Russ Ballard


Band members                             Related acts

- Russ Ballard -- vocals, guitar, drums, bass, keyboards, harmonica,

  synthesizers

 

  backing musicians: (1974)

- Mick Eaves -- sax

- Steven Gregory -- sax

- Chris Mercer -- sax

- Nick Newell -- sax

 

  backing musicians: ()

- Mo Foster -- bass

- Simon Phillips -- drums, percussion

- Greg Sanders -- keyboards

 

  backing musicians (1980) The Barnet Dogs

- Bob Henrit -- drums, percussion

- Bill Roberts -- backing vocals

- Dave Wintour -- bass

 

 

  backing musicians (1985) 

- Start Elliott -- drums, percussion

- Mo Foster -- bass

- Mike Richardson -- drums, percussion

- Peter Van Hooke -  electric drums, percussion

 

 


 

 

Argent (Russ Ballard and Bob Henrit)

- The Daybreakers

- Adam Faith and the Roulettes

- The Kinks (Bob Henrit)

- Phoenix (Rob Henrit)

- The Roulettes

- Unit Four Plus Two

 

 

 


 

Genre: rock

Rating: *** (3 stars)

Title:  Russ Ballard

Company: Epic

Catalog: KE-33252

Year: 1974

Country/State: William Cross, UK

Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+

Comments: cut top right corner; promo stamp on front

Available: 1

Catalog ID: 2400

Price: $15.00

 

Lots of albums are billed as solo albums, but Russ Ballard's 1974 self-titled debut was truly a solo endeavor.   In addition to co-producing with Dan Loggins, Ballard was credited with virtually everything else.  The notable exception were saxophone, though Ballard handled the brass arrangements.

 

Having left Argent earlier in the year, you would have expected Ballard to stride into his solo career with an album's worth of first-rate material. At least to my ears that wasn't the case.  While Ballard was simply too talented to record an album without a couple of decent performances, a disproportionate amount of "Russ Ballard" was lost to formulaic and forgettable  ballads and pop material.  On someone else's album tunes like the ballad 'Venus (Show Your Light) ' and 'Fly Away' might well have been highlights, but not here. It almost sounded like Ballard was cruising on half his cylinders - and what was with including the  disco-tinged 'Danger Zone 1' ?   Sure, the opener 'She's a Hurricane', the sweet ballad 'I Don't Believe In Miracles', and 'You Can Do Voodoo' were all examples of the kind of stuff Ballard churned out so well - highly commercial, radio-friendly material.  Unfortunately the rest of the album simply wasn't  as impressive.  

 

"Russ Ballard" track listing:
(side 1)

1.) She's a Hurricane   (Russ Ballard) - 3:08    rating: **** stars

'She's a Hurricane' was a good timely pop tune that sounded a bit like something out of the 10cc songbook.   The fuzz guitar (which sounded like 10cc's The Gizmo, coupled with the smooth, multi-tracked lead vocal, and the clever word-smithing served to underscore the 10cc comparison.   I quite liked the performance.  

2.) Loose Women   (Russ Ballard) - 2:26   rating: *** stars

'Loose Women' was a '50s flavored, piano-powered rocker that I found surprisingly enjoyable.   The fact it had a nifty hook probably helped.   The song was tapped as a single in the UK and Holland:

- 1974's 'Loose Women' b/w 'Danger Zone Part 1' (Epic catalog number S EPC--3122)

3.) I Don't Believe In Miracles   (Russ Ballard) - 3:39    rating: **** stars

One of those ballads that's been recorded by a host of acts including America, Colin Blunstone, and Barbara Dickson ...  To my ears it was one of the prettiest things Ballard's ever written.  The multi-tracked vocals were easily as good as Blunstone's breathy version.   YouTube has a stripped down version of the song  (Ballard accompanying himself on piano) at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dDc--7LKw4g 

4.) You Can Do Voodoo   (Russ Ballard) - 3:23    rating: **** stars

The opening and horn charts have always reminded me of early Roy Wood and ELO  track.  Very mid-'70s English pop sound that some of us love, though they'll be lots of folks who find it cloying.

