Why Glasgow’s Heavy Pettin’ never hit the big time shall forever remain a mystery as they had all the right ingredients from a charismatic frontman to a hard-edged, but accessible, sound. Sometimes the fickle finger of fate can be cruel but, as if to remind the record buying public of their folly, Cherry Red release this timely 14 track Best Of compilation.
Originally signed to Neat Records, Heavy Pettin’ were soon snapped up by Polydor who enlisted Queen’s Brian May to produce their 1983 debut album Lettin’ Loose. Rough, ready and heavy as hell it remains a cornerstone of the NWOBHM and its opening track “In And Out Of Love” kicks of this collection in suitably raucous fashion. Existing somewhere between Def Leppard and Saxon “In And Out Of Love” employs a chunky riff and thunderous drums and wraps them up in a glorious melody that set Heavy Pettin’ on a collision course with the national charts. Rock Ain’t Dead followed two years later and continued in a similar vein only slightly refining their modus operandi with “Soul Survivor” evidencing a punchy sound that’s tethered to earth by a huge monolithic riff.
By the time Heavy Pettin’ released their third album, Big Bang, they’d reached a fork in the road. One path was the trad metal route trod by Iron Maiden and the other was an Americanised sound pioneered by Def Leppard. Unfortunately they chose the latter and Big Bang turned out to be more of a whimper: “Romeo” from that album (thankfully not included here) was, in a move that would hardly appease the denim and leather brigade, chosen as the UK’s entry for Eurovision. However, it wasn’t all bad and “Born To Burn” has flashes of their former brilliance but the addition of synths acts as a fire blanket and dampens the bands flames. It’s a sound more akin to Survivor or Journey which is all well and good but, for a band who once arrived with all guitars blazing, it falls a little short.
It’s the tracks from the first two albums that really cut the mustard as “Northwinds” arrives like a burst of thunder and proceeds to swirl like a musical maelstrom. “Love Times Love” is the stuff rock n’ roll dreams are made of and was obviously born in tough pubs and clubs and highlights the vapid nature of the following “Lonely People” (from Big Bang, naturally) which wouldn’t seem out of place playing over the credits of some ‘80s Brat Pack film. But there’s plenty of rock action on offer with the debauched “Devil In Disguise”, the raunchy “Rock Me” and the AC/DC-esque “Throw A Party” all being highlights. “Hell Is Beautiful” (from Lettin’ Loose) is the high octane closer and brings things full circle as the band depart in a blizzard of pounding drums, screaming guitars and soaring vocals.
As with these compilations the track selection is always going to leave someone disappointed (“Love On The Run” is criminally excluded) but as a career overview Best Of is damn near perfect and makes a great introduction to the majestic rock of Heavy Pettin’.
Best Of is released via Cherry Red on 27th November 2020