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Before I begin the review, some clarification is needed regarding the band line up on this album. The most common version of this CD is the Time Warp Records release from Italy. This credits the original line up of Rob Rock, Chris Impellitteri, Gary Smith, Jan Dudek and Jay Martin as the band playing on this album. It also includes a photo of this line up. However, this is not the case. Rob Rock and Chris Impellitteri do not perform on this album. In fact, the only original VICE member on "Hot...Just Lookin' at You" is keyboard player, Gary Smith.
Chris Impellitteri left VICE in 1985. A year later Rob Rock left the band to join up with Rudy Sarzo, Tommy Aldridge and Tony MacAlpine to record the M.A.R.S. -- Project: Driver album. Once Rob left, the band splintered. Gary Smith retained the VICE name and rebuilt the band with a new line up and a more commercial, radio friendly sound. This is the band that performs on "Hot...Just Lookin' at You".
Once Gary Smith solidified the new line up, they entered the studio with producer Hirsh Gardner (formerly of the band New England) to finally record a full length VICE LP. The results were fantastic. "Hot...Just Lookin' at You" is a melodic metal masterpiece. The songwriting and performances were perfect for the mid 80's. Songs like "Stranded in Your Shadow", "Feelin' Lonely" and especially " So Far Away" could have been blasting out of any car stereo along with Whitesnake, Van Halen and Bon Jovi during the summer of 1988. The band even put a fresh coat of paint on "You Drive Me Crazy" from the original VICE demo and gave it new life. The production by Hirsh Gardner was first rate; slick and polished. In hindsight, the only criticism would be the use of electronic drums which do sound a bit dated now.
Although the playing on this album is first rate, it's the songs that make it shine. The team of vocalist Billy Ian and guitarist Jim Michaels crafted some great melodic metal. Jim Michaels is a great guitar player and he and Gary Smith had a unique way of intertwining the guitar and keyboard melodies. They didn't simply clone each others riffs, they played individual melodies that really work well together. Although this is a very melodic sounding album, the musicianship and melodies help give it a more progressive sound rather than run of the mill pop sound. The best example of this is on "Feelin' Lonely" where Gary's Hammond chords in the bridge just give the song a driving melody. It reminds me of what Jon Lord did on Deep Purple's "Perfect Strangers" LP.
The original intention was to release "Hot...Just Lookin' at You" as a full length indie LP. Once the band and management started shopping the completed LP out to record labels, they got some interest and held off on releasing the LP in lieu of a major label. The band did sign to Savage Records (BMG) and recorded another full length LP. This included three tracks from "Hot...Just Lookin' at You" along with a reworked version of "We're Here to Rock" now titled "Too Young for Love". Unfortunately, the Savage deal fell through and the album never got released. This was primarily due to the earlier releases by acts on Savage not selling well. The label eventually folded and this incarnation of VICE disbanded in 1991.
The original "Hot...Just Lookin' at You" recordings were only released on cassette. There has never been an "official" CD release of this album. It's also important to note that the Time Warp Records version of the album includes an instrumental called "Saint's Sunset". I am pretty sure that this is not VICE.
For the record, this is the VICE line up performing on "Hot...Just Lookin' at You":
Gary Smith - Keyboards (original member)
Billy Ian - Vocals
Jim Michaels - Guitar
Bryan Allen - Bass
Jeff Field - Drums