Lita Ford - Living Like A Runaway (2012) Jul 27, 2012 12:55:02 GMT -5
Post by Erik Rupp on Jul 27, 2012 12:55:02 GMT -5
After showing some promise with the raw, rough around the edges Out For Blood, and then the more polished Dancing On The Edge, Lita Ford seemed to be poised to become a major player in the world of Hard Rock and old school Heavy Metal.
And then she took a left turn, veering sharply towards Pop. That directional shift gave her the success she was looking for, but it also took away a bit of the musical identity that she had been building for a decade at that point (first with The Runaways in the 70's, and then as a solo artist in the early/mid 80's).
For years people were hoping for a return to the edgier, harder style that were the cornerstone of her first two solo albums. With each album release Ford promised a little harder style, but with each release the style was still largely Pop with Rock decorations. Pop music played with somewhat loud, distorted guitars amidst the keyboards. And with each passing release her original group of fans, and those Hard Rock and Metal fans who had been developing an interest in Ford were losing that interest. By the end of the decade Ford's career was in decline, and while she was still respected among Hard Rock fans (partly because of her looks and attitude), few really cared if she put out a new album.
A couple years ago Ford released her first new album in a decade, Wicked Wonderland, a misguided attempt at combining her 80's style with modern styles, including industrial influences. It was a bad album. Seemingly, the final nail in the coffin for her career. And then Lita got a divorce and everything changed.
Without her now ex-husband pushing her in directions (according to various reports) that were detrimental to the quality of her music (and thus to her career), Lita was free to make the album that she wanted to make. She enlisted guitar player Gary Hoey to produce (and co-write) the album, and the results are refreshing.
Nothing terribly pretentious or experimental, Living Like A Runaway just rocks. Sure, there are a few pseudo-industrial bits here and there (basically just nods to modern production techniques), but for the most part Living Like A Runaway is a straightforward Hard Rock album - exactly what her fans wanted as the follow up to Dancing On The Edge over 25 years ago.
Better late than never, I suppose.
Lita opens the album with a high octane, uptempo song in the form of, "Branded." THis is a great Hard Rock song with a lot of energy and enthusiasm. Listening to this song you'd think you're listening to an outtake from a possible follow up to Dancing On The Edge (which she did record, but never released). This is vintage Lita Ford, with good riffs, solid vocal melodies, and a good hook.
That's also the last time the album has that much energy or a fast tempo. That's not necessarily a bad thing, but another uptempo song or two would have really gone a long way towards giving the album a little better flow. The rest of the album just features varying degrees of middling tempos. Again, that doesn't reflect on the quality of the songs, but it is a little disappointing.
In light of the movie theater shooting in Aurora, Colorado the song, "Hate," takes on a new eerie quality. It is a song about a kid who grows up to be a mass murderer killing fifteen people in a shooting. The lyrics could have been written about the shooter in the Aurora case, only the album was released just days before the shooting. Eerie. On it's own merits it is a very good song, successfully combining elements of modern Metal with Ford's own brand of 80's Hard Rock. It's a fairly dark song, but is still catchy - the kind of song that makes you involuntarily bob your head up and down with it's strong, driving beat. Ford is two for two at this point.
Things get a little more modern production-wise with the next song, "The Mask," with it's use of triggered electronic drum sounds and vocal effects. Lyrically, this song seems to be a very personal song for Ford, as this may be a song about her ex-husband. If so, that was one messed up relationship. Musically, the song is good, but slower and even darker than it's predecessor, which makes it just a little less enjoyable, but not by a lot. This is one of those songs that work well as an album cut - it is like the glue that holds everything together, giving the album some variety and builds the overall album vibe.
A vibe which is blown completely apart by the next song, the title track. This is a balladic song that is basically Ford's autobiography distilled down to song form. It's nothing terribly special, but following the two mid tempo songs that preceded it was probably best left to an uptempo song to give the album a better flow. This isn't a bad song at all, it's just that aside from the autobiographical nature of the lyrics (which is very appealing) it doesn't stand out as a particularly great track. Musically, it's ordinary.
The next track, "Relentless," is a song written solely by Hoey, and here he's guilty of lifting the riff from Winger's, "No Man's Land," (from their 1993 album, Pull). Both songs are good. No, Winger's song is very good, and, "Relentless," would be, too, if not for the borrowed riff. Lyrically, this is something you'd expect from Ford...
"I never listened, I proved them all wrong
I rocked their asses from here to Hong Kong
I'm not invited, but I'm comin' anyway
I am relentless"
Not exactly Shakespeare, but surprising in that those lyrics came from Hoey and not Ford. Despite the cliched nature of the lyrics the song works and works well. It's got a killer riff (thanks, Winger!), and some top notch vocal melodies, and is a fun track. It could be a little faster, though (it's just a hair slower than the Winger song).
"Mother," is a deeply personal song from Lita to her children. In this one, a largely acoustic ballad (with a semi-heavy middle section), Lita speaks directly to her kids (who, apparently, live with their father). According to Ford her ex-husband has convinced their children that she is to blame for the breakup of their family. This gives the song an edge emotionally that Rock rarely sees. This is real, this is personal, and Ford is clearly hurting. Musically, this song is above average for an acoustic/electric ballad. This one works, and works exceptionally well.
The next song features moments of acoustic guitar again, but is mostly another mid tempo rocker. "Devil In My Head," is one of the album's stronger tracks as it stomps it's way through its five minutes and twenty-two seconds. More good riffs and very strong vocal melodies make this one a big time winner for Ford.
"Asylum," opens with some lush keyboards, leading into an Iron Maiden-esque song. A Maiden ballad, or the kind of dynamic track that they are occasionally known for (mid tempo with mellow parts and heavy parts). The twin guitars playing harmony leads at each verse really echo the Iron Maiden sound. This is truly a Ford/Maiden hybrid in style, and it works. This would seem to be another deeply personal song about Lita's feelings regarding her marriage, and if some of the songs on this album are any indication it was not a happy one for her. Again, this song has an emotional edge that is real, and rare for the genre. Another very good song.
On the next song, "Luv 2 Hate U," Ford sings a duet with Hoey, and while this one would seem to be another personal track about her marriage there is a slight tongue in cheek, smart-ass nature to the lyrics. This one is a little lighthearted, and the lyrics are not as specific to her former relationship. Musically? It's middling. Mid tempo, with Rock and pop elements. It's not a ballad, it's not a super heavy track, and it has echoes of classic 70's Rock. It's just good.
Nikki Sixx supplies the final track, "A Song To Slit Your Wrists By," which sounds like some of what Sixx has done to try and sound modern over the last decade or so. Somewhat elecrtronic, somewhat old school, it's a decent track, but not one of the best on the album. Even so, it's far better than most of the songs from Lita's late 80's albums.
Living Like A Runaway, musically, is just what Lita needed to get her career off the ground again. Whether or not it sells well is almost irrelevant. It's a damned good album for this kind of music. Ford and Hoey have crafted an album that works well as an album, not just a bunch of songs recorded and released together. It is cohesive, and has a musical identity. An appealing one.
As for the audio production, Hoey does a fairly good job. It sounds better than most of Ford's albums from the 80's, and sounds good next to most current albums, so on that count it is also a success.
If you've ever liked Lita Ford this album is definitely worth a purchase.