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Lucifers Friend - 1981 Mean Machine

ARTIST: Lucifers Friend
ALBUM: Mean Machine
LABEL: Elektra
SERIAL: 5E-559
YEAR: 1981


LINEUP: John Lawton vocals * Peter Hesslein - guitars *Dieter Horns - bass * Herbert Bornhold - drums * Peter Hecht - keyboards * Adrian Askew - keyboards

TRACK LISTING: 01 One Way Street To Heartbreak * 02 Hey Driver * 03 Fire And Rain * 04 Mean Machine * 05 Cool Hand Killer * 06 Action * 07 Born To The City * 08 One Night Sensation * 09 Let Me Down Slow * 1 Bye Bye Sadie

This album signalled the return of John Lawton to the ranks of Lucifer's Friend following a three year stint in Uriah Heep that had seen Heep's popularity dwindle alarmingly. In the intervening years Lucifer's Friend had used replacements Ian Cussick and Mike Starrs, the latter appearing on 1978's 'Good Time Warrior' and 1980's 'Sneak Me In', both more melodic based hard rock than the often progressive heavy rock and fusion direction that characterised the bands sound in the early to mid part of the seventies. With Lawton returning for what would be the final album until a one off 1994 effort, 'Mean Machine' was a heavily influenced Heep piece of class that with repeated listenings takes on and matches Heep's 'Abominog' which was released a year later. Hard rock, metal and AOR are mixed with equality, culminating in Lucifer's most accessible album opposed to the lengthy and challenging likes of 1974's 'Banquet'. Following the albums release the band embarked on their first German tour, eleven years into their career, having decided to be a studio band some years back.

The Songs
'One Way Street To Heartbreak' in one foul swoop betters almost all of lawton's Heep recordings, thanks to a huge chorus, a strong point of the entire album, some precise guitar work notwithstanding. Quite memorable is 'Hey Driver', which combines the best of AOR melody and hard rock riffing resulting in a hook for the ages that gets better with each listen. AOR fanatics will have a field day with the dramatics of 'Fire And Rain', although that opening riff brings Jefferson Starship's 'Jane' instantly to mind. Nothing can be taken away from the intense melody of another amazing chorus, obscure perhaps but a masterpiece indeed. The title track is a one minute guitar intro to the ferocious metal of 'Cool Hand Killer' , more aggressive than anything Lawton did with Heep, and well up there with up and comers at the time like Saxon and the already veteran Motorhead. 'Action's chunky metallic riffing has a boogie feel on occasion, before the keyboards and hammond organ take over for 'One Night Sensation', a mature statement that goes out of its way to emphasise the keyboard domination. 'Let Me Down Slow' is a dead ringer for Heep's 'Fallen Angel' album from 78, Lawton's finest moment with the band and 'Bye Bye Sadie' likewise, exceptional boogie onc more with close comparisons to Heep's 'One More Night'.

In Summary
More recognition for 'Mean Machine' would be deserved. A cult act by and large Lucifer had amassed a sizable reputation through their career but albums like this have fallen by the wayside over the years unfortunately. The band split a year later, having been prolific in their time, with numerous albums released under pseudonyms during the early 70's as wel as Lucifer's Friend projects. Lawton recorded several solo albums, before reuniting with Hesslein for 1994's 'Sumogrip' which from accounts was another worthy chapter in Lucifer's Friend's history (see tags below). For fans of later Lucifer, 'Mean Machine' is easily the pick of the bunch, it's bound to stick around on your playlist for a while guaranteed.

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#1 | vinyldinosaurus on February 21 2008 14:12:43
Mean Machine is a great album, but is anyone gonna post reviews of the two LF albums that proceeded it? Good Time Warrior and Sneak Me In are pomp / AOR classics!
#2 | Eric on February 21 2008 17:03:20
I have 'Sneak Me In' and it is a very good record. Patience vinyl!
#3 | gdazegod on February 21 2008 21:20:12
Good call vinyl. Between Eric, Alun and myself, we might be able to arrange something.
#4 | dangerzone on February 22 2008 02:25:19
I have both of those albums hidden here somewhere myself.
#5 | vinyldinosaurus on March 05 2008 14:01:31
Thanks! Please be sure to explain why Sneak Me In was pressed with two different covers. I was never quite sure why.
#6 | gdazegod on May 26 2008 13:48:02
'Good Time Warrior' has just been reviewed, Sneak Me In, John Lawton's 'Heartbeat' and his 1982 effort Rebel will also follow..

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