Ken Hensley & Live Fire
Far from re-retiring, multi-instrumentalist (but known for his keyboard work) Ken Hensley aims to bring back that band feeling, ala Uriah Heep and Blackfoot, with Norway's Live Fire for a studio album called Faster. Recorded over a three-week period in Riga, Latvia, this 12-song collection captures the breadth of Hensley's prowess for songwriting, collaborative blend and balls-out jamming.
Having a good band in your corner helps, which may be why the youngsters that make up Live Fire — drummer Tom Arne Fossheim, bassist Sid Rinsby, guitarist Ken Ingwersen and vocalist Eirikur Hauksson — help Hensley achieve a modern approach with an old school sensibility. An epic in the making, "Set Me Free (From Yesterday)" raises the stakes, driven by the churn of Henley's B3 and lifted into space by Ingwersen's stirring guitar antics. Where "The Curse" piles on the melodic building blocks, "I Cry Alone" pushes a blues pattern into a messy river of melodic mush. Fortunately, all is forgiven when "Faster," a snappy romp that cruises alongside Purple's "Highway Star" in thematic execution, pops into gear.
As the CD pushes forward, it becomes ever so apparent Hensley dips his creative toe in an assortment of swatches and palettes. "Slippin' Away (The Lovers Curse)," a commercially inspired exercise in uninspired nonsense, and the bouncy, spitfire dash of "The End Of Never" give way to the utter, breezy brilliance of "Beyond The Starz." It's on this song, perhaps the pinnacle for the entire album, that the mighty rumble of the B3 leads the charge, before the band falls into the place, only t o be punctuated by those stinging Ingwersen leads.
"Circle Of Hands," included as a live bonus track with the Norwegian Radio Orchestra, finishes the record off in opulent style. Hensley, of course, keeps it going with numerous other collaborations, one-offs and the occasional leap into "Heep" land. Faster shows there's the desire to keep the creative fire burning is still very much alive. High rollers, big hits and massive numbers don't really even matter anymore.
~ Shawn Perry