Rare Albums By GUNHILL feat. John Lawton “Nightheat / One Over The Eight” Now Re-Released and OUT NOW! London, UK – GUNHILL is a band from the 90’s which featured JOHN LAWTON, the former lead singer of URIAH HEEP. This twofer collects together the cassette / fan club ONLY release ONE OVER THE EIGHT and the long since out of print and VIRTUALLY IMPOSSIBLE to find second album NIGHTHEAT!
Both discs feature bonus tracks with the intention of making this set the COMPREHENSIVE collection of all the Gunhill studio recordings!
This re-release has been prepared with the full input of JOHN LAWTON personally and has had a 2016 re-master.
“These two CDs are part of my musical history when I played together with some fine musicians, some quite young and some a bit more experienced. It was an opportunity to cover some tracks that I look back on as really great songs and a few original tracks that have stood the test of time.” – John Lawton Amazon 2 CD set: http://geni.us/bRI2uzB One Over The Eight on iTunes: http://geni.us/Q00UXvr Nightheat on iTunes: http://geni.us/PYNQ
This release is available on JLB Media via Cherry Red Records Ltd.
* Back in the early ‘90s, John Lawton returned to the attention of Uriah Heep fans via the UH Appreciation Society. The official fan club at the time put out a fantastic quarterly magazine, and had taken to making contact with Lawton for interviews and to promote his new projects. In 1994 he put together a blues-rock covers band named Gunhill. In early ’95, the band issued a 10 song cassette, featuring 7 covers and 3 new tracks of their own. The cassette, I recall was intended for use as a way to promote the band for further gigs, thus it wasn’t a huge production, and although the sound quality wasn’t great – it was good to hear John performing all those classics. It was also sold [autographed in fold] through the UHAS. There were even Gunhill t-shirts available at the time – and I still have mine!
GUNHILL was formed in 1994 by singer John Lawton, and consisted in the beginning of guitarist Riki Robyns, keyboardist Mike Raxworthy, drummer Lloyd Coates, and bassist Neil Kavanagh. In early ’94 the band released a 10 track cassette of some of the covers they performed regularly, as well as including a few originals. The cassette, “One Over The Eight” was recorded, produced, and mixed by Neil in his own “Old Barn Recording Studios”, and sold through the Uriah Heep Appreciation Society, and at the band’s gigs. Since then, GUNHILL has gone through a number of guitarists and drummers, lost the keyboard player, and got a new one on occasion.
In 1997 the band – with guitarist Brian Bennett [ex of Brian Connolly’s Sweet] and drummer Chris Jones. recorded and issued their first CD release – again consisting of largely covers along with a few outstanding original songs. Lawton contributed one of his better self penned tracks with “Don’t Stop Believing”, as well as outstanding performances of such classics as “Ready For Love” [Bad Co], “Nobody Loves You The Way I Do” [Melissa Etheridge], and the Beatles’ “Eleanor Rigby” [an upgraded version from the band’s first release].
The band continued to go through changes, as Bennett [a great blues rock player] left, as did Jones. The band ended early in 2000, following the release of “Live In Germany ‘99”, this featuring keyboardist Roger Wilson, guitarist Reuben Kane and drummer Justin Shefford. The latter 2 would join Lawton as he reunited with Ken Hensley and original Heep bass man Paul Newton for the Heep fan convention in 2000, and subsequent Hensley/Lawton tour, and “The Return” release. Gunhill also performed at that eventful weekend.
*The bonus tracks from the CD reissues are taken from the Heepsteria [UH tribute] release, with “Sympathy” and “Come Back To Me” both credited to John Lawton and Gunhill, cool inclusions here, as well as “River of Dreams” [as told by Dave White below]
*The following is an interview I did with John in 1999 to promote the first CD release of One Over The Eight. I also did interviews with Jay Pearson and Dave White who played a part in that venture. Their stories are still relevant to this new release, so I’ve included here.
*Have also included parts of an interview I did many years ago with former GH guitarist Brian Bennett, who left sometime after the release of Nightheat.
