NEIL MERRYWEATHER — Kryptonite (review)

NEIL MERRYWEATHER — Kryptonite album cover Album · 1975 · Hard Rock Buy this album from MMA partners
4/5 ·
Canadian journeyman bassist/vocalist/songwriter Neil Merryweather has had somewhat of a long and eclectic career. Born in Toronto, Robert Neilson Lillie, performed under the name of Bobbie Neilson and played with some of the local artists in the area including the Mynah Birds, The Tripp and Bruce Cockburn's Flying Circus in which he left the band in 1968 to form his own group with fellow members from The Tripp. The band left Toronto for Los Angeles and signed to Capitol Records. Neilson changed his name to Neil Merryweather just before the release of the band's debut, simply titled "Merryweather", a heavy blues-rock style with tinges of psychedelic pop. Though the album had some guest appearences from Steve Miller, Dave Mason and blues legend Charlie Musselwhite, and did recieve some notice and then the release of "Word Of Mouth" in 1969, critically acclaimed, it sold poorly, so Merryweather then decided to head back home to Toronto.

Back in T.O., Neil put together a new band and released two more albums similar in vein to his first two with his new girlfriend/vocalist Lynn Carey, reminescent vocals of Janis Joplin, but again the albums didn't garner much attention. So Merryweather and Carey continued to record under the name of Mama Lion with an array of musicians and released two albums, a little more hard rockin' than Merryweather's previous releases, but the real show here is the two albums covers with the beautiful Lynn Carey gracing the cover. Yeah baby! She was the Penthouse Pet Of The Month for December, 1972. Check it out some time. She's stunning.

In 1972, Merryweather took the musicians from Mama Lion with the exception of Carey and went back to L.A. and went into studio and laid down two albums, "Heavy Cruiser" and "Lucky Dog" under the name of Heavy Cruiser. Heavy rock 'n' roll more than heavy rock. Again, no break through.

Still remaining in L.A., Neil then signed to Mercury Records and put out an ad in the local musician's magazine looking for new personnel for his new band, and recruited a drummer, a keyboardist who also had a Chamberlain, the grandaddy of the Mellotron and a synthesizer and two guitarists and thus the Space Rangers exploded out with thier 1974 release, "Space Rangers". Hard glam rock with passages of a psych/space ambience and somewhat in the style of a that mid '70's hard rock AOR. The album reached #5 on the Billboard charts and the song, "Hollywood Boulevard" recieved heavy FM airplay.

Basically without any help from Mercury and after touring with T. Rex, Kiss and E.L.O. and Neil supporting the band financially they went back into the studio, again with Merryweather producing. "Krpytonite" weighs alot heavier and harder than it's predecessor and radiated the galantic glam of Alice Copper, the sub-sonic sizzle of Sweet, the dimensional sound warp of Hawkwind and the bouldering boom of Sabbath. This album is heavy as any release from 1975.

After a few line-up changes, guitarist/synth-man, Timo Laine left after the first Space Ranger's album and later became known as one of the forefathers of the synthesizer guitar and keeping guitarist Michael "Jeep" Willis, obvious the right decesion, is the shooting star and is phenomanol on this recording. Often compared to Michael Schenker of UFO and arguably a fair comparison, "Jeep" jacks out the riffs and sprays out light speed solos and with Merryweather's bottom end bass, gruff vocals and his production tying in the synth space sounds without going out of the universe is terrific.

The first two tracks are the signature space metal songs off the album, "Kryptonite" and "Star Rider" are stunning and probably the best two tracks from the album. "Jeep" and his stellar guitar is out of this world. Wow! Can't get much better than this.

"Always Be You", somewhat of a ballad with well done harmony vocals yet retaining the weight of being heavy. I guess one could label it as AOR hard rock, typical trait of the time.

"Give It Everything We Got" opens up with a funky groove laden beat with the synth and Chamberlain being well incorporated and adds a spacey vibe without detracting the listener. Then the "Jeep" lights it up with an interlude of searing solos and ravaging riffs for the next three minutes. No doubt, smoldering Schenker-esque. The finally goes into crash landing with guitar and synth nose first.

The next track trys to emulate Mott The Hoople, the "Hollywood" era of Alice Cooper, and the AOR of latter day Sweet. "Groove" is just gagging. By far, the worst song on the album.

"Real Live Love" suggests a teenage girl song, something that Sweet would of laid down for a single. Not bad, but it is the next number, "You Know Where I'd Rather Be" where the Space Rangers shot out the lights, similar of Sweet and match them at thier own game, those catchy fuzz guitar hooks. Simply, it puts Slade to shame and the other glammers of the day, with of course the exception of Sweet.

The Space Rangers return to the stars with, "Let Us Be The Dawn". A psych/space/glam voyage with the Chamberlain providing the dark depths of space with the lazer licks of gunner "Jeep". Again, captain Merryweather keeps all the instruments in synch with his direction in the control room. Mission accomplished.

After returning to L.A. the band ran out of money, again no support from Mercury, the Space Rangers disbanded with Merryweather doing some production work for various artists including Randy California from Spirit. A few years latter, Neil took off to London with Michael "Jeep" Willis and did a few recordings and then his record label at that time, Chrysalis formed a new label, Dureco based in Amsterdam and he jumped over there and recorded his solo album, "Differences" in 1978 and then put together an AOR band called, Eyes in 1980 including "Jeep" on guitar.

Merryweather returned to L.A. and hooked up with ex-Runaway, Lita Ford and became her manager, played bass and produced her 1983 album, "Out For Blood". The sexy singer swindled Merryweather and after that incident he had enough of the music business and called it quits and is still in L.A. and is putting together a new version of the Space Rangers with guitarist Michael Willis. If an album is released, I'll be searching the universe, far and wide for it.

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