Heavy Pettin’- Rock Ain’t Dead (1985)

Heavy Pettin’ followed Lettin’ Loose with Rock Ain’t Dead in 1985, and it stands as significantly stronger than their debut.  The production is much better, the songwriting is more thought-out and everything just seems more professional and complex.  This is most likely because Heavy Pettin’ really began picking up on the Airplay-Oriented rock trend that groups like Journey and Foreigner had brought to massive acclaim.  Like many New Wave of British Heavy Metal groups, the best idea for success was to imitate the American AOR bands.  Saxon did this; Raven did this; Tygers of Pan Tang did this.  While most now look back and see that with the glaring exception of Def Leppard this idea nearly always resulted in commercial failure or fan alienation, it surely made sense at the time.  And with Heavy Pettin’, it actually kind of worked.

Steve “Hamie” Hayman sounds slightly less like Brian Vollmer from the Canadian heavy rock band Helix than he used to.  Lettin’ Loose revealed the two men could sound almost identical through songs like “Hell is Beautiful.”  Anyway, now Hayman sings in a higher pitch, more similar to Saxon’s Biff Byford, and he really develops his idiosyncratic style of squeaking at the ends of words.  While that might sound odd, it’s actually more impressive, going beyond a standard falsetto into something that sounds more like a chew toy.  It sounds cool, though.

As for the songs, the highlights include “Rock Ain’t Dead,” “Angel,” “Dream Time,” and “Throw a Party.”  The first is a straightforward, fist-pumping anthem to rock music that basically does what KISS and Twisted Sister are famous for.  “Angel” is a sleazy sex song that takes a surprising turn at the bridge, where the tone switches to a romantic chant of the line “Angel stole my heart tonight, blew it away like dynamite.” Heavy Pettin’ seemed to have taken lessons from the Sweet and other original British glam rockers on how to keep sex songs romantic and sleazy at the same time, which is almost impossible to do. Even legends like Motley Crue and Ratt could never quite pull this off.  Heavy Pettin’ accomplish this same feat in the power ballad “Dream Time,” but by the time “Throw a Party” comes along the sleaze in full-force as soon as the Ted Nugent-style riff opens up.

This release deserves four stars.  The only problem with this album is that most of the songs not mentioned above, while well-composed and a good listen, are somewhat boring to play more than once in a sitting.  Heavy Pettin’ make great party music, but their more complex AOR tracks, as intriguing as they are, are not necessarily the embodiment of the sort of attitude that glam metal is known and loved for.  One thing that cannot be denied is that this album is driven by some truly incredible leads and melodies, but at times I sort of wish there were more quality riffs.  But make no mistake; when Heavy Pettin’ make a good song, they blow you away like dynamite.

-John Mahon III

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