SOLDIER – Recorded Live @ The Heathery, Wishaw In Scotland 1983 (Starhaven Records)
Recently re-discovered in the Soldier archives and lovingly remastered at guitarist/founder member Ian Dick’s Starhaven Studio ‘Recorded Live @ The Heathery…’ captures the band onstage on the penultimate night of their February 1983 Scottish tour. And despite blizzards, the bitterly cold conditions at times and the stage collapsing as the band went into their first number on the night the cassette tape rolled, the CD showcases a band who are finally becoming recognised – rather belatedly, but better late than never – as one of the NWOBHM’s biggest and brightest talents.
By March 1982 Dick had left the band and was replaced by seventeen year old Nick Lashley – a stable line-up was never something Soldier encumbered themselves with! – and it was Lashley, vocalist Garry Phillips, guitarist Nick Bicknell and the Steves Barlow and Taylor (on bass and drums respectively) who headed north for Scotland and pulled off eight gigs in nine days. In many ways ‘Recorded Live @ The Heathery…’ is the companion piece to the ‘Live Forces’ official live bootleg cassette the band released in 1983, covering as it does roughly the same ground song-wise and featuring the same musicians – what in fact would end up being Soldier’s last touring line-up.
The seven tracks captured here showcase the diversity of the band, from the slow, bluesy ‘Bad To Good’ through the now instantly-recognisable single A-side ‘Sheralee’ to the hyperactive neck-wrenching ‘Man From Berlin’. The recording comes straight off the desk so what you hear is what you get, but for fans of the band or of the NWOBHM in general that’s no bad thing: guitars squeal out of tune at times and the backing vocals veer between pitch-perfect and horrendous, but the whole thing brings to life the essence of the period – the excitement, the struggles, the highs and lows – and encapsulates beautifully in 38 minutes just what it was to be in a metal band at this time. And again and again, as the songs hit home like body blows, you have to wonder why a band that wrote such great songs as ‘Force’ and ‘Infantrycide’ never got the chance to record an album back in the day.
Ah, what might have been… A month after the tour Barlow would quit, and then Phillips left shortly after. Replacing them with ex-Girl vocalist Phil Lewis and bassist Mark McKenzie (who’d had a very brief stint with Gaskin) could have yielded dividends, but the Lewis/Bicknell/Lashley/McKenzie/Taylor line-up recorded just one two-track demo (featuring ‘Heartbreak Zone’ and the oddly-named ‘Charlotte Russe’) as a potential showcase for Music For Nations before calling it a day.
‘Recorded Live @ The Heathery…’ is a little piece of history, a snapshot in time which says so much more about the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal than a thousand words ever could. Grab your credit card and visit www.soldiernwobhm.com
© John Tucker June 2014