5.) You Can Count on Me   (Russ Ballard) - 2:35   rating: * star

With a classically-inspired piano melody, the hyper-sensitive, heavily orchestrated, and mawkish 'You Can Count On Me' has always reminded me of a bad Eric Carmen tune.   Not a good thing.  Hearing Ballard straining to hit the higher registers didn't make the song any more enjoyable.

 

(side 2)

1.) Fly Away   (Russ Ballard) - 3:20   rating: *** stars

 

Ballard's first solo 45 was a pretty, mid-tempo ballad.  Sweet melody and tasteful orchestration, that again reminded me a bit of a 10cc tune, but ultimately was kind of forgettable.  Actually might have made a cool Zombies tune.

 

- 1974's 'Fly Away' b/w 'Danger Zone - Part II' (Epic catalog number S EPC 2670)

 

 

 

 

 

2.) Danger Zone - Part 1   (Russ Ballard) - 2:38    rating:** stars

Hum, almost disco-ish.  Not a fan.   

3/) Danger Zone - Part II   (Russ Ballard) - 3:06  rating: *** stars

Part II slowed the song up and at some nice fuzz guitar.  Certainly better than part 1, but still not an essential Ballard track.   

4.) Kicks   (Russ Ballard) - 4:15    rating: *** stars

Who knew Ballard had a thing for George Thorogood and the Delaware Destroyers ...  Breezy blues-rocker that grew on you if you played it a couple of times.

5.) Venus (Show Your Light)    (Russ Ballard) - 4:41    rating:** stars

Hyper-sensitive ballad that would have slotted well on a Colin Blunstone solo album.   

 

 

 

 


Genre: rock

Rating: *** (3 stars)

Title:  Barnet Dogs

Company: Epic

Catalog: 36186

Year: 1979

Country/State: William Cross, UK

Grade (cover/record): VG+.VG+

Comments: original inner sleeve

Available: 1

Catalog ID: 5385

Price: $15.00

 

Co-produced by Russ Ballard and Joe Stanley, 1979's "Barnet Dogs"  found Ballard plunging headlong into late-1970s AOR.  Normally that wouldn't be much of a compliment, but as always Ballard was smart enough to ensure he placed maximum emphasis on strong melodies.  As Ballard described the album in his online blog 'we wanted to make a high energy LP'.  Showcasing all original material, guitar and synthesizer propelled songs such as 'Rene Didn't Do It', 'Ain't No Turning Back' and 'It's To Late' were perfectly built for top-40 radio exposure.  The unfortunate downside was that the album was largely anonymous.  Anyone hearing a song such as 'Riding with the Angels' would have been hard pressed to distinguish Ballard from the likes of Rainbow, Whitesnake, or the dozens of other 'hair bands' that were beginning to dominate the airwaves.  Among the few exceptions, 'Bad Boy' stood out in that it found Ballard trying to mix a reggae beat with hard rock.  Probably the album's best song, 'On the Rebound' b/w 'The Angels' (Epic catalog number 9-50883) was released as a single providing Ballard with his first and last US solo chart single (# 58).  The parent LP also charted, hitting # 187 on the US charts.  The set certainly had it's moments, but to a large extent it sounded like music as product - a little too fine tuned for my tastes.

 

French picture sleeve EPC8666

"Barnet Dogs" track listing:
(side 1)

1.) Rene Didn't Do It   (Russ Ballard) - 

2.) Ain't No Turning Back   (Russ Ballard) - 

3.) Bad Boy   (Russ Ballard) - 

4.) On the Rebound   (Russ Ballard) - 

5.) She Said "Yeah"   (Russ Ballard) - 

 

(side 2)

1.) It's To Late   (Russ Ballard) - 

2.) Feels Like the Real Thing   (Russ Ballard) - 

3.) Riding with the Angels   (Russ Ballard) - 

4.) Beware   (Russ Ballard) - 

 

For anyone interested, Ballard has a great website located at: http://www.russ-ballard.com/

 

 

 


Genre: rock

Rating: *** (3 stars)

