“When I'm With You” by the Canadian band Sheriff is without a doubt one of the greatest rock love ballads ever. It was written by the keyboardist Arnold Lanni. Eventually he, and bassist Wolf Hassel left that band and formed their own as a duo. Lanni’s brilliant songwriting was fully on display as Frozen Ghost. Listening to their eponymous debut album 30 years after the fact, these songs are still relevant and good. Sure, you can get a definite 80’s vibe from this album. But the vibe is everything that was right with the power ballads of the time, except that they did it better.
They showed up on my radar thanks, once again, to my sister Kathy who constantly shared great music with me. Honestly, though, I was convinced that Arnold Lanni was a pseudonym for Cy Curnin of The Fixx. As these were the days before the internet I had to do my own research. I studied the liner notes for every Fixx album, as well as the two Frozen Ghost albums Kathy had. I could never find a connection between the two. The answer is simple: there is no connection. They are not the same person, but damn do they sound alike.
After three brilliant albums Frozen Ghost broke up. Arnold went on to become a producer and Wolf eventually found his way back to his other Sheriff band mates in Alias. While it's a shame they stopped after three albums, it's still remarkable how much quality is there. Especially on the first album, for which they won a Juno Award for “Most Promising Group of the Year.”
SHOULD I SEE – A legitimately great song, it reached #69 on the Billboard 100 in 1987. An anti-censorship song, with jangly guitars, a horn section, piano, a serious bass line, and singable lyrics including the always crowd pleasing refrain of “na, na, na, na.” This had No. 1 in the 80’s written all over it. Seriously, though, It’s a great song with a message that stands the test of time. I defy you to listen to this song and not be moved to love it and sing along with it in the car. At the top of your lungs.
PROMISES – The ballad that Journey wishes it wrote. Seriously. Pick a Journey song, and multiply any goodness in it by 10. Now you have Promises. A perfect ballad throughout, it's absolute greatness becomes solidified when you hear Manu Silvani’s refrain echo come in toward the end. I don't know who she is, but I would listen to her own album if she had one.
BEWARE THE MASQUE – Counterpoint to the ballad of Promises comes the exquisite rocker of Beware the Masque. This song has truly great guitar work, reminiscent of The Fixx at its best or, dare I say it? The Church (the highest compliment I can give). Underneath it all, though, is some astounding bass by a guy named Wolf. Another song that deserves to be in the top 10 of the 80’s.
YUM BAI YA – Listening to this album, I pretty much love all the songs. This song is, for me, head and shoulders above them all. I have no idea what the title means but, damn, if it's not catchy. Plus, it's a thrilling story. Who's the old man with the cane? How can the old man keep hunting and chasing the singer if he’s running? He's got a cane! And he's constantly there! I want to more about this story! And damn if I'm not going to sing all the “yum bai yas” this song has to offer.
LOVE LIKE FIRE – Ballad time! Call and response-style. Isn't love like a fire? It sure is. What can I say? Beautifully tragic lyrics where the singer comes to the conclusion that his love only loves him when he’s around. And therefore the heat she gives isn't real.
END OF THE LINE – A great rocker that I always overlooked before. But it has one of the best lines of the album: “Once a habit, now a vice, nothing comes without a price.” The song also has a synth solo that could have been straight out of a Cars song.
TIME IS THE ANSWER – It’s not Arnold & Wolf’s fault. The 80’s were all about the ballads. Honestly? These guys write great ones, so I don't mind that they keep them coming and they do. This one is more rock than ballad, but it's forgivable for the confusion. But aren't the best ballads rockers at heart?
LOVE WITHOUT LIES – Great guitars and lyrics make this song. Powerful without being too sappy.
SOLDIERs CRY – A little heavy-handed with the reluctant soldier lyrics. It's best when they get to the chorus on this one. The horn solo is great and the chorus is completely singable. It's just the verses that are a little cringe worthy. That being said, still a great song. The best parts make up for the weak ones.
TRUTH IN LIES – A great way to close a great debut album. This would be a great stadium rousing anthem to close out a concert (or album). Superb guitar work and an arm waving chorus. I would put this on par with a “Sister Christian” any day and it's not even the best song on the album.
You could put this album up against anybody of its time: Journey, Night Ranger, anyone. This album would easily come out in top. The lyrics are top notch; the guitar can be jangly or straight out hard rock. It's got the horns you need from your 80’s classics. It does, however, have pretty stand out bass playing throughout the whole thing, too. You're missing out if you aren't listening to this album.