Vandenberg - Vandenberg (1982)

Credits:

  • Bert Heerink - Lead Vocals
  • Adrian Vandenberg - Guitar/vocals
  • Jos Zoomer - Drums/Vocals
  • Dick Kemper - Bass/Vocals
  • Produced/Engineered by Vandenberg/Stuart Epps
  • Recorded at Jimmy Page's Sol Studios and mastered at The Townhouse.

 

Background

The debut album from the band Vandenberg was recorded in a two week period in April of 1982. As the story goes, guitarist Adrian Vandenberg decided to reform his old band Teaser, after an audition for Thin Lizzy didn't work out — due to the Dutchman's lack of partying stamina, or so legend has it. The new version of Vandenberg's band consisted of Adrian, ex Mother of Pearl drummer Jos Zoomer, vocalist Bert Heerink, and Bassist Dick Kemper from another Dutch group called Turbo. Prior to recording the album, the band adopted the surname of their main man, and the band was called Vandenberg. Hey, it worked for some other Dutchmen named Van Halen, so it was worth a shot.

 

 

Pass the Dutchie!

L-R: Zoomer, Kemper, Vandenberg, Heerink.

 

 

On the strength of demos promoted by respected Dutch rock journalist/manager Kees Baars, that the band was spotted and signed to Atlantic Records, by Phil Carson. So armed with his trusty tiger striped Les Paul Heritage, his leopard print jacket, a 1960 Les Paul standard, and his modified Marshall amplifiers, Adrian and the band went to Jimmy Page's Sol studios to record their debut album. Adrian wrote all of the songs, designed the artwork, the logo, the album covers, and the photographic layouts. His previous career as a professional graphic designer finally came in handy!

In October of 1982 the album was released. Vandenberg was a superb effort — easily one of the best albums of that year, and one of the best debut albums of the period. The album serves up a skilful blend of the fast-paced, heavy metal rockers infused with the more catchy aspects of euro-pop/rock, along with a few tracks that explore a more melodic and sometimes acoustic side. The album also featured the hit single, Burning Heart — one of the era's first power ballads, and still one of its best. The album really doesn't have a weak track. If you're a classic metal fan from a decade when rock still rocked, Vandenberg should be right up your alley. So without any further ado, lets appreciate Vandenberg.

Track By Track (vocal cues in parentheses)

Your Love Is In Vain (4:15) BANG! Your are hit straight away with some meaty distorted chords then into a great bluesy and rather sexual groove, Adrian plays a short intro, to bring us in the verse (You've been hanging on the phone . . .) and that big groove established at the start of the song is just carrying it forward, Dick and Jos are locked in it. Adrian adds fills around the vocal, a couple of single notes taps, (change your ways!) A clever little open string to octave position pull off and trill (Oh no no . . .) And a cheeky, wolf whistle type slide (answer the phone). In the chorus its back to the chordal driven riff based around ideas established at the intro. Behind the riff in the chorus you can hear some staccato picked unison bends, adding an extra melody to the chorus. Good examples of Adrian's tasty vibrato are all over this track. The guitar solo on this song remains my favorite by Adrian to this day, it is class and a half, cascading, flowing legato lines with a superb melodic feel, topped off with some wide, expressive vibrato. This epitomizes the excellent taste of Vandenberg the soloist.

Back On My Feet (3.55) After the count in, in Dutch, Adrian brings the song in with a heavy, syncopated muted riff which goes straight into a motif built around wide vibratoed bends. Throughout the song Adrian uses his signature muting style to break up the riff and he adds muted runs, and stab chords. The earlier intro motif is re-used, and he adds some bent neck vibrato harmonics. Live he used to lean on his Les Paul for this effect! The chorus (Now I'm back on my feet again . . .) is driven by strong, Powell-esque double bass drum work from Jos Zoomer. Adrian provides a nice tight solo combining his muted style with some quirky phrases, nice fast blues inspired runs, syncopated flurries and wide unison bends. He continues to the play out at the end of the track.

Wait (5:11) Holy classical guitar cadenza Batman! Yes, Robin that's Adrian Vandenberg. And he lets rip with one almighty burn up the fret board on a classical guitar. I remember a reviewer from Guitar Player magazine being more impressed by this rapid fire classical intro, featuring scalar runs, pull offs, and arpeggios than he was of all the other albums he reviewed that month. Spanish who? No competition, it is that good. The electric guitar kicks off a slow, heavy, tension building riff. Dynamically, the song contrasts loud and quiet parts to great effect. The catchy (Wait, wait, wait 'till the shit hits the fan) creates a fist pumping chorus. The song is a gem and features a great solo as well, with Adrian playing over the changes and adding two handed tapped phrases lower down in the mix.

Burning Heart (4:11) I feel that the term power ballad does this song such an injustice. It is one, but to me it's more than that. Adrian's compositional skills really shine on this song. He uses a beautifully simple, yet highly effective acoustic guitar part throughout the verse. This part is based around arpeggiated ideas derived from A minor seventh. At the end of some verses, Adrian adds strummed harmonics across the 12th, 7th and 5th frets. The electric guitar comes in for the chorus with a big power chord fest, and the whole band is laying into it.

Vandenberg in full flight.