Title:  Into the Fire

Company: Epic

Catalog: NJE-36993

Year: 1980

Country/State: William Cross, UK

Grade (cover/record): VG+.VG+

Comments: original inner sleeve

Available: 1

Catalog ID: 1575

Price: $10.00

 

 

Credited to Russ Ballard & the Barnet Dogs (drummer Bob Henrit, singer Bill Roberts, and bassist Dave Wintour), 1980's "Into the Fire" fit nicely into the '80s pop-AOR/new wave niche. In other words, much of the album came off as musical product intended to illicit AOR airplay, rather than stretch the boundaries of music as art.  I mean there's nothing wrong with that approach.  Everyone needs to survive.  That said, what probably saved Ballard from the slag heap of faceless hair bands was the fact he had a knack for crafting tunes with strong pop melodies (and the fact he kept his hair relatively short).    Taken individually about a third of these ten tunes were worth hearing, with the weird 'Madman', the new-wave-ish 'I Will Be There' and the ballad 'Where Do We Go From Here' providing the highlights.   Unfortunately, try as I might, every time I've tried to listen to the album from start to finish I find my attention flagging around the half way mark.  Probably a good album for folks who worshipped at the alter of Bryan Adams, Loverboy, etc.  Not the place I would start my exploration of Ballard's catalog.

 

"Into the Fire" track listing:
(side 1)

1.) Rock & Roll Lover  (Russ Ballard) - 3:31    rating: *** stars

Kind of new wave jumpy, there wasn't anything really wrong with the rocker 'Rock & Roll Lover'.  By the same token, the lyrics (life is tough when you're a young rock and roll nymphomaniac ...  apparently equally tough for the band members), reduced the tune to run-of-the-mill status.  That didn't stop Epic from tapping it as the US single:

- 1980's 'Rock & Roll Lover' b/w 'Breakdown' (Epic catalog number 19-51002)  

2.) Breakdown  (Russ Ballard) - 3:16  rating: *** stars

Ah, Ballard deciding to get down hard and heavy ...   He certainly knew the formula; pounding bass, squealing lead guitar solo, and a refrain that was repeated time after time.  Thing is, straight ahead hard rock simply wasn't his bailiwick.    To my ears this sounded like a sub-par Blue Oyster Cult tune; albeit without any of the former's aura of danger.   

3.) Where Do We Go From Here  (Russ Ballard) - 4:01  rating: **** stars.  

For some reason this power ballad has always reminded me of Terry Thomas and the band Charlie.  Coupled with Ballard and Roberts'  tight knit vocals, the piano and guitar powered melody provided one of the album highlights.  For anyone interested, there's also a good Sweet cover of the tune.

4.) Guilty  (Russ Ballard) - 3:30   rating: *** stars

Always wondered about Ballard's love for fire imagery - wonder if he has some pyromaniac tendencies ...   Another rocker that was saved by the Ballard-Roberts vocals and the nice melody.  

5,) Don't Go To Soho  (Russ Ballard) - 4:29   rating: *** stars 

'Don't Go To Soho' was a pedestrian rocker that was saved by the mildly punkish title refrain and Bob Henrit's martial drumming. 

 

(side 2)

1.) Tonight  (Russ Ballard) - 4:02   rating: ** stars

if you were going to teach a class on the formula for writing an AOR tune, 'Tonight' might be a good example to use for your dissection.   zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz   

2.) Madman  (Russ Ballard) - 5:04   rating: *** stars 

Probably the album's strangest tune, 'Madman' bounced around between AOR and a touch of progressive flavor added to the mix.   Ballard's growling vocal, Dave Wintour thunderous bass, and the song's construction have always reminded me of George Kooymans and Golden Earring.   I believe the little girl was Ballard's daughter Karis.  

3.) Strangers  (Russ Ballard) - 3:53   rating: ** stars

Bland, mid-tempo ballad that reminded me a bit of a poor copy of The Sutherland Brothers' 'Sailin''.   

