Honeymoon Suite – The Big Prize [1985]

After the mighty debut, I didn’t know what to expect. This completely knocked me out at the time, and still does to this day. This is their signature album, not because it landed them recognition on the US charts, but because it flat-out Rocks!. I love almost every song and it has something for everyone. Great ballads and rocking tunes that will appeal to everyone.

Written in 1985, a time in rock ‘n’ roll history when ’80s metal was skyrocketing to its apex, these tunes offers a mixture of arena rock riffage, driving synths, hokey lyrics that strive for weightiness, predictably larger-than-life choruses and a surprising lack of melody, which, love’em or hate’em, most ’80s metal bands offered in spades. The Big Prize featured four hit singles, including the band’s biggest hit in the U.S., “Feel It Again,” and “Bad Attitude,” which was notably featured in a sequence in the final episode of Miami Vice three years later. The album also certified Platinum in Canada by the CRIA. Following the release of this album, the band won the Juno Award for “Group of the Year” and was also nominated for “Album of the Year” in 1986.

I still find myself listening to the album several times all of the way through, and enjoying Johnnie Dee’s strong vocals while sings in a secure tone. The guitar rips in a few spots by Derry Grehen show us his talent as he uses every lick in his arsenal and I admiring his energetic and melodious style of playing which should receive every rock music lover’s respect. The rest of the band consist by drummer Dave Betts, Gary Lalonde on bass and keyboardist Ray Coburn, work extremely well together to bring the listener a very focused, melodic and polished album. The Big Prize was produced by Bruce Fairbairn (Bon Jovi, Aerosmith, Prism, Poison, etc.) with assistance from fellow Canadian Bob Rock and featured the trademark 80s sound of rock guitars interlaced with keyboards.

“Bad Attitude” opens this collection and it is certainly a strong song and an indicator of things to come. A straight ahead rock and roll with no filler in between with catchy hooks, strong keyboards – multiple layers plus the bells and whistles courtesy of Ray Coburn are a feature all through “The Big Prize”. Deep breathy vocals and subdued guitars set the initial pace of “Feel It Again” until the powerful chorus kicks in. The song was the big hit on this release written by keyboardist Ray Coburn. This tune became the band’s first and only single to date to crack the billboard top 40 chart in the States. It has always surprised me why this song never achieved higher praise and reception as the melody is a perfect combination of fluent guitar work complemented by the right touch of keyboard interplay. Swirling synths and guitar gymnastics also dominate “Lost And Found”, which quotes early Kiss and flat-out rules.

A bouncy effervescent piece followed by the magical anthemic ballad “What Does It Take” and was originally written on a Foster recorder at a gig in Sarnia, Ontario. I love the vocal melody that leads into the solo – it’s the love that I need!.. That was the song that really introduced me to the group as I heard it for the first time on the ending credits of a movie called One Crazy Summer with John Cusack. Pulsing keys and driving drums dominate the verses of “One By One”. The chorus is catchy with stabbing pianos and reminds me of that Toto, REO Speedwagon sound that was big back then. “Wounded” is pristine pop-metal perfection – just check out Coburn’s keyboard work, is killer on this one! I was also impressed by the driving and wonderful rhythm of “Words In The Wind”, the musicianship is tight and the song writing is provocative, yet forceful.

From there, the swarm keys compliment with Johnnie Dee’s soulful vocals and Derry Greham, lets the power chords ring out on the anthemic track “Once The Feeling”, when he returns on the solo, he really shows off his speed skills, while “Take My Hand” ending with a whimper as a softly ballad and is as appealing as a warm wet blanket. In my opinion not the best moment of the album but still worth to be listened. Now for the end we have the big prize of the album and this is none other than the “All Along You Knew”. The guest artist Ian Anderson of Jethro Tull puts in a fantastic flute solo on the song which elevates the song into a classic heh! How many AOR bands get a talented flutist like Ian Anderson to play on their album? That was a classic moment in AOR rock history.

If you like your hard rock buffed and smooth but with a lot of melody and a soupcon of sting in its sassy little tail, this is an album for you. If you don’t own this already, find it somewhere and let others know that even today, rock and roll is still alive in Canada with one of the best AOR bands around…

Band Members
Johnnie Dee – Lead Vocals
Derry Greham – Guitars, Vocals
Ray Coburn – Keyboards
Gary Lalonde – Bass
Dave Betts – Drums
Ian Anderson – Flute on “All Along You Knew”
Mickey Curry – Additional Percussion
Chris Taylor – Additional Percussion

Tracks
01. Bad Attitude
02. Feel It Again
03. Lost and Found
04. What Does It Take
05. One By One
06. Wounded
07. Words in the Wind
08. All Along You Knew
09. Once the Feeling
10. Take My Hand

 

 

 

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Honeymoon Suite - The Big Prize [1985], 9.8 out of 10 based on 4 ratings