't No Love In The Heart of The City
Til The Day I Die
Time Is Right For Love
Come On In My Kitchen
* Japanese edition bonus tracks