Brian Vollmer - 'When Pigs Fly' (re-issue)

 


THE BAND:
Brian Vollmer - vocals
Bill Gadd - guitar
Tony Paleschi - bass
Brian Doerner - Drums

Additional Musicians:
Christine Newland - cello on "Stumblin' Blind"
Mel Martin - violin on "Stumblin' Blind"

BLAST FRAGMENTS:
1.) "I'm a Live Frankenstein" - This track opens with a line by Bela Lugosi as Dr. Eric Vornoff from the 1955 Ed Wood movie by called, 'Bride Of The Monster'.  The intro consisted of a bass and drum line underneath four lead guitar riffs.  After the first measure Bill overdubbed a second guitar arrangement over the top of the lead riffs.  For the drum line Brian opened his hi-hat on the & of three.  Brian's bass drum kick of this track was amazing!  After four measures the musical verse kicked in.  The main instrumentation of the musical verse consisted of just a bass and drum line with only three guitar riffs.  Brian switched the hi-hat pattern for the musical verse to a sixteenth-note hi-hat pattern.  The rhythm guitar does not actually kick-in until the musical chorus.  Underneath Brian's lead vocal lines of the chorus there is a backing harmony.  The backing harmony is "I'm Alive" repeated seven times then for the eighth backing harmony line the band singstrums his guitar mn s "Frankenstein".  They sing this the same time Brian does.  There was a spoken vocal line before the first lyric line of the second verse.  There was a second spoken vocal line connecting the second chorus with the lead guitar solo.  After the lead guitar solo there was a third spoken vocal line.  After this spoken vocal line Doerner changed the bass drum pattern.  This lead to a third chorus arrangement.  The chorus was repeated throughout the coda.