Q: When you set out doing Gunhill, what was the intent? did you foresee it still going 5 years down the road, and more recordings?
JL: No! to be honest with you. I felt we had some mileage in the band, but not 5 years. Did Mick foresee so many years for Heep??
Q: Looking back on that release, what do you think of it as a whole? -how much of the stuff from One Over The 8 is still in GH’s live set? any of the originals?
JL: Overall, I think that it represented Gunhill at that time. It was a fun time and we were just starting out, so yes, in that respect I think it’s okay. I think the only song from OOTE still in the set is “Eleanor Rigby” and that is only by popular demand.
Q: Yourself and Neil are the only members left from the original line-up, have you had any contact with the former members – in particular Riki Robyns or Lloyd Coates who co-wrote the originals? what are they up to these days? JL: No unfortunately not, apart from Mike Raxworthy. Riki as far as I know, is still flying planes for a living and the last I heard is that Lloyd is settled down with a lady in Wales.
Q: What are some your faves from the ‘one over the 8’ tape?-you re-did Eleanor Rigby for the Nightheat CD. Is there any others from the original tape that you’d consider re-doing?
JL: I think the two questions can be answered together. Eleanor is obviously a favorite and I felt that we could do the song more justice by re- recording it again, taking our time. “Ain’t No Sunshine” became a standard song in our live set, but we did it so different live, that we could never get the same feel on tape that we got live.
Q: Was the response to the tape more than you expected?
JL: Decidedly more than we had hoped for.
Q: You’ve gotten a great deal of support from the various Heep fan clubs, how has this and your affiliation with Heep meant to Gunhill’s direction and live set?
JL: Not as much as people think with regard to the live set. We do include Heep songs but only from my time with the band. We have Sympathy, Free Me, Firefly, Come Back To Me and One More Night in there and we do play Lady In Black, but again slightly differently. We have had a lot of support from the various fan clubs around the world and met a lot of them personally. It never ceases to amaze me, how much the feeling towards Heep the fans have and hopefully a bit of that has rubbed off on Gunhill.
Q: You’ve had a number of German / Euro tours and things like that. What are some of the biggest highlights [gigs?] so far for Gunhill?
JL: There have been so many, I think the last two trips in 99′ were the most rewarding. We went on the road with two new members Reuben and Justin who really came alive after an initial nervous start. We met a lot of new fans on this last trip and that’s what makes it worthwhile.
Q: What’s your version of recording River of Dreams? how did your vocal come about, and what did you think of the song?
JL: Simple really, I was asked by some members of Heepsters on the Net if I would put a vocal on a song that Dave White had written, as a surprise Birthday present. It’s a very nice song, so how could I turn it down. I think he liked it :-))).
Q: What are you listening to these days?
JL: I am listening to a lot of Glenn Hughes at the moment don’t ask me why!! I am just re-discovering his voice again. Haven’t had much chance to listen to music recently, must rectify that.
Q: What’s the appeal to you [apart from Lawton’s vox] that will make fans want to check it out [for those who ain’t ever heard it]?
JP: Anyone who’s a fan of classic rock/blues rock will enjoy this album, especially fans of the Paul Rodgers/Bad Company or David Coverdale/Whitesnake-type sound. John’s style has evolved into one very similar to Paul’s, and his voice has improved greatly in the 20+ years since he left Uriah Heep.
Q: What’s your fave track[s] from this album? and/or what track do you think will most appeal to Lawton/Heep fans?
JP: Walking In The Shadow Of The Blues is my favorite, which I think is superior to the Whitesnake version! Eleanor Rigby is quite good, not as polished as the Nightheat version, but I think the raw edge helps. Angel is probably the song that sounds the most Heepish. This is more an album for fans of John Lawton than Uriah Heep or Lucifer’s Friend, as the songs are much more in a blues-rock style than a progressive/hard rock style.
Q: How did “River Of Dreams” end up being a ‘bonus’ track here, as it is quite different from the Gunhill sound displayed on One Over The 8!?
