APRIL WINE — Electric Jewels (review)

APRIL WINE — Electric Jewels album cover Album · 1973 · Hard Rock Buy this album from MMA partners
4.5/5 ·
"Electric Jewels" is April Wine's third album and was released in 1973. As far as album covers go, it's an improvement. The debut featured a pair of dirty feet and the sophomore a black vinyl disc with the band's faces dully reflected and a plain white background. Here we have a lovely red glam rock guitar all sparkly and with some peculiar buttons that I have never seen on a guitar before. Artistic lisence or a throwback from the seventies?

The line up changed once again with the Henman brothers departing, leaving Myles Goodwyn as the sole founding member after only two albums. Newbie Jim Clench and Goodwyn decided to keep the band going and brought in ex-Mashmakhan drummer Jerry Mercer and guitarist Gary Moffett.

The new line-up went for a harder rock sound. The last shreds of psychedelia were brushed aside and the band upped the intensity of its music without sacrificing creativity. The opening track "Weeping Willow" has become my favourite April Wine song. It begins with simple and light acoustic guitar but soon a superb electric guitar distortion sound turns the song into an awesome hard rock number. The band hits really hard here and the frequent lead guitar work reminds me of Uli Jon Roth on the Scorpions album "Fly to the Rainbow". I highly recommend checking out this song. What a sound! What a rocker!

"Just Like That" is an intense and speedy blues rocker with a great punch. The title track slows down and comes in three parts: a slow electric intro followed by a short acoustic section and then a slow but heavy and melodic instrumental outro. The following song "You Opened Up My Eyes" is the only song I don't really care for. It's a country western-tinged ballad with harmonica sung by Jim Clench. It reminds me of something that might have been on Nazareth's "Exercises" album. Honestly, Clench isn't a top rate singer but when he sings hard rock it works. Here he warbles a bit. On the other hand, when Goodwyn became the sole lead vocalist the band lost some of its diversity and charm.

After this though the album mostly follows a hard rocking coarse but with some pleasant surprises. "Come On Along" begins as a simpler number but a catchy hand-clapping hard rock tune with vocals split between Clench and Goodwyn. But the music isn't quite that simple and features a few different riffs. It changes into a blues-based rock number and then a melodic hard rock song before switching into a simple hard rock song again. And that's just the chorus. For the close, the song becomes a blues-based rocker.

"Lady Run, Lady Hide" is an acoustic ballad with strings, and again I can't help think of Nazareth but without Dan MacCafferty's raw vocals. It's a pretty enough piece and it was a single.

Now we are ready to rock the rest of the way through without interruption. "I Can Hear You Calling" has an almost punk but desperate feel that reminds me of the Ramones being serious. Again Goodwyn and Clench share the vocals. The chorus is more uplifting. But I love that hurried feeling in the verses.

The last two tracks are different again with "Cat's Claw" being a slower tempo-ed heavy/hard rock number while the optimistic "The Band Has Just Begun" is quick, charging track and an excellent close to what I feel is April Wine's best album. Oh, sure the follow-up "Stand Back" is possibly their best known album of the seventies, but "Electric Jewels" has such a killer guitar sound and really hits hard while still bringing different flavours to the table. Its important to note that Goodwyn sang lead on only a few songs, just as he did on the previous two albums. While I like his voice, I appreciate the contrast by having two lead vocalists. This was lost later in their career, most unfortunately by 1984's "Animal Grace".

In my opinion, this is one fine piece of Canadian hard rock during a time when Canadian hard rock was really coming in to its own. A masterpiece of early seventies hard rock.
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