Origin: San Francisco (USA)
|Peter Marrino - Johnny Johnson - Derek Frigo - Kenny Stavropoulos - Brett Bloomfield|
st - 1986
- Like many bands assembled to order by Shrapnel Records owner Mike Varney in the 1980s, Le Mans were built around a pair of talented young guitar shredders in Chicago native Derek Frigo and Bay Area son Josh Ramos. But Le Mans -- which also included singer Peter Marrino, bassist Richard Burns, and drummer Kenny Stavropoulos -- seemed unusually interested (for a Shrapnel signing, anyway) in composing palatable songs around their solos, and their memorable 1983 debut, On the Streets, still ranks among the label's best true band efforts. Unfortunately, it suffered the same fate as most Shrapnel releases by failing to achieve anything beyond modest sales and limited support within the heavy metal community, subsequently leaving Le Mans sidelined until fortune finally smiled upon them again three years later.
Ramos was already out of the picture by then, but when Shrapnel secured an upstream distribution deal with Columbia Records, new guitarist Johnny Johnson was enrolled to match his battle axe against Frigo on Le Mans' belated, eponymous sophomore album of 1986 (also introducing replacement bassist Brett Bloomfield). Sadly, the new effort revealed a band whose creativity had either devolved since its last outing, or been coerced into adopting many of the lamest, mindless cock rock songwriting clichés of the period in a desperate bid for quick commercial success.
All of it was for naught, as it turned out, since this second album fared even worse than the first, and Le Mans were soon forgotten to history when Frigo joined Chicago power pop peaceniks Enuff Z'nuff (a chronic victim of substance abuse, he would sadly die of a heroin overdose in 2004). Vocalist Peter Marrino, too, had little trouble finding new employment thanks to the ever faithful Varney, who almost immediately paired him up with Marty Friedman and Jason Becker's Cacophony project (also featuring former Le Mans drummer Kenny Stavropoulos on their second album). -
- Le Mans first came to everyone's attention courtesy of Mike Varney's Shrapnel label. My first run in with the band was hearing them on the compliation album US Metal II in 1982, where guitarists Derek Frigo and Josh Ramos literally destroyed everything and sundry on that hell blazing metal track 'Waiting', with guitar solos a plenty. Very heavy, and very fast, which is a far cry musically from where both chaps are now, or as it was with this album. Le Mans did release one album on the Shrapnel label in 1983, 'Out On The Streets', which was very heavy metal. It wasn't a bad effort, but somewhere in between the boys have done serious listening time to Journey and Def Leppard and lightened up big time with this effort three years later. The lineup had changed slightly, only Marrino, Frigo and Stavropoulos remained, being joined by Johnny Johnson and Brett Bloomfield. A new and bigger label came onboard, and the musical approach changed from rampant heavy metal to a slick brand of melodic rock, despite the fact that the album was produced by Mike Varney.
Their sound has definitely become more commercial, and is not dissimilar to the UK duo Rio, who released a few albums around about the same time on the MFN label. Catchy, lots of chanty choruses, and the ever present sonic six gun guitar of Frigo. Somehow though, the direction change is not a comfortable one, and I'm sure these boys would much prefer the chains and studs rather than the scarves and neckerchiefs on display here. However, for what it's worth, there are some good songs on display here. Opener 'Love Lies', 'Never Wanna See You Cry', and the excellent 'Chain Around Your Heart' stand out. 'Sex Guitars And Rock N Roll' is pretty good too, showing Le Mans in a live context.
As much as I loved Le Mans in their heavy metal days, and as much as I love the melodic rock genre overall, I suspect that these two were never destined to meet, because quite simply, the album did very little for me. A band quite literally caught between two worlds. However, for those still interested in hearing this album, it got a CD release on Songhausmusic during 2001. -
- LeMans was created essentially as a made-for-Shrapnel Records band, debuting with On The Streets in 1983. Typical of Shrapnel releases, the focus was on flashy guitar work, here courtesy of the duo of Josh Ramos and Derek Frigo, along with rather cliched American hard rock vocals/lyrics and standard Priest-ish songwriting, resulting in a rather pedestrian album overall. They managed to gain a major label contract for their second and last album, simply entitled LeMans, by which time the style had apparently shifted, towards a more AOR-oriented sound. The various band members have been involved in several bands since they disbanded, among them Enuff Z'Nuff (Frigo), Starship (Bloomfield), 9.0 (Marrino), The Storm (Ramos), and others. -