Lucifer's Friend — Awakening
(Lucifer, 2015, 2CD)
by Paul Hightower, Published 2015-09-01
Lucifer’s Friend was a collaboration that teamed English singer John Lawton (later of Uriah Heep) with a talented German quartet whose eponymous 1970 debut positioned the group on par with Deep Purple and Black Sabbath as progenitors of heavy metal. Their sound was a heady mixture of grinding Hammond organ, acid blues guitar, a relentless rhythm section, and Lawton’s powerhouse vocals. Following Lawton’s move to Uriah Heep in 1976 the band limped along until he rejoined for 1981’s Mean Machine, which proved to be the last anyone really heard from Lucifer’s Friend. The intervening years have burnished the group’s reputation, with mint condition copies of the early LP’s selling well and festival invites drawing Lawton and his former bandmates (well, two of them anyways) out of retirement. This two-disk set was conceived to remind everyone what the fuss was all about and to kick start a new era for Lucifer’s Friend. Disk one is a compilation (apparently using Internet search metrics to determine the selections) of the band’s earlier music, leaning mainly on the debut with six other tracks drawn from four other Lawton-sung albums. Despite the erratic stylistic course they steered during the 70s (the move from proto-metal to funky disco-rock is a bit jarring) the recordings are all top-notch with Lawton’s contributions uniformly stellar. The four new songs on disk two are encouraging – if somewhat safe – slices of rock that sit comfortably alongside recent offerings by Deep Purple. Whether or not future efforts can tap into the well of mojo that made Lucifer’s Friend such a special group back in the day remains to be seen, but at least the opening salvo has been heard.
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