He may not be a household name but Mike Slamer is one of the most respected guitarists, songwriters and producers in the AOR world. After cutting his teeth with underrated seventies band CITY BOY he forged a second career in the USA, beginning with STREETS, and was held in sufficient regard to play guitar solos incognito on the first two WARRANT albums.
In 1998 his own project STEELHOUSE LANE, named after his childhood street, released their debut Metallic Blue a fine album but lacking a bit of production punch and mainly featuring his songs that had already been recorded by the likes of HOUSE OF LORDS, HARDLINE and TOWER CITY. This follow up was a far superior beast: the production was bolder, the sound stronger and all the songs new other than a fine remake of STREETS’ ‘The Nightmare Begins’.
Slamer surrounded himself with younger musicians including vocalist Keith Slack, who was also his main songwriting collaborator alongside former MANFRED MANN’S EARTH BAND singer Chris Thompson. He has the versatility to carry off a diverse range of songs with aplomb, and went on to tour with the MICHAEL SCHENKER GROUP.
The tougher direction is evident from the opening track ‘Give It All to Me’, with a big, muscular blues rock riff topped off by Slack’s strong, swaggering voice. Slamer’s talents are evident on ‘Find What We’re Looking For’ where his guitar lick carries the song’s melody by itself and atmospheric epic ‘Son of a Loaded Gun’. Though there are a couple of fine ballads in ‘Turnaround’ and ‘All I Believe In’, I prefer the rockers like ‘All or Nothing’, and ‘In Too Deep’, where Slamer burns up and down the fretboard like a supercharged version of STREETS, though the title track takes the heavier approach to the limit with even a couple of lines in rap.
‘Seven Seas’ has exactly the hooks and choruses that made him such an in demand songwriter not to mention classic AOR ‘loved and lost’ lyrics, and the album ends with a typically immaculately constructed ‘Where Are You Now’ where the pre-chorus is just as strong as the chorus itself.
No more was heard from STEELHOUSE LANE, Slamer going on to form SEVENTH KEY with Billy Greer, and collaborate with Terry Brock and Last in Line singer Andrew Freeman, but for me ‘Slaves…’ is the finest moment bar none in his distinguished career.