Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Grand Halls 23

LODESTONE – “Lodestone” LP ’81 (Private, US) – One thing I’ve discovered over the years collecting and writing about music is that you can’t have an ego. What I mean is, you just cannot claim to be some all-knowing poobah, some great wizard who knows everything about everything. Had I done that awhile back, I may have totally missed out on what is a purely fantastic record. See, some cool cut was playing at a fellow-collector’s house and he says to me, “Sounds like LODESTONE right there.” If I was a big ego-boy, I’d’ve gone “Oh yeah, really does” and probably forgot about the whole thing a couple hours later. Instead, ol’ humble me replies “Like who?!?!” An hour later I was leaving the guy’s house with a cd-r in my hand and a bug up my ass to FIND THIS DAMN VINYL NOW! Luckily, I recently did score the vinyl in a trade & have been stoked ever since. Pay attention friends…

LODESTONE were apparently from Camarillo, California and were composed of Joe Silva – vocals, guitar & keys; Phillip Sheldon – lead guitar; Terry Sapp – bass; Jeff Easom – drums. Their lone album was a self-released affair that came in 1981, not a bad year on the other side of The Pond either! The jacket that houses this record features a cool, primitive painting of a Gibson SG hovering over a backdrop of mountains and a lake. And, from the minute that the stylus hits “Nomad,” you can tell that what comes inside is not the product of a million dollar studio. That great, raw sound gives the 6 minute opener just the impetus it needs, as it straddles the line between late ‘70’s hard rock & early ‘80’s metal nicely. Another thing I love about it is that it contains all kinds of lead fills by Phillip Sheldon. Not just content to showcase his talent with a solo, Sheldon follows in the tradition of ‘70’s stalwarts like Schenker & West who always augmented verses & choruses with flowing lead flourishes. Up next is the short “Golden Rod,” and from it’s simple structure and overtly sexual lyrics, one might guess that it was aimed toward the mainstream (as if an album like this would’ve ever had a chance with the FM radio dweebs!). Whatever the case, it’s not a bad song, just the most basic on offer here. “And Then I Met You” is far from basic, however! Over 8 minutes in length, it opens with an introspective acoustic section, featuring some emotional vocals by Silva. He certainly isn’t a super-technical singer by any stretch, but has tons of feeling in his mid-range voice, somewhat akin to Kirk Bryk of Sorcery (ask me about them sometime!). Midway through this opus, the band breaks into a heavy, faster rhythm over which Sheldon lays down a blistering extended solo, highlighting another aspect of his style. Unlike most modern-day guitarists, who tend to plan out every note in advance, Phillip’s work throughout this album strikes me as very exploratory. What I mean is that when he launches into a solo, you get the idea that he’s going to take his time, not rush things and see where it takes him. The destination is always good, and as “And Then…” proves, half the fun is getting there! Side One closes with “Take Me There,” an oddly-structured number in that it opens with a rather long instrumental passage before the vocals finally come in about halfway through. Again, super song and killer axe work.

Side Two of “Lodestone” starts out just as strongly and keeps on gaining steam. “Last Days” and “One More On The Shelf” are both wonderfully original HM / HR crossover that display nice melodic sections and heaviness to boot. Sapp’s bass and Easom’s drums set the pace as Sheldon and Silva give the songs a depth and flavor that make them come alive. The third cut, “Cerebrate” (interesting pun) is a dynamic rocker that I really dig a lot, for one reason in particular. During it’s solo, Sheldon cops a snippet of a like that Tony Iommi used at the end of Sabbath’s “A National Acrobat.” It’s one of my very favourite guitar lines of all time and it’s very seldom mentioned. To hear it picked up on here (whether intentionally or not) and segued so well into this song is way cool. Finally, LODESTONE wrap up their solitary album with one of the greatest heavy ballads in history, standing just a notch or 2 below Winterhawk’s “Free To Live.” “Kim’s Song” is quite a tour d force. Weighing in at a hefty 9:40, it opens with what has to be among the most emotional and plaintive melodic sections ever committed to vinyl. Joe Sliva’s vocals are just wracked with feeling here, and you can imagine he’s throwing his soul into every word. After a bit, the entire band joins in and Sheldon goes about the business of delivering his definitive solo. Long, far-reaching and epic in scope, this lead guitar section knows few peers, standing in good company with such axe statements as Macarus’ in “Free To Live” and Schenker’s in “Rock Bottom.” If you don’t feel like you’ve gotten at least close to Mecca by the time this one’s over, you probably are reading the wrong website right now. 9.5

“Lodestone” is a total obscurity and, as I pointed out earlier, one that almost got by me. It goes for a pretty penny these days on the collector’s market. My advice for best bet on trying to locate a copy in some form would be to contact Rockadrome Records at: http://www.rockadrome.com/

7 comments:

Sir Lord Doom said...

I got it on CDr and this is a masterpiece...thanks for turning me onto this gem, Ray...just as you did with U8 and Gallow's Pole...you're the best, brother!!!!

raysrealm said...

Yeah, this was one of those that put me on my ass at a time that I was starting to get a kinda big head about thinking I "knew" the osbcurity bizz. Moral? You never know it all and there's always something waiting to kick your butt.

SweetGrly04 said...

Funny reading about this, my father is Joe Silva. He sent me the link to this site and said he couldn't open it and wanted to know what it said.

raysrealm said...

I hope he got to read it, as the album is just great and he deserves to be known. An unfortunate aside is that just about a month after writing this, my cd-r of this album stopped playing! No idea why!

SweetGrly04 said...

Haha yeah I copied and sent it to him. He was wondering how to get in touch with you guys though. He said he is very interested in talking to people who enjoy his music.

raysrealm said...

He can email me at: raysrealm@aol.com

Anonymous said...

I found this at a thrift store in Cincinnati. Must have been quite a journey there!