Home / Album Reviews / Burning Rain – Burning Rain / Pleasure to Burn / Epic Obsession

Burning Rain – Burning Rain / Pleasure to Burn / Epic Obsession

Burning RainFormed by guitarist Doug Aldrich and vocalist Keith St John back in 1998, Burning Rain recorded two well-received albums – their self-titled debut and ‘Pleasure To Burn’ – before the six-string slinger left to team up (albeit briefly) with the late, great Ronnie James Dio, while the vocalist pitched his tent in Ronnie Montrose’s camp.

Shortly after jumping ship from Dio to team up with another legendary vocalist David Coverdale, Aldrich actually signed a deal with the latter’s label, Frontiers, to release a third Burning Rain album:  however, Whitesnake kept the guitarist so busy that the project never saw the light of day – until now…

So, let’s go back to the beginning of the Burning Rain story as, to mark the release (after a nine year delay) of ‘Epic Obsession’, Frontiers also are simultaneously re-issuing the aforementioned pair of archive albums, both remastered and with two bonus tracks on each.

The eponymous debut is a not untypical late 1990s hard rock album, from the opening funk-fuelled ‘Smooth Locomotion’ through the sleazy strut ‘n’ swagger of ‘Jungle Queen’ (which lies somewhere between Guns N Roses, Dokken and Tesla) to the Whitesnake-evoking smoothness of ‘Making My Heart Beat’ and the sauntering ‘Can’t Turn Your Back On Love’, the pompous swing of ‘Cherry Grove’ and the helter-skelter joyride of ‘Can’t Cure The Fire’.  Showcasing his skills to stunning effect throughout, Aldrich pulls off some truly incandescent solos on the likes of ‘Jungle Queen’, ‘Fool No More’, ‘Can’t Cure The Fire’ and ‘Tokyo Rising’, while St John’s vocals have a lush richness that very much echoes Coverdale at his finest.  The two (acoustic) bonus tracks are worthy added-value extras to this superb, highly-overlooked classic.

[9.5/10]

‘Burning Rain’ track list:

  1. Burning Rain - ArtworkSmooth Locomotion
  2. Superstar Train
  3. Jungle Queen
  4. Making My Heart Beat
  5. Fool No More
  6. Cherry Grove
  7. Can’t Cure The Fire
  8. Can’t Turn Your Back On Love
  9. Heaven’s Garden
  10. Tokyo Rising
  11. Seasons Of Autumn
  12. Smooth Locomotion (acoustic version – bonus track)
  13. Can’t Turn Your Back On Love  (acoustic version – bonus track)

Sophomore opus ‘Pleasure To Burn’ very much picks up where its predecessor left off;  while in places it does sound a bit more rushed – possibly to build on the momentum from the first album – it nevertheless is a logical successor in every department, with both Aldrich and St John in fine form.  While the comparisons to Coverdale are still extremely obvious (and more so Robert Plant on this opus), especially in the bluesy undertones of the again huge vocal performance, there is also a heavy reference to the likes of Van Halen this time around:  just check out the beginning of ‘Stone Cold N Crazy’ (which, after the suitably fiery ‘Fireball’ and the bombastic ‘Love Emotion’, rounds off the album’s suitably frenetic opening section) to see what I mean!

‘Cherie Don’t Break My Heart’ is pure ‘Snake through and through, combining the dirty blues of a decade earlier and the slick commercialism of Coverdale’s contemporary output, albeit let down a bit by its Rick Springfield-esque chorus.  But that’s a mere prelude for the giant of a track that is to come – ‘Shot Down’ is classic sleaze-meets-melodic hard rock, with a growling, grunting performance from Aldrich’s shotgun blast-blasting guitar and St John on totally stunning form with a vocal guaranteed to make women go weak at the knees and grown men cry with admiration.  And then they only go and follow it with the (snake) hip-shimmying bump ‘n’ roll of the luscious ‘Love De Jour’, to make a duo of powerhouse dancefloor fillers, and ‘Faithfully Yours’ – the sort of ballad Eric Martin or Mike Tramp wish they could call their own.

