JOHN LAWTON - Uriah Heep Singer On The Rocks!
by Martin Popoff
John Lawton is best known as belter for Uriah Heep in the late '70s as well as for his work with Lucifer's Friend, especially the crunching proto-metal debut from back in 1970. But the man is still making music prolifically, through solo projects and other collaborations, most recently finding (F)ocus with a concept called OTR.
And the result is a vocal showcase across various pop and rock styles, unsurprisingly featuring that golden throat. How good is he? Well, here's what ex-bandmate Trevor Bolder had to say about him, coincidentally in an interview a few days after I spoke to John himself. "John is fantastic; yeah, he really is. He's in a Paul Rodgers vein, I would say. But the power in his voice is just terrific. You don't want to stand next to him when he opens up his mouth (laughs). He's very loud. But I mean, I love Paul Rodgers, and John is one of my favourite singers as well. Just great ability, great tuning, and great ideas when he has to ad lib. He was a very good all-round singer."
And what are the specifics around this thing called OTR? For that we have to go to the silver-haired soarer himself...
"Well what this is, is... I met up with Jan Dumee, the guitar player with Focus. He joined Focus after Jan Akkerman left, and I met up with him going on 18 months ago now, via a mutual friend Rodrigo Werneck, who lives in Brazil. So he hooked me up with Jan, who had some material, although he had written it purely for guitar, so it was kind of... listening to it I thought hmmm, I might have to change a lot of things around here. But I liked the stuff, so I changed it, and did some melodies, and because he'd written it for jazz guitar, I added the melodies that suited vocals, did some lyrics for it. We teamed up with three guys from Brazil, Xande, Marvio and Ney - drummer, keyboard player and a bass player - and Jan went over there and recorded the basic backing tracks with these guys, came back with it, and to cut it short, I went over to Rotterdam and did the vocals in Holland, so that's the way we put it together. I mean, I haven't physically met the guys from Brazil yet. But yeah, it's worked out well. It's kind of blues rock with some jazz influences in it, with a touch of the old Lucifer's Friend somewhere along the line, someone keeps telling me. So it turned out good. It's not rock by any means. It's stuff on there that probably people wouldn't expect from me. But hey, Martin, I'm at that age where I can afford to take a risk (laughs). But the reviews we've had up until now have been positive, so that's a good thing."
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