HardReviews 5
by Martin Popoff

Takara - Eternal Faith
(Lion Music)

Recording four albums over the course of a decade, Takara haven't meant much to anybody, even in their most fertile territory Japan. This is the second reissue of the band's first album, recorded back in '93 with subsequent Japanese release, with a UDS release through Saraya in '96. The man's main claim to fame is the presence of Jeff Scott Soto (now no longer with the band) on lead vocals, producing and writing. Alas, Eternal Faith is extremely dated, back past '93 to about '86, puffy production and frilly keyboards perfumigating poppy and pedestrian hair metal tracks (the word "heart" is in three of ten titles), slightly redeemed by a moderately Crue-dirty guitar sound. Only occasionally does Soto throw in his patented Euro melodies. Competent, but for committed fans of gooey chewy pop metal only.
Rating 5.5

John Lawton & Steve Dunning - Steppin' It Up
(Classic Rock Productions)

'Ere's a disc that locks down an idea conceived and executed by the least well-regarded (!) Uriah Heep vocalist John Lawton (also of Lucifer's Friend fame) plus no-one-you-know Steve Dunning at a Heep convention. The album, recorded shortly thereafter on the enthusiastic wings of the live set, is a mix of Heep from those ahem, dissipated days and elsewhere originals (including folky Lucifer's Friend ballad Burning Ships), performed acoustically or quite full but subtle band, never heavy. Killer sound quality accompanies the intimate set, with Lawton proving his mercurial blues and rock vocal chops, reminding one of the enduring Mark Farner, Lawton also doing all the backing vocals for what turns out to be a very accurate depiction of mellow Heep-ness, something quite hard to duplicate. Also on board, Heep keyboardist Phil Lauzon. Perhaps a reevaluation of Lawton's reign is in order, as this guy can stylize, muscle-in and belt it out with astonishing ease, perhaps re-colouring Hensley's view that Lawton was a mistake, i.e. maybe it was the crappy songs that made those records so bad. Verdict: versatile, high fidelity but ultimately modest, casual and spare, impressive for the vocals and little else, the rest of the show barely definable as more than skeleton or blueprint.
Rating 6