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Karo - Heavy Birthday II & III

Karo
Heavy Birthday II & III
by Dave "That Metal Guy" Campbell at 21 June 2019, 4:47 AM

 Berlin based Hard Rock outfit KARO put out their only album “Heavy Birthday” in 1988. Praised by critics and fans alike for their melodic but somehow rough style was met by great songwriting and musical talent. It has been an open secret that KARO recorded over 30 songs between 1987 and 1989, of which only 10 ended up on their debut. KARO played support for MEAT LOAF but was dropped by their label in 1989. The idea to put out “Heavy Birthday II & III” as a double decker CD was born. With Holstein and Bosien having passed away already, this is the ultimate legacy of KARO.

Producer Tony Platt worked with the band back in the day, having already gained experience with AC/DC. The sound can be best described in the context of the many Glam and Hard Rock bands of the 1980’s. With a siren for a vocalist, and sensible riffing with noticeable keys, it fits in with the times, with a big chorus full of backing vocals. Part RATT, part WHITESNAKE, and part HURRICAINE, the melodies are easy to grasp, and it’s the kind of music that is easy listening but with an edge or a bite as well.

With 25 tracks to listen to, let’s get to some of the highlights on this double decker sandwich. “Breakout” has a lot of energy, fueled by shrieking vocals, and guitars and keys trading off, and with a nasty riff, it is full of melody but with a gritty snarl. “All the Way” leads off with melodic keyboards and a positive sound that makes you feel good. I am starting to wonder why this band didn’t have more success. Keys weren’t uncommon during the late 1980’s, but they feature them more fully. “Blind Love” shows a more tender side of the band, with a slower cadence and more emotional vocals. The vocals are especially expressive here, digging deep with emotional peaks in his smooth but raspy vocal style.

“Turn the Trick” has a rough edge to it; a mid-tempo song with a big chorus, full of backing vocals and prominent keys. Keyboards are the key to their sound; they really know how to use them to shoot the melodies high. Take “Deceiver” as an example of this, opening with a steady keyboard presence followed by a guitar solo, and then a rough and heavy riff. Keys come back into play heavily here…with my approval. “Burning Alive” has a charging sound, again led by keys, and a strong vocal performance. He has just enough of a rasp to give the music that edge that they were talking about earlier.

“Still Hate” opens with a pensive sound. It’s an unconventional sound in that the guitars or bass don’t have much of presence…it’s mostly keys and vocals. “Joyride” shows the more energetic side of the band, with a burning energy but not giving up the melodies. Salzwedel really hits some high notes with ease here. “Walking on Ice” is a mid-tempo number with plenty of balls. The chorus is big and full and I am reminded of SCORPIONS here. “Slow Dancing” features the guitar more prominently, but still with a lot of melody. There are several lead breaks here which add more layers to the music. “Saying Goodbye” wraps up the album, with a dual meaning. It has tough, sleazy sound, mostly from that dirty guitar riff.

Overall, there was much to enjoy here on this double decker album. I am still scratching my head as to how this band didn’t enjoy the success of many others during these times. The only thing that I can come up with is their nationality. In the states during these times, we were oversaturated with bands in this style and couldn’t fit many more into our pocket. We as Americans tend to be too ethnocentric as well. Germany did produce ACCEPT and SCORPIONS, but KARO is more on the melodic side of the path. Unfortunately, we will probably never no why, but I highly recommend you pick this up and enjoy the ride.

Songwriting: 8
Originality: 7
Memorability: 9
Production: 8

4 Star Rating

Tracklist:
1. FBTL
2. Breakout
3. Take me Higher
4. All the Way
5. Don’t you Turn me Back
6. Blind Love
7. Turn the Trick
8. Deceiver
9. Dancing on my Finger
10. Burning Alive
11. The Only Game
12. Still Hate
13. All the Fun
14. Coz I’m Hot
15. Joyride
16. Lost in the Crowd
17. Walking on Ice
18. Hit and Run
19. White Monkey
20. Slow Dancing
21. Metal Hero
22. Bad Things Come Back
23. Up and Down
24. Watch Out
25. Saying Goodbye
Lineup:
Lutz Salzwedel – Vocals
Karo Straub – Keys
Erich Holstein – Guitars
Ronnie Bosien – Drums
Record Label: Pride and Joy Music
     


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