DW: Well, in 1998, one of the Heepsters on the Web, Graham Hulme approached John about singing the vocals on a tape of “River of Dreams that I had sent to him before. John did the vocals at Neil’s studio, and on my birthday, my wife gave me the cassette of the song. The cassette was packaged by Graham, and looked really great ! I was blown away…Richard Wagner originally wrote the song, and Michael Keuter (Easy Livin Band) sang for us on the original version. John took Michael’s version, and “re-did” it his way. The song has become very special to a lot of u…
Q: What’s your fave track[s] from this album? and/or what track do you think will most appeal to Lawton/Heep fans?
DW: My fave is “Solider Of Love”…last track before River of Dreams…has a great beginning, and good energy all the way through. Oh, and NO question…if you are a fan of John Lawton, you will LOVE this CD…
BRIAN BENNETT [ex GUNHILL]
Q: Who were your biggest influences on guitar and music?
BB: In the early days- Steve Cropper, Peter Green and Clapton.
Q: Who are your favorite guitar players?
BB: So many, incl. Dickie Betts, David Lindley, Mick Taylor.
Q: What do you recall of playing with Brian Connolly?
BB: Gigs were mainly college & university, but the members kept to themselves. I did prefer the blues/rock material I was into, rather than the glam rock- but still a good band…. My time with Sweet was short,(short and sweet). After Connolly and Scott fell out, I joined them for a short time. I was too committed to another band (Mike Stuart Span).
Q: Prior to Gun Hill, what sort of other bands did you play with?
BB: Started with Rhythm, Blues type bands, touring Europe, Scandinavia and France for 12 months.
Joined a band living in Italy for 8 months (mixture of American, Irish and British.). Met Mick Ralphs from Doc Thomas Group and Mott The Hoople, hitched a lift back to England with band from the south of England (incl. Martin Barre who later joined Jethro Tull).I then joined Psychedelic rock outfit Mike Stuart Span who later became “Leviathan”. We worked on the same bills as The Nice, Ten Years After, Cream, Fleetwood Mac, Pink Floyd, Peter Frampton and the Walker Bros in Europe. In Britain Jimi Hendrix joined us twice on stage in Londons’ clubs playing my Fender Strat I still use today. We were the first British band on the Elektra label. After this band folded, I auditioned with a bass player and a drummer in the basement of the American Embassy in London for Miles Copeland. A week later, I was asked to return to London with another guitar player but I did not want to move to the city. The band later became “Wishbone Ash”. I played a few local gigs with Nick Lowe of Brinsley Schwarz. I then joined another band working in Hamburg, Oslo and Munich called High Broom. We had a top 40 hit with “Dancing in the Moonlight”. We signed to Island Records and supported Grand Funk Railroad at the Albert Hall and supported Leon Russell and Mott the Hoople at various gigs. This band later folded to become an Electro/Acoustic trio called Montage, 2 albums recorded for Island and Decca (re-mastered cd.available this summer). The band folded and I bought a pedal steel guitar. I was approached by Noel Redding to play steel and guitar in his band, but nothing materialized. For several years anywhere and anything-a few minor hits across Europe with a band called Vendetta (TV shows in Italy, France and Germany)
Q: How did you hook up to Gun Hill?
BB: Gunhill advertised for a replacement guitar player. I had also briefly worked with Neil K! some years ago. The rest is history.
Q: Although you are not credited in the songwriting credits of “Nightheat”, are you a songwriter?
BB: No. sadly as yet, not. No time for writing since Montage days. Some change of arrangements and chords and licks created with Neil K. eg. first track, slide licks.
Q: What are some of your personal favorite moments on the CD?
BB: Pleased with slide effect and Spanish guitar on track 2, and solo on track 8.
Q: I found your solos to be one of the greatest aspects of Nightheat.
BB: Solos generally spontaneous- usually better to record in the 1st couple of takes.
Q: Do you have any ideas for the next Gunhill album?
BB: A few loose ideas and numbers have been put forward. I would like to see the band doing bigger gigs perhaps further a-field.