ARTIST: Wildfire (USA)
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN:
LINEUP: Scott Shannon * Jack 'Stack-A-Track' Grochmal
TRACK LISTING: 01 Heartbreaker * 02 Highway Of Love * 03 Lonely Nights * 04 Back To The Beach * 05 Weekend Love * 06 Feeling Love * 07 Sarah * 08 Breakaway * 09 Here Comes Summer * 10 Big Brown Eyes * 11 It's Too Late
Anyone who hasn't picked up the 2009 book 'And Party Everyday- The Inside Story of Casablanca Records' has not only missed out on one of the more entertaining tomes of the last decade, but a bittersweet nostril-full movie ready tale of the cocaine fueled and glittery decadence that was the 1970's. Writer Larry Harris and of course his partner in crime, the late Neil Bogart were in the thick of it, releasing music that helped define the decade while perpetually living on the edge both financially and personally. While Kiss
and the label's full frontal domination of the disco market put Casablanca on the map, there were plenty of other albums released by the imprint that went pear-shaped faster than the Peter Criss
and Paul Stanley
solos, including this odd one-off from Wildfire. Unfortunately, this project other than a discography listing, is not mentioned in Harris' book, but was the brainchild of Scott Shannon - renowned DJ and at the time Casablanca promotion man. With cohort and engineer extraordinaire Jack 'stack-a-track' Grochmal in tow, 'Flamethrower' was released in late 1977 and outside the albums only single that nearly placed in the Top 40, the album tanked with nary a notice.
In hindsight, the breasty disco babe on the cover turned off more than a few rockers at the time, not because of her obvious physical attributes, but with a lack of band credits on the back sleeve 'Flamethrower' looked and smelled like a dance record. Hard to understand Casablanca's strategy or who they were trying to fool since Wildfire played an innocuous pop rock that that will truly delight fans of 'Attention Shoppers!' Starz
, Euclid Beach Band
, The Bay City Rollers
and Shaun Cassidy
with a nice blend of good-time groovy poppers including the vaguely Foreigner
-styled riff rocker 'Highway Of Love' and 'Lonely Nights' which sounds like a lift from the first Network
LP and the Starbuck
school of top forty southern funk. 'Feeling Love' pre-dates Rex Smith
with a ballad in the same style sexy Rexy's teen beat minions would wet themselves over a couple years in the future while side two offers up some of the albums best albeit softly padded rockers with the lost AOR jewel 'Sarah', the charming Eric Carmen
-ish 'Breakaway' as well as the aforementioned single 'Here Comes Summer' which was originally recorded in 1959 by Jerry Keller
although here its rocked up a bit and shoulda-woulda-coulda been one of the biggest hits of the year.
Accessible, harmless and a lot of fun, the Wildfire sound is warm and carefree conjuring up images of teenage love and an innocence we've lost in the digital age. Yes, 'Flamethrower' and its bubblegummy pop might have been a few years too late even in the '77, but it's gooey sweetness is irresistible and if I had known of its charms, instead of passing over the album on the racks and a zillion times later in cut-out bins, I would have played the LP until the grooves wore out.
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