4.) Here Comes the Hurt  (Russ Ballard) - 3:56  rating: ** stars

I'd argue 'Here Comes the Hurt' was the album's worst performance.  Yes it was built on a galloping Dave Wintour bass line, but the song didn't have much of a melody and Ballard sounded bored an uninterested.  The tune was tapped as a Dutch and UK single:

- 1980's 'Here Comes the Hurt' b/w 'Breakdown' (Epic catalog S EPC 9489) 

5.) I Will Be There  (Russ Ballard) - 4:22   rating: *** stars

With Ballard seemingly roughing up his voice and melodic talents on purpose, 'I Will Be There' was one of the album's more new wave-flavored tunes.  Surprisingly engaging in kind of a Mott the Hopple way, and one of the album highlights.  It was also tapped as the album's second UK single:

- 1980's 'I Will Be There' b/w 'Madman' (Epic catalog number EPC A1067)

 

 

 


Genre: rock

Rating: ** (2 stars)

Title:  Russ Ballard

Company: EMI America

Catalog: ST-17108

Year: 1984

Country/State: William Cross, UK

Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+

Comments: original inner sleeve

Available: 1

Catalog ID: 4552

Price: $10.00

Cost: $66.00

 

Co-produced by Ballard and Joe Stanley, 1984's cleverly-titled "Russ Ballard" wasn't bad in a mid-1980s AOR way ...  That may have sounded kind of snotty, but it was\n't meant as a slam.  Featuring eight original tracks, material such as 'I Can't Hear You No More', 'A Woman Like You' and 'Two Silhouettes' had the kind of radio-ready pop-metal that thrived on mid-1980s radio.  Ballard himself was a more than competent singer and backed by a tight band (including drummer Simon Phillips), pretty much any of these eight tracks would have sounded dandy on your local radio station.  That's probably why Kiss' Ace Frehley grabbed 'In the Night' for one of his solo albums.  (For goodness sakes, I'd rather hear 'Voices' than something from Journey or REO Speedwagon.)  After it was featured in a Miami Vice episode, Epic actually tapped 'Voices' as a single b/w 'Living without You' (Epic catalog number B204).

 

Hopefully Ballard won't mind, but I lifted a couple of his own comments about the LP from his website:

 

UK picture sleeve Epic catalog number EA-185

 

Courtesy of YouTube here's a link to the 'Voices' video:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g_yiaQ2BqMw&feature=related



"Russ Ballard" track listing:
(side 1)

1.) I Can't Hear You No More   (Russ Ballard) - 5:52

2.) In the Night   (Russ Ballard) - 4:09

3.) Two Silhouettes   (Russ Ballard) - 4:19

4.) Voices   (Russ Ballard) - 5:34

 

(side 2)

1.) A Woman Like You   (Russ Ballard) - 4:26

2.) Day To Day   (Russ Ballard) - 3:53

3.) Playing with Fire   (Russ Ballard) - 5:09

4.) The Last Time   (Russ Ballard) - 5:27

 

 

 

 


Genre: rock

Rating: *** (3 stars)

Title:  The Fire Still Burns

Company: EMI America

Catalog: ST-17162

Year: 1985

Country/State: William Cross, UK

Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+

Comments: original inner sleeve

Available: 1

Catalog ID: 3375

Price: $10.00

 

Warning signs - a 41 year old man who feels the need to underscore "The Fire Still Burns".  A song entitled 'Once a Rebel'.  Way too many references to time.  Performance credits that include a nod to electronic drummer Peter Van Hooke. Yeah, this album has a lot of potential baggage attached to it.  Add to that Russ Ballard was still flying high thanks to the inclusion of several of his songs in "Miami Voice" episodes.

 

In all fairness, Ballard stands as one of rock's stealth stars.  The guy has an amazing knack fro crafting catchy and commercial material that's generated millions of dollars in sales - unfortunately those sales have usually gone to acts that have covered his songs; everyone from America ('You Can Do Magic'), to Santana ('No Where To Run').  Ballard's own albums remain a hit-or-miss proposition and 1985's "The Fire Still Burns" was no exception.  There were actually a couple of decent songs on the album.  The power ballad  'Hey Bernadette' served as a primer for '80s hair bands looking for a way to hit the top-40 charts.  In spite of it's Miami Voice connection, 'Your Time Is Gonna Come' and 'Once a Rebel' were both guilty-pleasure rockers.  Unfortunately the combination of hackneyed lyrics (you got the feeling there was a concept album buried in here someplace) and a hideously dated '80s production sound all but sank the remainder of the album.

