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Scenes from the Life of Jonathan Steel Pt.4 - 86%

ScourgeOfDeath, November 21st, 2009

"Take away the pain, that's burning in my soul
Cause I'm afraid that I'll be all alone
So just hold me, hold me, hold me
Hold on to my heart, to my heart, to me"

We reach to the point in our hero, Jonathan's life when he's all alone. Rejected by his parents, surrounded by worldly excess and repulsed by the life he is living; he makes one last appearance on the stage. But before clearing all the great misconceptions about him he requests the world to remember him for what he was and not what he became. Requesting the crowd to hold on to his heart and help him get out of the prison he has willingly forced himself into; he bares his heart out to the world...

'Hold On to My Heart' was the third single from W.A.S.P.'s 1992 concept album 'The Crimson Idol' and is arguably one of the most commercially oriented songs Blackie ever wrote. The album itself was extremely different from whatever they had done before with most of the songs being quite long complete with toned down vocals and songs with acoustic undertones rather than the screaming guitar hooks W.A.S.P. are known for. Even after that this song is odd one out of the bag, not for the album but for the entire W.A.S.P. discography as well. That said this song is also one of the better ballads out there, so the pop-oriented approach present here will probably not turn you off.

The most striking feature of this ballad is Blackie Lawless' vocal performance. For one, you won't hear him screaming his lungs out here. He also lets go of his rough approach to singing and sings in a tone that wouldn't look out of place on a pop/rock record. Sounds like a perfect recipe for massive elephant balls' suckage? Not with Blackie! Instead, what we get is one of the better vocal performances that I have EVER heard on a ballad. His voice is overloaded with emotion, remember 'Sleeping in the Fire', well just make the vocals even more emotionally charged but less rough and there you go; this is what the song will sound like, atleast vocally. He knows what Jonathan is supposed to feel and keeps it pent up during the verses, finally unleashing all the pain during the chorus, which is catchy as well as incredibly moving.

Mr. Lawless takes over the guitar as well. The guitar tone is incredibly clear, so kudos for the production (which has also been overseen by Blackie). The guitar work is, for the lack of a better word, beautiful. Unlike the razor sharp riffs of 'Doctor Rockter' or 'Chainsaw Charlie' the guitar goes about doing its job subtly with an almost acoustic tone, that fits the emotional nature of the song quite well. The other instruments all fit in the overall scheme and complement the vocals as well as the guitar without any major individual contribution. Maybe I am asking for too much but it would have been better if the song was a bit longer. Considering the fact that this radio edit actually leaves out a few seconds off the studio version makes this even clearer.

Lyrically, the song took a while for me to properly understand. On first listen, it felt like a typical love ballad; by a boy for a girl who has probably left him or something along this line. This felt considerably odd, because the last line of the previous song on the album had Jonathan being told that, "It is showtime". Also there was the fact that there are no love interests visible in the story, unless you count a particular girl who was introduced in the song 'The Idol'. An internet search and a further research into the album's basic story line cleared it for me. The song was not written for a girl but for the world. It is Jonathan's plea to the world to help him get through, to remember him for the young innocent boy he was and not the portrait of a spoilt rockstar he had turned into. Clearly the lyrics enhance the sad feel that this song has and makes it the perfect preface to Jonathan's last act.

The first B-side is the cover for Led Zeppelin's bluesy song 'When the Levee Breaks', Blackie does a good job here but this cover still doesn't mach up to my favorite cover by W.A.S.P., 'Paint it Black'. But anyways, nitpicking aside the song has been covered well and bluesy feel totally important to the song has not been compromised with. The other songs are acoustic versions of the tracks, 'Hold On to My Heart' and 'The Idol' both from live performances. The main track for the single seems tailor-made for an acoustic guitar only live performances and so, the song sounds even more convincing and haunting on this rendition. 'The Idol' though is a track that should probably have been left as it was because the all acoustic version doesn't really excite me a lot. The opening verses sound quite cool but the bubble bursts during the faster parts where the electric is sorely needed. That considered the single is quite good. No need to look around for this one though, because the live tracks as well as the cover were later placed on the album's 1998 re-release. The cover had been shortened on the re-release, so if you want to hear it in all its glory, look around on the internet. Spending money on the single would be pointless.