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Articles Home » 1986 Articles » Stage Dolls - 1986 Commandos
Stage Dolls - 1986 Commandos

ARTIST: Stage Dolls
ALBUM: Commandos
LABEL: Grappa (Norway), Big Time (USA)
SERIAL: GRLP 4023, 6028-1
YEAR: 1986
CD REISSUE: 2006, Universal (Norway), 985 773-2


LINEUP: Torstein Flakne - guitars, vocals * Terje Storli - bass * Steinar Krokstad - drums, percussion

TRACK LISTING: 01 Prelude * 02 Heart To Heart * 03 Commandos * 04 Yesterday's Rain * 05 Young Hearts * 06 Rock You * 07 Magic * 08 Who's Lonely Now * 09 America * 10 Don't Look Back


So how can we summarise Stage Dolls, in a sentence? Well think Bryan Adams if he was Norwegian, in fact this description is nothing new, because any mention of Stage Dolls is followed by Bryan Adams, and that they are from Trondheim, I say that town, like it slips of the tongue, like I am an experienced traveller. Well I'm not; nice place but very expensive I understand. Still touring, well Norway at least, by celebrating the 30th anniversary of their debut 'Soldiers Gun', but it's their second album I am looking at, which achieved great success in their native Norway and would form a solid base for them to venture further a field and gain for a short while at least some success in America.

The Songs
Here with their second album, which comes in a number of sleeves, my vinyl and CD differ, and we find that these guys rarely build up a sweat to be full-on Scandi rock, like Bad Habit and Alien. They employ a more laid back approach to their work; some might call it shirking possibly? No that would be harsh, more of a thinking man's attitude, a coolness. But at times some of the output is first class, and they could write some super AOR hooks, take the opening 'Heart To Heart', this is an excellent example of the absolute in AOR finery, epic even, while the chorus in 'Commandos' comes across like Honeymoon Suite, on their wedding night. Yes, sometimes the coolness could lead to a fair amount of plodding, evidence being 'Yesterday's Rain', which is a bit of a damp shower, depending on the day of the week I am listening to this. Wait, 'the sun is shining in the sky, there ain't a cloud in sight' as fast approaching is 'Young Hearts' another pulsing AOR flag waving success. Whereas 'Rock You' is a real change, more plugged in, hair backcombed, traces of Def Leppard and a definite twirl of the silk scarves of Aerosmith, adopting a swagger of many a US hair band. 'Magic' begins much more low key, back to that 'electronic' drum beat, a mild criticism? Yes possibly, but overall quality with Cutting Crew and Wang Chung influences, adds enough good points to bring it above the threshold. More stabbing with those AOR 'steely' knives is 'Who's Lonely Now'. Wasn't it the Vikings that first got to the Americas? Well anyway, Stage Dolls always seemed to be obsessed with the all-conquering USA, and with the track 'America', they are probably touring the minor roads rather than highways. Nevertheless a catchy tune, pop even, but really a trademark that Stage Dolls still could be translated as going nowhere, as it's so remarkable safe. 'Don't Look Back' brings up the rear; it does try to encompass the more AOR moments of John Cougar Mellencamp and rockier moments of John Kilzer.

In Summary
It was on their next release, simply called 'Stage Dolls' that the group quickly became the darlings of the British music press, especially with Kerrang and Raw, and even managed to secure a highly lucrative support slot with Mr Big, who at the time were riding high on the success of 'To Be With You'. I actually went to see them at Cambridge but due to a fault with my timing, arrived to see them already on stage, coming to an end of a track, and followed this with 'Good Night, you have been great', and off they went. I did see them in the foyer, but I wasn't a girl, they were already giving the impression of being major rock stars. Early and subsequently releases can be hard to find and expensive, so they still hold a flame for more serious collectors, obviously these guys had large amounts of unappreciated quality, but seemed happy to live under the line, relaxed! At times this has some great AOR moments, like 'Heart To Heart' and 'Commandos', but depending on my mood, sometime it can come across as a bit lacklustre at times. I can understand the group looking to those mid-western skies for influence and wishing to have been born in the US and the majority of the time they successfully achieve this, it's perfect AOR, just not 100% driving AOR. Maybe it can be summed up that they had tendency to sound too light weight at times, but still they are rather good than just rather ordinary.

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#1 | gdazegod on October 28 2015 12:30:45
Utterly great band! Period..
#2 | spawn71 on October 28 2015 19:20:14
Great band and great album! I simply love this record still today! For me, a classic from the golden age!
#3 | DEMONAOR on October 28 2015 22:48:10
Being norwegian, i have to agree, great band and great album
#4 | george_the_jack on October 28 2015 22:58:17
Amazing that this had not been covered here until now. Great album and as Chris correctly points out, this band is like a long lost Bryan Adams brainchild - and then some!...
#5 | Geir on October 31 2015 14:19:55
While I expect many Stage Dolls fans would point to the self-titled album from 1989 as the band's finest hour, 'Commandos' is my personal favourite. I recall that there was a definitive buzz surrounding the band at the time, and I imagine that the fans who had hung around since 'Soldier's Gun' will have been fairly suprised at the quantum leap in the professionality of the band and the product they delivered with their second album. Opener 'Heart to Heart' was a real shot in the arm when I first heard it (it might even be the ultimate Stage Dolls tune, as far as I'm concerned!), and the that monster riff kicking in after Flakne's 'Stop it!' cry may well be the essence of my teenage years captured in a brief couple of seconds! guitar

'Rock You', the title track and 'Yesterday's Rain' are the other highlights for me, but it's an album that flows well from start to end, a lot more so than the debut, in my book. Although it has been a long time since I heard it in its entirity, some of the less well-known album tracks on 'Stage Dolls' strike me as something of a repetition of what the band had already done on 'Commandos', thus me rating the latter higher than the former. Then again, I'd probably agree if somebody argued that the 1989 release is slightly stronger and even more of a professional effort in its own right.

The US release of 'Commandos' got the band some well-deserved attention on the other side of the big pond, and probably paved the way for the later success of 'Love Cries' there.

The Big Time Records edition of the album was remixed by Eddie DeLena and is well worth tracking down if you're a fan of 'Commandos': It's slightly more ambient sounding and I like how Torstein Flakne's vocals come across like they have more room around them in the mix, although you could argue that for precisely those reasons, the original mix is a little tighter and more precise in the low end frequencies.

Mind you, the original mix is the one you'll find on CD these days, the one with the drawing of the band on the front. To my knowledge, the US edition only exists on vinyl, although a certain German online store embarrassed itself utterly and completely by carrying bootleg copies of the US version some years back, and were rightly reprimanded by the band management within days. As far as I know, that bootleg was a needle drop and among other things featured an extremely ill placed two second break between 'Prelude' and 'Heart to Heart' ... amateurs! thumbs down
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