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Harlequin (Canada) - 1984 Harlequin

ARTIST: Harlequin (Canada)
ALBUM: Harlequin
YEAR: 1984


LINEUP: George Belanger - lead vocals * Glen Willows - guitars * Gary Golden - keyboards * Ralph James - bass *David Budzak -drums

TRACK LISTING: 01 Take This Heart * 02 Keep This Fire Alive * 03 Don't Waste My Time * 04 Memories * 05 Can't Turn It Off * 06 Calling * 07 Trouble In Paradise * 08 Run For Your Life * 09 Love In Disguise

Despite being a strong release, 1982's 'One False Move' didn't meet with the commercial success enjoyed by 1980's 'Love Crimes'. It revealed a more punchy AOR sound at times (which sounded damn good to these ears), but there was no 'Innocence' to light up the charts. This might explain the arrival of Alfie Agius in the producer's chair, complete with all the pop trappings he brought with him. The overall sound shifted to a more hi-tech AOR direction, coupled with a more watery guitar sound prevalent through most of the album. However, as someone once wrote about Cheap Trick's widely misunderstood album 'The Doctor', Harlequin still 'rock through the technology'!

The Songs
'Take This Heart' immediately sets the blueprint for the album, shimmering guitar tones and pop tendencies everywhere, yet the hook and chorus both deliver knockout AOR. This should've been a big hit but wasn't, despite George Belanger's distinctive vocal form and a video recorded for tv. 'Keep This Fire Alive' serves up the mid-tempo AOR with a side-plate of tinkling keys for good measure. Some great riffing under the effectively simple chorus adds to the charm. 'Don't Waste My Time' delivers a strong circular hook on a bouncy foundation, often reminding one of 'Love On The Rocks' from 'Love Crimes', especially that hook - another rewarding chorus and another one for the win column. 'Memories' doesn't quite reach the same levels despite it's competent arrangement and neat melody, but 'Can't Turn It Off' is a very different matter: this is urgent AOR of the Survivor 'Vital Signs' calibre. Staccato riffing blended with a timeless bridge and semi-chanted AOR chorus lend all the necessary melodic drama for an AOR classic. 'Calling' launches side two with more convincing AOR - that chorus threatens to fall flat but they close it with a melodic knot of Utopia proportions, the kind of tingly chord change you thought only Todd Rundgren could come up with. 'Trouble In Paradise' is even better, despite the conspicuous lack of powerful guitar. Definitive keyboard hooks over a slow thud (read 'Eye Of The Tiger' tempo) add to the trademark Harlequin chorus - a truly simple AOR vocal becomes magic with just the right hook underneath. Listen to any Harlequin lp and they pull it off track after track. Ending off the vinyl, 'Run For Your Life' and 'Love In Disguise' are not as convincing purely because the melodies aren't as strong. No matter though, the first seven tracks contain enough classics to make this album a must have. The lead guitar work by Glen Willows is consistently fluid throughout the album, not a million miles from Neal Schon's 80's playing.

In Summary
Although a little more lightweight than what their Canadian AOR contemporaries (Streetheart, Loverboy, Triumph, Prism) were doing at the time, 'Harlequin' still stands tall as an example of 1984 AOR - back when bands knew about song craft and melody. It's a shame there's so little Harlequin available on CD. I've only seen a 'Greatest Hits' and 'Love Crimes' ... so how about it boys? Some reissues would make for a perfect late Christmas present to AOR followers everywhere!

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#1 | swazi on December 29 2009 20:48:14
Yes, I agree! I'd also love to see 'Harlequin' and 'One false Move' to be reissued on CD. Rock Candy, how about it ?!?!
#2 | reyno-roxx on December 30 2009 21:07:58
Renaissance were supposed to be reissuing 'One False Move'...
#3 | swazi on October 30 2011 08:48:56
2 years later and still no reissue .....! bawl
#4 | swazi on November 04 2012 22:20:23
Well, thanks to Rock Candy 'One false Move' has been reissued. Now let's have this 's/t' as well, please ?! flower

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