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Articles Home » 1992 Articles » Howell, Stephanie - 1992 Facing The Fire
Howell, Stephanie - 1992 Facing The Fire

ARTIST: Howell, Stephanie
ALBUM: Facing The Fire
LABEL: East West
SERIAL: 903173838-2
YEAR: 1992


LINEUP: Stephanie Howell - vocals

Guitars - Rex Goh, Garry Frost, Dai Pritchard * Bass - Dario Bartolin, Ron Francois * Keyboards and Piano - Chong Lim, Simon Leadley, Garry Frost * Drums - Ricky Fataar * Soprano Sax, Alto Sax - John Barrett * Backing Vocals - Robyne Dunn, Stephanie Howell, Steve Driver, Garry Frost

TRACK LISTING: 01 Facing The Fire * 02 Land Of I * 03 Dreamsong * 04 Shades Of Blue * 05 All The Boys * 06 Emotional Outlaws * 07 Cry No More * 08 Breaks Your Heart * 09 Can't Stop The Fire * 10 Final Split

Australia has had its fair share of female singers plying their trade in the melodic rock/pop market since the early 80's. Names such as Lisa Bade, Sharon O'Neill, Jenny Morris, Gyan Evans, Wendy Stapleton and the Hammond sisters from Cheetah all bring back memories. No doubt there were more, added to the list was Sydney-sider Stephanie Howell, who came and went it would seem in the twinkling of an eye and within the revolution of one CD. Prior to her solo career, Stephanie was the lead singer of a band called Der Straza, that included among their ranks guitarist Dai Pritchard, who would go on to play with Billy Thorpe and more recently Rose Tattoo. This outfit produced two singles before Steph opted to go it alone. Her soulful and made-for-radio vocals was the catalyst for a deal with Warner Music. Her one (and so far) only album is an excellent melodic album, but 'Facing The Fire' did little to return what appears to be a significant investment of time and resources, with studio support from a wealth of good players, and time spread among four studios. Recorded during 1991 between sessions based in Sydney Australia and London UK, the album was released by East/West in 1992 to little fanfare. Handling production were the pair of David Hemming (Dragon, Icehouse, 1927, The Angels) and former Moving Pictures and 1927 guitarist Garry Frost.

The Songs

The title track 'Facing The Fire' kicks us off on a gentle bed of synths and saxophone before bursting forth into a sweeping anthemic piece that befits the songtitle and associated lyrics. 'Land Of I' drifts into the same territory as what Tina Arena did on her excellent 'Don't Ask' album in 1994. It has the same sort of vibe. The intro vocal lines of 'wake up wake up your dreaming' are a persistent theme throughout the melodic pop of 'Dreamsong'. Sort of like an AOR version of Pat Benatar during her mid 80's phase. 'Shades Of Blue' is a beautiful shimmering acoustic ballad with lush layers washing over it like a feather-lite blanket. Very nice. 'All The Boys' could be a remnant from Frost's time with 1927, but this time with a female singing the lead. There are lots of sequenced patterns and a rock oriented approach. The Noiseworks duo of Stuart Fraser and Jon Stevens combined with Garry Frost provide the honours for the excitable rocker 'Emotional Outlaws', which comes across much like 'Bondi Road' era Dragon. The slow burn of 'Cry No More' pulls all the emotions out of the basket, and when coupled with the incredible ballad 'Breaks Your Heart', you have a couple of the albums best moments. Of significance to hard rockers out there; 'Can't Stop The Fire' was a co-write between Jesse Harms and Sammy Hagar, and in the clutches of Ms Howell - this track is a winner. Not as fiery as you might expect, it's a smooth pulse driven affair that touches all the right spots for me. Closing the album is the heavily orchestrated affair of 'Final Split', which had a full orchestra providing the backing for this song.

In Summary
During this time, Stephanie had her own band (The Stephanie Howell Band), plus she was also doing session work for Aussie icon Richard Clapton. I don't recall seeing much about this album at the time of this release, considering her labelmates from Melbourne Among Thieves were getting significant press at the same time. Just where Stephanie went after this album is unclear. Hopefully someone maybe able to fill in the gaps. This CD can be found if you look hard enough on EBay, and wait a little bit. I picked mine up just recently for a bargain, and I'm over the moon.

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