 

"The Fire Still Burns" track listing:
(side 1)

1.) Once a Rebel   (Russ Ballard) - 5:31   rating: **** stars

Oh ...  Judging by the opening synthesizers and the patented '80s production effects (syn-drums), 'Once a Rebel' will be a blessing for folks who treasure their Miami Vice years.  For the rest of us, it's likely to be a guilty pleasure that we share when friends and family are out of the house.  In typical Ballad form, the song sported a killer hook and a refrain that will be hard to shake out of your head.   Taken by someone in the audience, neither sound, nor video quality are very good, but YouTube has a 2013 performance of the song: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-UHDFBk_yMY 

2.) The Omen  (Russ Ballard) - 4:26   rating: *** stars

I'm a pushover for cheesy '80s synthesizers and the pseudo-funky 'The Omen' was simply awash in them.  Well, if you were in the middle of a nasty break-up, it certainly helps to be able to dance your way through it.  Besides, how could you not love a song that included lyrics like "Just like a black cat you were looking at me ..."  LOL

3.) Hey Bernadette  (Russ Ballard) - 5:46   rating: **** stars

While I've never a fan of big, '80s power ballads, I have to admit Ballard was one of the better genre practiioners.   Yeah, 'Hey Bernadette' sounded like something one of those '80s hair bands would have floated in an effort to gain top-40 exposure, but Ballard brought a certain authenticity to the performance and the song had a gorgeous acoustic guitar segment.   Surprising this one wasn't tapped as a single.

4.) Searching  (Russ Ballard) - 6:07   rating: *** stars

Ahhhhhh  'Searching' opened up with more progressively tinged synthesizers and then Johnny Clegg seemingly broken into the studio for a moment.   For better, or worse, Ballard's Miami Vice fascination quickly returned to the scene of the musical crime.  

 

(side 2)

1.) Time  (Russ Ballard) - 

Wow, the sound of a ticking clock ...quite original.  

2.) Your Time Is Gonna Come  (Russ Ballard) - 6:30   rating: *** stars

I'm always amazed at how many folks recognize 'Your Time Is Gonna Come' from its inclusion on a Miami Voce episode.  Not only that, but they can tell you which episode it was featured on - January 1986 "Yankee Dollar".   Interesting, to my ears this one has always sounded like Ballard was copying himself.  In this case the song sounded more than a bit like 'I Know There's Something Going On' (which he wrote and produced for ABBA's Frida Lynstad).  

3.) Dream On  (Russ Ballard) - 4:58   rating: *** stars

Another guilty-pleasure power ballad.  Always liked the hook and the anthemic drums on this one.  Funny to realize today more people know the King Kobra cover than the original.  The tune was tapped as a single in the US and Germany.

   US 12" release

- 1985's 'Dream On' b/w 'The Omen' (EMI America catalog number SPRO 9489)

   German 7" release

- 1985's 'Dream On' b/w 'The Omen' (EMI America catalog number 1C K 060-20 0811 7)

   German 12" release

- 1985's 'Dream On' b/w 'The Omen' (EMI America catalog number 1C K 060-20 08126)

4.) The Fire Still Burns  (Russ Ballard) - 5:37   rating: ** stars

Yeah, it was a single and kind of a hit, but I've always found the title track to be one of the album's dullest performances.  It just sounds so stilted and pretentious ...  those spoken word sections are  simply embarrassing.  You would have failed a high school kid who submitted something like that as par of a  homework assignment.

   7" release

- 1985's 'The Fire Still Burns' b/w 'Hold On' (EMI America catalog number B-8275)

   12" release

- 1985's 'The Fire Still Burns' (album version) b/w 'The First Still Burns' (single version) (EMI America catalog number SPRO 9406)

 

 

 

 

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