The problem with ‘Pleasure…’ comes in its final third, which is extremely disappointing in comparison to what has come before.  While the musicianship, especially Aldrich’s highly evocative guitar work, remains superb, the likes of ‘Sex Machine’ and ‘Metal Superman’ have the word “rushed” written all over them, especially on the lyrical front, something which is highlighted even more on ‘Judgement Day’ – a pleasant enough acoustic-led number, but St John tries just too hard to emulate Robert Plant to the extent that it almost verges on parody… although closer ‘Devil Money’, despite a shaky start, does go some way towards redeeming matters, while the acoustic version of ‘Cherie…’ included on this re-issue is beautiful in its mournfulness.

[8/10]

‘Pleasure To Burn’ track list:

  1. Burning Rain - Pleasure To Burn ArtworkFireball
  2. Love Emotion
  3. Stone Cold N’ Crazy
  4. Cherie Don’t Break My Heart
  5. Shot Down
  6. Love De Jour
  7. Faithfully Yours
  8. Sex Machine
  9. Metal Superman
  10. Judgement Day
  11. Devil Money
  12. Live For That Rush (unreleased demo – bonus track)
  13. Cherie Don’t Break My Heart (acoustic version – bonus track)

Which brings us up to date, and the long overdue third album… many fans have expressed their disappointment, on various online forums, at what they see as a change in direction by the band, but ‘Epic Obsession’ is very much a reflection of how the sound of rock music has progressed in the last decade or more, and also of how the band’s two main proponents have reflected upon those changes to produce an album which is as relevant to the modern era as their previous output was at its time…

‘Epic Obsession’ is definitely heavier, edgier and more aggressive:  it certainly retains elements of the first two albums, such as the funky swagger of opener ‘Sweet Little Baby Thing’, which harkens right back to that opening track of the debut, but moves the BR sound very firmly into the 21st century, with assured aplomb.  Just take the ‘My Lust Your Fate’, for example, which bumps and grinds with classic back alley sleaziness which would definitely have the likes of Buckcherry looking over their coiffured shoulders.

Once again, Aldrich’s guitar work is positively incendiary, with a range of explosive solos, while St John’s voice is as strong, if not stronger, than first time around – emotional, passionate, resonant and with an edge that suggests they may by and large have been recorded live…  the first ballad, ‘Heaven Gets Me By’, sounds like the sort of number yer man Bon Jovi used to write in his sleep, but has shed loads more conviction than the Noo Jersey crooner has been able to muster in two decades, while ‘Made For Your Heart’ shoots a defiant middle finger to Alter Bridge.

The comparisons to Coverdale and Plant are still obvious, especially on the titanic ‘Our Time Is Gonna Come’, which is built on a beautiful swirling Hammond riff and a bluesy Aldrich lead, but St John also demonstrates the full diversity of his range and the songs all show enough belief in themselves to defy such staid and out-dated comparisons (so why we even mentioning them?) to make this a mature hard rock album by a mature rock band driven by musicians still hungry to bring their best to the table – and succeeding!

[10/10]

Burning Rain - Epic Obsession Artwork‘Epic Obsession’ track list:

  1. Sweet  Little Baby Thing
  2. The Cure
  3. Till You Die
  4. Heaven Gets Me By
  5. Pray Out Loud
  6. Our Time Is Gonna Come
  7. Too Hard To Break
  8. My Lust Your Fate
  9. Made For Your Heart
  10. Ride The Monkey
  11. Out In The Cold Again
  12. When Can I Believe In Love
  13. Kashmir (Led Zeppelin cover – bonus track)
  14. Heaven Gets Me By (acoustic version – bonus track)

‘Burning Rain’, ‘Pleasure To Burn’ and ‘Epic Obsession’ will be released by Frontiers Records on May 17th.

Check out Burning Rain’s official Facebook page – https://www.facebook.com/BurningRain Whitesnake

Whitesnake play the following UK dates (with Journey and Thunder) in May:

Thursday 16th – Odyssey Arena, Belfast

Saturday 18th – SECC, Glasgow

Monday 20th – Metropoint Arena, Sheffield

Wednesday 22nd – Metro Radio Arena, Newcastle Thursday 23rd – Arena, Manchester

Saturday 25th – Capital FM Arena, Nottingham

Sunday 26th – Motorpoint Arena, Cardiff Tuesday

28th – LG Arena, Birmingham

Wednesday 29th – Wembley Arena, London

About Mark Ashby

no longer planetmosh staff