As the Steel Mill had the chance to chat with John Lawton this month, it’s a good time to share some thoughts on some of his work. Digging deeper past his most well known and most reviewed material with Uriah Heep, Lucifer’s Friend and the numerous solo releases, our point of focus turns upon a somewhat forgotten little gem on his CV – the album ‘Live You Life Forever’, released in 1990 by a band called Zar.
‘Live Your Life Forever’ is a second collaboration between John Lawton and a german guitarist Tommy Clauss – the duo had released a likewise ‘lost’ hard rock album ‘Stargazer’ some years earlier, under the moniker of ‘Rebel’. Rebel’s ‘Stargazer’ was a good collection of hard rock songs, produced by Lawton, it included a varied mixture of songs, some forgettable but some, like the title track, atmospheric ‘Surrender’ and the album closer ‘Wings Of Fire’ very good. The story of ‘Rebel’ was short lived and it wasn’t until 1990 when, with a revamped line-up John and Tommy gave their musical companionship a second go with Zar.
The driving force on ‘Live Your Life Forever’ are John’s vocals; strong and impressive as ever. Listening to the guy sing, one has to wonder why the world didn’t hear more of him during the eighties – after his departure from Uriah Heep.
But good vocals do little good if the songs themselves fail to impress. Luckily, on ‘Live Your Life Forever’, songwriting trio Clauss/keyboardist Jerry Schäfer/drummer Peter Kumpf did come up with some good quality tracks, although there are some more generic tunes in between the better ones.
The style of the album is reminiscent of melodic late 80’s / early 90’s AOR hard rock in the vein of big names like Journey or Foreigner, though there are moments where the band sounds quite a bit like their countrymen the Scorpions… ‘Gone For Tomorrow’ for instance proves that point. Like common to this type of melodic rock, the keyboards are a very prominent element on the songs, and indeed the era of album’s release is easy to point from the way it sounds.
The true diamond on the album is it’s opening song ‘Heart Of The Night’ that would’ve been a huge hit had it been done by a more famous band with more changes for radio play. The song stomps on at the pounding beat of Kumpf’s heavy drums, while guitar and keyboards play on top. Lawton’s voice is crystal clear, soulful and all-round impressive. Like said, ‘Heart Of The Night’ has all the elements of a big 80/90’s hard rock hit, especially the chorus is something that just begs for singing along.
Other notable moments on the record are the title track, which begins in a haunting fashion and evolves into another strong melo-rock tune. Clauss lays down some cool guitar lines that in this case made the early albums of finnish legends Tarot spring to my mind. ‘Lost Son Of The King’ is a hard rock fable constructed skillfully into a small mini-epic, again carried by the performances of Clauss & Lawton. Similar in style is ‘Cry Of The Nile’ that is one of the more metallic cuts on the record, offering a darker side to Zar’s playing.
At best, Zar plays together in very impressive fashion. Then again, sometimes the songs lack just that special finishing touch that would make them memorable enough. A suitable example can be made out of the ballad ‘The Look Of Your Eyes’ that’s completely carried from sinking by John’s wonderful singing, without which it wouldn’t leave any kind of mark at all. With two or three expections even the good songs would’ve needed that same finishing brush to add that real longevity to them, but even as it is, ‘Live Your Life Forever’ is an album that really would’ve deserved more recognition around the time of it’s release. And why not nowadays as well. Unfortunately it’s probably not the easiest album to find, but if it does come into view, fans of good melodic hard rock should find it pleasing. A good tip to spot it while rummaging through those rarities bins at your local record shop, is to keep your eyes open for Red Steel Music’s 2001 compilation called ‘John Lawton: Rebel/Zar’. In addition to ‘Live Your Life Forever’ the CD includes also the earlier mentioned ‘Stargazer’ album by Rebel and as such doubles the listening pleasure. That particular version does have one of the most horrible cover art attempts ever seen, though, so don’t get spooked!
1. Heart Of The Night
2. Line Of Fire
3. Live Your Life Forever
4. Lost Son Of The King
5. Cry Of The Nile
6. Gone For Tomorrow
7. The Look Of Your Eyes
8. She’s A Liar
9. Fire And Ice