2.) "Life Of The Party (But Now He's Dead!!)" - This track opens with a special effect of a electrocardiograph (heart rate monitor). The electrocardiograph beeps seven times before the musical intro kicks in.  The musical intro consisted of a drum line along with a very cool laid back bass line.  For the next two measures over the top of the bass and drum line  Bill strummed his guitar eight times with musical playing only quarter-notes.  The band used the same musical arrangement for the musical verse as the one for the intro.  For the verse instead of singing the musical verse Brian more or less spoke the lyric lines.  The only time Vollmer actually sings is during the chorus.  After the first verse there as a musical rest.  The song kicked back in with a tom-tom fill.  It is at this point where there actually is a rhythm guitar arrangement.  Though the chorus was short.  It did consist of a huge Vollmer lyrical hook.  There was a small snare drum fill leading into the first lyric line of the second verse.  If I counted right in between the fifth and sixth lyric lines of the second verse there was a backing vocal.  After the second chorus there was a lead guitar solo.  The coda consisted of a electrocardiograph that had a flat line effect.
3.) "King Of The Hill" - This track opens with a rhythm guitar arrangement.  Over the top of the fourth riff of the opening rhythm guitar arrangement Brian sings a vocal accent.  After the vocal accent the main body of the intro kicks-in.  For the main body of the intro Bill overdubbed a second rhythm guitar arrangement.  This second rhythm arrangement is different than the main rhythm arrangement.  Doing this gave the intro a heavier sound.  The musical intro as a whole was very reminiscent to the musical arrangements Brian writes with his band Helix.  There was a snare fill along with a very short musical rest connecting the musical intro with the musical verse.  There was a bass and drum line change for the musical verse.  The main instrumentation underneath the first three lyric lines of the verse consisted of just bass and drums.  For the lyric lines of the verse Brian used a vocal effect. After the third lyric line the rhythm guitar kicks back in.  This rhythm guitar arrangement was almost the same one that was used for the musical intro.  The only difference Bill changed along with added a few notes here and there.  There was a small snare drum fill connecting the musical verse with the musical chorus.  For the chorus Bill used the same rhythm guitar arrangement as the one he used for the intro.  The choruses of this song were very short and simple.  There was a small lead guitar lick connecting the first chorus with the second verse.  Too connect the second chorus with the lead guitar solo there was a musical rest that consisted of a rhythm guitar riff over the top of it.  You can't hear it until after the second chorus however Bill double-tracked the rhythm guitar arrangement of the song.  This is why the musical arrangement has such an intense sound to it.  The was a vocal accent leading into the lead guitar solo section.  The lead guitar solo was done using a wah-wah effects pedal.  There was a tom-tom fill underneath the lead guitar solo.  Underneath the chorus and over the top of the rhythm guitar of the coda Bill played a minor lead guitar solo.
4.) "Stumblin' Blind" - This intro opens with a cymbal accent.  The rhythm guitar of the intro was done with a picking arrangement.  Over the top of the rhythm guitar Brian sings a vocal accent.  Underneath the end of the vocal accent there also is a sixteenth-note cymbal accent.  There was another sixteenth-note cymbal accent leading into the first verse.  Brian's lead vocal sound of the verse was very reminiscent of the ballads he sang on songs like, "Without You" taken off of 'Long Way To Heaven' (November 9, 1985).  Proving that age is just a number and he sounds as good in 1999 as he did in '85!  Bill used the same rhythm guitar arrangement for the verse as the one he used for the intro.  There was a small musical rest connecting the first verse with the first chorus.  The band kick the song in for the musical verse.  There was a backing harmony in between the first and second lead vocal line of the chorus.  About halfway through the second verse Bill kicked-in a second rhythm guitar arrangement.  These two rhythm guitar arrangements were different from one another.  After the second verse there was a cello and violin arrangement.  The main instrumentation of the second chorus was the orchestration.  The orchestration added another  dimension to the song. The coda ends with a vocal line.
5.) "Pissed Off" - This track opens with the phrase, "And tonight on classic theater, angry songs for angry people in angry times".  This is something like what you would have heard at the beginning of PBS's "Masterpiece Theatre".  The intro opens with a bass and drum line.  After two measures the rhythm guitar kicks-in.  The rhythm guitar riff that Bill played for the intro was the same as the bass lime.  There was a rhythm guitar change for the musical verse.  This rhythm guitar change consisted of several long musical rests allowing the listener to focus on the bass and drum lines.  Brian's vocals had an early eighties sound to them.  The last half of the third lyric line consisted of a backing vocal.  The way this third lyric line was arranged reminded me of the way the  Beastie Boy's arranged the lyric lines on their hit "You Gotta Fight For Your Right To Party".  For the third lyric line of the second measure instead of a backing harmony Brian made a laughing effect.  There was a short snare/tom-tom fill connecting the musical verse with the musical chorus.  There was a rhythm guitar change for the musical chorus.  After the first chorus there was a minor lead guitar solo.  Over the top of the minor solo Brian sang a few vocal accents.  The last half of the second lyric of the second verse consisted of a backing vocal.  After the second verse there was a rhythm arrangement change for the second chorus.  After the second chorus there was a major lead guitar solo.  After the solo there was a musical rest for the guitar arrangement.  This rest allowed the bass and drum line to be the main instrumentation.  The bass line Tony wrote for this track was amazing!!  There was a major lead guitar solo underneath the third chorus.
6.) "X-Ray Eyes" - This track opens with a fairly standard intro arrangement.  Over the top of the intro Brian sings a vocal accent.  Underneath the vocal accent there was a small lead guitar lick.  The drum line of the intro consisted of a sixteenth-note hi-hat pattern.  The band used the same rhythm arrangement for the musical verse as the one they used for the intro.  There was a rhythm guitar arrangement change for the musical chorus.  The way Brian arranged the lyric lines of the choruses had a slowed down punk rock feel to them.  It's hard to tell however, either the band sang the backing vocals or Brian overdubbed them.  I am reviewing this CD with head phones on and if I had to bet it sounds like Brian overdubbed them.  After the band sings the lyric "X-ray eyes"  they say "stop" which lead to a musical rest.  Over the top of the rest the band sings the lyric line "or you will go blind".  After the second chorus the band slowed the music down just a little.  After the second chorus there was a lead guitar solo.                    
7.) "F.U.G.L.Y." - Musically this track was very simply well-written.  The lyrics show Brian's great sense of humor!
8.) "When Pigs Fly" - This track opened with a slowed down punk rock influenced rhythm guitar arrangement.  After the riff is repeated twice there was a snare fill.  After the snare fill the rhythm guitar riff was repeated one more time.  After this over the top of the rhythm guitar there was a vocal accent.  After the vocal accent the band kicks-in for the musical verse.  Brian's vocal arrangement had a slowed down punk rock feel to them.  The third and sixth lyric lines were backing vocals.  After the eighth lyric line the musical chorus kicked-in.  There was a rhythm arrangement change for the musical chorus.  After the second chorus there was a short tom-tom pattern that lead to the lead guitar solo.  Underneath the last chorus Doerner switch the single bass drum pattern to a double bass drum pattern.  The coda consisted of a special effect of a pig snorting.               
9.) "Good Times Don't Get Better Than This" -This track completely blew me away!!!!!



    This is a re-issue of Brian Vollmer's (lead vocalist of Helix) 'When Pigs Fly'.  This re-issue was released through Perris Records and for one reason or another Tom Mather's C.E.O. of Perris chose to edit the release.  The re-issue contains new artwork including different photo's within the CD booklet.  This re-issue is a limited edition pressing of only 500. 
    Brian Vollmer's solo CD was written with Rob Long, Tony Paleschi, and Bill Gadd. Together they had a weekend cover band called 7 Year Itch which played throughout Southern Ontario.
    Originally starting out as somewhat a joke however as the songs started to take shape and everyone could hear how great the songs were, the guys started to take the project more serious. 
     Brian's vocals sound just as strong on this 1999 release as they did on Helix's first release album titled 'Breaking Loose' released in 1979.  For 'When Pigs Fly' Brian tried to stay away from writing songs that sounded like songs that Helix would have written or recorded.  However when you have been with a band for forty-two years that is very difficult to do.  So there are times when the songs do have a Helix sound to them.  I have personally known Brian going on about fifteen years and one of the many things I like about this release that you do not get to see much with Helix (that is until recently with their new single, "Gene Simmons says Rock Is Dead") is his great sense of humor.  Just an example of his great sense of humor is on a song such as "F.U.G.L.Y.".  As a Helix fan since '79 I really liked this CD.  I feel there is a lot of longtime Helix fans who are like me and will really like this release.  So if you did not buy it the first time around you need to buy it this time around.