In the late 1970's, the veteran Canadian Hard-Rock quintet April Wine took on a tighter sound than they had generally displayed on their mid-70's offerings. They began with 1978's FIRST GLANCE, which featured the blistering, multi-layered guitar workout of "Roller" and the harmonica-heavy confessional "Rock 'N' Roll Is A Vicious Game." They upped the ante in 1979 with the appropriately titled (and sexually suggestive) HARDER...FASTER. Recorded in '79 and released in early 1980, this album showed off April Wine's ever-increasingly complex musicianship and higher decibel register, and became what was one of their best albums up to that point.
The band gets off to a thunderous start with "I Like To Rock," which lets loose with a guitar assault that shows clearly that they had become a full-fledged Heavy Metal band, despite their penchant for sound variety and the occasional slow number. The synthesizer arpeggio has been used in countless commercial breaks in TV sports programs and still never fails to inspire a bit of excitement. (Channel 9 in New Jersey used it quite a bit during N.Y. Mets broadcasts in the early '80's!) The ending is one of the best in rock 'n' roll history, as one guitarist starts playing the riff to the Beatles' "Ticket To Ride" while the second one goes into the Rolling Stones' "Satisfaction" and the third goes into the riff for this song itself; all three guitarists overlapping each other with such perfect timing. It's great! "Say Hello" takes it down a notch or two; however, even being the 'slow' track on this album doesn't prevent it from being a taut, upbeat song, with one killer guitar solo! "Tonite" is a great example of April Wine's incredible versatility; starting out as a mid-paced acoustic-guitar tune with soft, melodic vocals by guitarist, lead singer and chief songwriter Myles Goodwyn, it launches itself into a brilliant speed-metal workout which lasts until the final minute of the song, which ends with the original acoustic treatment. Bald and bearded drummer Jerry Mercer shows he can beat the skins like a madman, while bassist Steve Lang keeps perfect time with him. (April Wine never got enough credit for their great rhythm section.)
While the macho braggadocio of "Ladies Man" never made much of an impression on me (in more ways than one---wink, wink), one of the album's biggest surprises comes next: Guitarist Brian Greenway takes over on lead vocals on the romantic anthem "Before The Dawn," which he penned, and gives an excellent, emotional performance---and plays a mean lead guitar solo to boot! The Goodwyn-sung "Babes in Arms" and "Better Do It Well" fare okay, but then it's time for this album's biggest surprise of all: An absolutely *brilliant* cover version of the King Crimson classic "21st Century Schizoid Man" closes it out, and in such great style! All three guitarists (Goodwyn, Greenway and Gary Moffet) interplay so well in the instrumental section, and Brian Greenway gets his second and final lead vocal, sounding just as evil as Greg Lake did when he sang this song for King Crimson back in 1969! (For some reason, they misspelled his name in the songwriting credits.) With this track, April Wine show that they were always one of the most talented Hard Rock/Heavy Metal bands around, even if their popularity was confined mainly to their native Canada.
With HARDER...FASTER, April Wine showed that they were just about to "journey to the stars" with their blazing "rock 'n' roll guitars"---their next album, 1981's THE NATURE OF THE BEAST was even faster and heavier, plus it gave us one great rock album cover! It would produce April Wine's great power ballad and only U.S. Top 40 hit, "Just Between You And Me"; however, American stardom was unfortunately not to be for this Montreal quintet. It's too bad, although April Wine has definitely taken on the mantle of being a rock connossieur band, which is pretty unique and cool in its own way. They are among my favorite rock bands of all time, and HARDER...FASTER shows why!