The interlude into the solo features layered lines of arpeggios and plucked double stops, which you can hear in various tracks of the mix. The solo is a master class in taste. It starts with laid back, muted, classically inspired lines that continually build. Clever use of hammer-ons, allow Adrian to link the various phrases. The solos climaxes with flowing, relaxed legato lines and some sweet singing bends at the top of the neck. Yeah, baby. Got a cigarette? Also noteworthy in this solo, Adrian's cocked wah pedal produces a kazoo like lead tone that is present all over this album. Bert Heerink may not have been the best singer in the world, but he turns in a sterling performance here, conveying pure, heartfelt emotion. This song was the million plus seller that made Vandenberg a one-hit wonder. However, it still sounds great today, and it is a metal classic.

Ready For You (3:57) A volume faded in, evil sounding trill and we are off into a fast paced metal tune. The song features an open string pedal tone that drives the song along with some superb drum work from Jos and a rather pounding bass line from Dick. The band have got their head down a bit for this one (there gonna rock this place tonight). Adrian unleashes some nasty sounding low string pre bends and ghost bends in the solo. You can also hear his trademark muted passages and some fast Page-like phrases based around A minor at the top of the neck.

Too Late (4:12) The band still have their heads down for this one. Too Late seems to continue the attitude and ideas established in Ready For You. It's about the band playing live, with everyone giving it their all. This song features classic metal rhythmic device: The gallop. The riff also has a slight shuffle feel to it, especially at the beginning. Again Jos and Dick are powering this track along. Adrian's solo begins with an arpeggiated classically inspired progression, followed by some quirky phrasings, and some call and response passages. He finishes with some screaming bends. The cocked wah kazooo tone gets some more play here.

Nothing To Lose (3:23) A short classical guitar intro brings this rocker in, this song always reminds me exactly why Phil Lynott asked Adrian to audition for Thin Lizzy. This song is very much a rocker in the Lizzy mold. The is mid-tempo number features some nice simple riffs around the vocal. It's not too cluttered. Everyone plays for the song, then we are get a note with very wide vibrato, and it's onto some lyrical phrases, and back out to the finish. Classic Vandenberg ROCK!

Lost In A City (3:58) A wicked drum groove form Jos brings in a muted riff from Adrian that works into a Zeppelin-like single note riff. He accents the riff with harmonics. Bert sings about the slightly darker elements of life, when lost in a big city. So the tension builds in the song till Bert is (Losing my senses) and an atmospheric breakdown of plucked harmonics and finger picked passages lead into driving chords that set up the solo and Adrian comes blasting out of the starting gate, fast scalar alternate picked climbs, low muted runs, wide vibrato throughout, finishing off with a rapid fire arpeggio sequence that always reminds me of the similar sequence in the second solo to Dire Straits Sultans of Swing but in this case with Adrian burning away it's more Sultans of Supersonic Speed!

Out In The Streets (4:07) Some quick double bass drum work brings in crashing very Townshend-esque chords, then launches into an up tempo metal rocker. Adrian lays down a quick pedal tone riff, the vocals enter accompanied by a pick scrape. Adrian sounds like he is using a lot of bent neck vibrato on this song. The double bass drum pattern and the guitar riff really drives this song — particularly the choruses (Can't afford the hotel) and (Haven't got the bread). Adrian gives us a bit of everything on this solo. The kazoo tone, some low note pre bends and ghost bends, his typical quirky phrasing, followed by some rapid alternate picked layovers, legato lines, and classically inspired ascending and descending runs that resolve in a call and response manner. Then crash goes the gong and Vandenberg the album is all done.

Summary

At the time of this release, the future looked bright for Vandenberg. They had a US hit with Burning Heart, but sadly, neither the band nor the album received much exposure. In retrospect, one could contend that having the hit single may have been the worst thing that could have happened to Vandenberg. The hit created the expectation — at least in the minds of their record label — that Vandenberg should churn out the kind of commercial, lite metal that Dokken would later make famous. There were some inerrant flaws in that notion: First, Vandenberg was clearly a heavy band that had a fluke hit single on an otherwise all-out rock album. How anyone could have viewed them as pop rock hit-makers is beyond comprehension. Second, in 1982 good, real, heavy metal was still on the rise. Heavy bands were playing for a metalhead audience. They hadn't begun thinking about commerciality, or taming down the product yet. But it appears as if that was what was asked of Vandenberg.

Attempts to capitalize on the success of Burning Heart produced two overly commercial follow-up albums: Heading for a Storm, and the painfully lame Alibi. The timing was just wrong. Fans of lite metal weren't listening yet. For example, in 1985, Alibi was competing with albums like Accept's Metal Heart, Loudness' Thunder in the East. Vandenberg's debut album would have fit in nicely with those. But fans of real metal heard Alibi and thought: what the hell happened to Vandenberg?

When these follow-up Vandenberg releases failed to gain any traction, Adrian finally called it a day and stepped into the soap opera that is Whitesnake. However, when I think of Adrian, it's always this first album that comes to mind. Adrian's incredibly tasty guitar work will keep this album in my top five forever. And every time I hear it, it reminds me what a great band Vandenberg was. Dick was as solid a bass as you could ask for, Bert gave it everything he had and Jos is a top drummer. Many fans feel that Adrian never again played as well as he did on this album. And while I personally like aspects his other releases too, I'd be hard pressed to disagree with that notion. Throughout this album, Adrian's delivers guitar the kind of top drawer guitar work that almost made him famous. You want catchy riffs, driving metal, blisteringly quick fret work — it's all here. But what this album has that his others lack is top quality songs from beginning to end. That's why this album is as good to day as it was in 1982. Rock on.

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Profile by Andrew G. Biggs. Copyright Dinosaur Rock Guitar ©2006 All rights reserved.