Make no mistake, like a few other bands of that era, Heavy Pettin’ should have been huge from when they emerged in 1981 and this, their mainstream debut from ’83 still sounds fantastic, it’s mix of hard rock, heavy metal and glam melody packing a real punch to this day.
All the ingredients were there, superb songs, a pristine production on the album courtesy of Queen’s Brian May, a terrific live show and opening slots for KISS, Whitesnake and Ozzy Osbourne but the cards just didn’t seem to fall correctly for the Glaswegian five-piece.
Back to prove themselves, if that were needed, the band recently reformed and have been playing a selection of dates across the country to great acclaim so this reissue is a timely chance to catch up on one of the best releases of the early 80’s.
Listening back to the album the first thing that strikes you is the similar style they shared with Def Leppard, especially the early albums such as ‘High and Dry’ and ‘Pyromania’, with their mix of the melodic and heavy. There’s certainly elements of Motley Crue and Saxon too in that, amongst the accessibility of their material, there’s some grit and heft and you have to wonder whether that was the issue that held back their ascent to the top as they were too heavy for glam fans and too melodic for the metalheads.
Their inability to be pigeon-holed by lazy journalists (and a sometimes lazy or confused public) aside, both the songs and the performances stand the test of time and it’s certainly a treat to relive those tracks as thoughts fly back to seeing the band in the theatres and arenas of the country as they toured supporting the album.
‘In and Out of Love’ is a classic start of the album, full of Leppard’s snarling youthful attitude but with an extra portion of shine with the gang vocals in the chorus adding a big West Coast feel to things.
The swagger was more akin to their Sheffield contemporaries but there was certainly a scent of Sunset Strip laced throughout and Steve ‘Hamie’ Hayman’s vocals were a mix of Biff Byford and Vince Neil whilst the twin guitars of Punky Mendoza and Gordon Bonnar equally sang and bruised.
It’s these guitars that really shine during second track, ‘Broken Heart’, a wonderfully kaleidoscopic production job by May adding tasty layers and little twists that make listening a joy and, whilst never overcooked, give everyone the space to show what they can do.
Things get a lot heavier on ‘Love on the Run’, a hedonistic tale that features a scorching solo and pounding and compulsive turn by rhythm section Gary Moat and Brian Waugh, propelling this real gem along at top speed, followed by ‘Love Times Love’, another highlight of the live set with more gang vocals, melody and a breakdown near the end that ticks a lot of 80’s hard rock boxes.
There’s more frantic riffing on ‘Victims of the Night’, the track having the heaviness and drive of prime Saxon but adds yet more harmonies in the chorus and gives the best of both worlds, really playing to the strengths of Heavy Pettin’ and pointing the way to future releases by the quintet. Despite its title, ‘Rock Me’ lacks the headbanging qualities of the previous track but has a medium pace quality that focusses more on dynamics than all out attack and switches between slow, atmospheric passages and big stadium rock.
Shout It Out’ on the other hand is a straight down the line fast rocker that seems to be heavily influenced by Leppard as the guitars sound so very much like Clark and Willis under the ‘Mutt’ Lange production era and ‘Devil in her Eyes’ is another multi-part, deeper, album track that reveals more and more with repeated listens.
‘Hell is Beautiful’ and ‘Roll the Dice’ see the band swinging into action with a powerful duo of truly heavy tracks, with the former being arguably the highlight of the whole release and shows that the Queen guitarist certainly knows how to rock, bringing out something that Biff’s Barnsley boys would have been proud of.
The album closes on ‘Shadows of the Night’, whilst not as pneumatic as ‘Hell…’, it’s another strong song full of the style that Heavy Pettin’ were comfortable in and one that makes you want to hit the repeat button to play the whole album again.
The follow up album, ‘Rock Ain’t Dead’ was equally as good and the band seemed to be finding their feet, refining the writing into a more commercial groove that was more akin to the emerging AOR bands that were so big in that era and is very much worth checking out.
These aren’t just museum pieces of a band preserved in a dusty jar somewhere but unearthed classics of the time and still sound as fun and fresh today, the perfect introduction to someone you may have missed the first time around. One thing is for certain: it’s great to have them back.
The production recalls that era too
Review by Paul Monkhouse for Metal Planet Music
Also available on Burnt Out Wreckords/Cherry Red Records, the new release from Gary Moat’s current band Burnt Out Wreck ‘This Is Hell’ which can be purchased from these order links:
Amazon CD: https://geni.us/BOWTiH