Toronto Star- September 8, 1989
Lee Aaron's hard-rock renaissance:
"We were running scared. We took some bad advice. We let people talk us into things we felt instinctively weren't right because we didn't have any alternatives to offer. That'll never happen again."
Lee Aaron's voice comes over the wire breathless, a little tired but absolutely firm on that point about her ill-fated, self-titled album a few years back.
She's breathless from being whisked back from a Scandanavian press junket with just enough time to change lipstick before heading out to a small Burlington club for a shakedown gig. Next up is a national tour, which kicks off tonight and Saturday at Rock 'n' Roll Heaven.
"I'm kind of scared but really looking forward to it. I haven't played in Toronto in four years, and audiences here are the toughest to please.
"I hang out at Heaven sometimes and a lot of my friends go there, so it'll be a supportive environment. On the other hand, I don't dare screw up or I'll hear about it."
Aaron has had a curious career, struggling for wider recognition in Canada and rarely performing, while maintaining a strong enough following in Europe to play huge outdoor festivals. It's a cold, sharp shock each time she returns from stardom to struggler, but she keeps coming back because never mind Munich, Aaron wants to be huge in Hogtown.
"It used to be frustrating, now it's just a fact of life, something I have to work away at until it's broken down. Each time I put out a record, I think it's the one that'll be the breakthrough. Every time, something happens to stop it from getting a fair shot. It's released at the wrong time, the material's too heavy for radio, the material's too light for radio. . .always something."
Anxiety over copping the right commercial groove led to Aaron's disastrous self-titled album, on which Lee attempted a pop-metal fusion and found even her hardest core fans would have none of it.
It was a bitter lesson for the diminutive belter, one that confirmed her belief she was born to rock hard.
"When John Albani and I sat down to write the songs for Bodyrock (her new album, slated for release today), we went straight back to the clean, hard sound of the early albums.
"Then we built up a body of good songs, shaped in that direction. Then we had to sell that approach to the record company as the way to go, and that took some doing.
"There was a lot of rewriting involved and loads of time spent in the studio with producer Brian Allan, but in the end we got a record we were happy with. I've now got a batch of songs I believe in."
Bodyrock was recorded last spring at Scarborough's Phase One Studios, just a shot away from Zack's, a popular hard-rock hangout. Apart from its location, Aaron likes the cosy atmosphere and familiarity and has cut all five of her albums there.
This time the major attraction was something different; a new mixing console and sampler that allowed Albani and Aaron to create almost all of the music themselves.
Working from samples of Albani's instrumentation and Aaron's vocals, they were able not only to get their sound perfectly, but to program back into it imperfections to give the end product that human touch.
The technique works well, the sparse arrangements allowing Aaron's voice lots of room to soar.
As well, the decision to employ co-writers was a wise move; it gives the record variety and most of the collaborated material plays directly to Aaron's strengths.
"John and I were getting writer's claustrophobia - you know, when you start getting defensive about stuff you know isn't that great.
"We lucked out because a lot of our friends were available to write with us. We did two songs with Phil Naro and Mike Zarron of 24K, and one each with Marvin Birt of Haywire, Stan Meisner and Paul Sabu. Plus I think I'm the first female vocalist to cover Montrose's 'Rock Candy'."
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