SAMSON – Head On [Collectors Edition Remastered +2] Out Of Print
Regarded as the most important album by one-time NWOBHM scene leaders SAMSON, “Head On” was reissued some time ago with bonus tracks and freshly remastered for the first time by Cherry Red Records / Lemon , an UK label lately doing a really interesting job in that matter.
However, there’s only two typical NWOBHM tracks here, as founder Paul Samson was determined to expand the band’s sound to a more traditional British Hard Rock.
This album is, essentially, Bruce Dickinson’s first foray into the serious world of music, and for all his freshman status, it doesn’t show at all. Quite blatantly, “Head On” may even feature some of the greatest performances by ‘Bruce Bruce’ (his stage name at the moment) throughout his career.
The disc also displays Paul Samson’s considerable talent as a guitarist and songwriter as well, reinforcing the loss to the metal community due to his death in 2002, aged just 49.
Bassist Chris Aylmer and crazy drummer Thunderstick completed the line-up. Thunderstick was an essential member in this band, not only for his particular playing using two sticks in each hand and opting for a dry snare sound, but also for his strong stage presence disguising his identity by wearing S&M masks and playing live locked in a steel cage.
Thunderstick is also who stares at you frighteningly while wielding a hatchet on the album’s cover. But despite the crass artwork, “Head On” boasts a breadth of writing and playing ability above much that the NOWBHM movement had to offer.
The overall sound is rather cliche of the emerging Hard Rock in UK in those years, but somehow, in Samson, there just seems to be something more there. All of the choruses are catchy enough to hang in your mind for days, and the sense of fun is ever present.
The less than typical “Vice Versa” is a highlight, a nice slow paced cut which showcases some strong Bruce vocals. Drums are nice and reverby – totally ’80s tom sound! – and bass is fat and well-rounded; the recording quality really shines through on this head-nodding, crisp track. The simple, strummed guitars phrase excellently with the passionate vocal performance, with Bruce executing his trademark, slicing nasty notes.
“Thunderburst” is an interesting listen. Co-written by Steve Harris and later recorded by Iron Maiden re-entitled as ‘Ides Of March’ for their Killers LP, it certainly sounds great given the production on the album, and serves as a perfect interlude before the relative onslaught that is “Hammerhead”.
Another memorable tune is the progressively tinged “Walking Out on You” exploring a very rich, developed sound leading in with ghostly whispers to the sound of a thumping bass for about a solid minute until Thunderstick and Paul Samson boom in and Dickinson cries out before delving back into the slow, steady groove and transitioning back into the quicker and slower paces creating a musical flux laced with emotion.
The only two NWOBHM styled tracks are “Take It Like a Man” and “Too Close to Rock”, as the rest are straightforward hard rockers. In “Take Me to Your Leader” and “Hunted” Paul Samson works out nice guitar melodies showing why he was the driving force behind on of the more successful UK hard rock bands in the ’80s.
We have two bonuses in this remastered reissue; the hard rock fantasy of “Angel With a Machine Gun”, and “Kingsway Jam” which as titles says, is an almost ten minute jam session with riffs galore, crazy percussion sounds and vocal sections that range from straightforward to spoken. At places, Dickinson manages to hit notes that seems to be gone from him by the time of Iron Maiden’s Number Of The Beast (spare, perhaps, some semblance of it towards the end of ‘Run to the Hills’).
“Head On” is a classic. These days may look musically dated but it represents an era, and this Cherry Red remaster is really good, old-school in dynamics (akin a pristine vinyl LP), clear and meaty. Unfortunately it seems to be out of stock at Cherry Red headquarters.
Although I prefer the more polished follower ‘Shock Tactics’ album, “Head On” is a milestone in traditional British Hard Rock, hitting the general album chart at number 34 back in a day, showing the fun, good-timey vibe that Samson was known for in this early phase.
Every house should have a copy in their classic hard rock / metal collection.
You’ve seen it first here, at 0dayrox
01 – Hard Times
02 – Take It Like A Man
03 – Vice Versa
04 – Manwatcher
05 – Too Close To Rock
06 – Thunderburst
07 – Hammerhead
08 – Hunted
09 – Take Me To Your Leader
10 – Walking Out On You
11 – Angel With A Machine Gun (Bonus Track)
12 – Kingsway Jam [Loger Version] (Bonus Track)
“Bruce Bruce” Dickinson – vocals
Paul Samson – guitar, backing vocals
Chris Aylmer – bass
Thunderstick (Barry Graham) – drums, backing vocals
OUT OF PRINT