Deke Leonard - Iceberg / Kamikaze

Album Cover



Note : * indicates bonus track not on the original album.

Two classic Deke Leonard albums on a single release. Heaven. At a time when Man were veering more towards longer, improvisational tracks, Deke was concentrating on shorter, sharper tracks which kept strictly to the point. Razor Blade kicks off, with an unforgettable dynamite riff which is pure, distilled Deke. I Just Can't Win, like A Hard Way To Live, harks back to more traditional rock'n'roll, and pretty much makes you realize why Deke so admires the golden age of Elvis. Lisa and Nothing Is Happening are a couple of ballads which are simply full of wistful melancholy, the former featuring some great fiddle playing from Byron Berline.

Broken Ovation, (the opener to side 2 on the original vinyl) has Deke helped out by Malcolm Morley, with two heavily wahwahed guitars. Jesse is one of the standout tracks on the album, as much as anything because it is so unexpected in style - driven mainly by Deke's soulful, almost gospel tinged piano, and including some of his best lyrics ("I played so hard that I broke a string / and five string songs are hard to sing"), it is still one of the most simply moving songs he has ever written. The rest of side 2 rather struggles to keep up to the high standard which has been set; Ten Thousand Takers is an excuse for a decent slide duet blues piece with Richard Treece, The Ghost of Musket Flat is an instrumental with the entire Man band of the time helping out (why does this piece always make me think of christmas ?), and Crosby is a novelty turn for dog and electronics... yes, side 2 struggles to keep up the standard until the closing track, 7171 551, a candidate for Deke's best ever song. The riff is again given the wahwah treatment, and stomps along mercilessly, steam rollering over everything in its way. Good enough to be featured in the Man live set for quite a while, it's one I'd love to see re-introduced to the set today.

Deke handled almost all of the guitars and keyboards on the album, and in this sense it really was a solo album, in that there was nobody to argue with, and no unsatisfactory compromises. Martin Ace does nearly all the bass playing, and Dave Edmunds helps out with a bit of production; generally, the production is simple and straight forward, and to return to my original point, with 12 tracks on the release, even if you don't like one particular song, don't worry, the next one will be along soon - something not the case with the Man band of the time.

I had never heard the bonus tracks before I got this package; Diamond Road was a single originally, and for me is a bit flat and pedestrian - maybe it needed to be heard originally back in 1972 to be best appreciated. The other two tracks are more ballad like, and for me at least, much better. None of the three would have sounded out of place on the original album.

Kamikaze is very similar to Iceberg, but there are subtle differences : first, there was a producer for the entire project in David Charles, and second, Deke had another guitarist along side him on most tracks, the wonderful Brian Breeze. I suspect that both these factors were an influence which gives the album a more complete sound to it; don't get me wrong, there was nothing wrong with the production on Iceberg, but it does sound slightly sparse at times compared to Kamikaze.

The opener, Cool Summer Rain is simply the riff for a later track - more on this later. Then we're into Jayhawk Special, another of Deke's full throttle straight ahead boogies. Immediately, the difference of having two different guitarists is evident in the different tones and style as Deke and Brian trade solos. Sharpened Claws and Taking The Easy Way Out are another couple of slower songs, with Byron Berline's mournful fiddle again making a welcome, haunting appearance. The Black Gates of Death is some thing of a rhythmic stomp, relentlessly driven on by Keith Hodge's simple drumming. What was side 1 of the original disc closes with Stacia, an affectionate homage to Hawkwind's exotic danceuse of the time; it is actually a wholly charming brief guitar duet.

As mentioned above, the riff from the opening track is the foundation for what I believe to be another of Deke's best songs, Broken Glass And Lime Juice, a poignant piece about lost childhood innocence. (So that sounds pretentious ? Doesn't stop it being a great song). It really is a gorgeous riff, and the track also benefits from a more careful production than would have been found on Iceberg, and the twin guitars also help, especially on the ending section, as the riff is gradually built upon layer by layer. The following two songs are more relaxed and lack the intensity of the rest of the album, but are enjoyable even so; April The Third includes some great harmonica, and as occasionally happens with Leonard songs, there is a distinct country feel to Louisiana Hoedown (not a Leonard original, by the way). In Search Of... is back to familiar guitar duelling, with something of a shuffle type beat also common to some Man pieces. The closer, The Devil's Gloves, is this album's Man reunion piece, and to me at least, has a kind of sophisticated, almost (gulp) funky sound to it, perhaps because of the three guitarists featured, and the added congas. The track is a superb production job anyway, if not exactly typical of Deke or the Man band.

The extra track, She's A Cow, is fairly unspectacular, but worth hearing.

The one striking aspect about Kamikaze when taken as a whole is the depressing nature of so many of the lyrics. You'd expect a song with a title like The Black Gates Of Death to be less than a laugh a minute ("And all the wives were widows / and all the mourners laughed") but also, Sharpened Claws takes a generally grim view of humankind, and Taking The Easy Way Out isn't going to have anyone rolling in the aisles either. The strange thing is, the Man album Slow Motion is thought of as being a very downbeat followup to Rhinos, and a similar view has been voiced about Call Down The Moon following Twang. If I had the time, I'd write a thesis on the subject.

Released on twin CD by BGO Records, BGOCD288.

Iceberg originally released in 1973, Kamikaze in 1974.

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