By Carl Begai
Over the course of her 30+ year career vocalist Lee Aaron has been known as the Metal Queen, a rock goddess, a jazz singer, and now she’s hailed as a Canadian music icon. There are also a couple people that call her Mom. All of these elements led to the making of her new album, Fire And Gasoline, erroneously called a comeback by some people even though she’s been active on the live front both as a rock singer and jazz artist for years. It’s a record that hints at the bulletpoints in Lee Aaron’s career but isn’t a rehash of her glory days, much to the admiration of some fans and the chagrin of others, which is the only way she knows how to fly.
During the press junket for Fire And Gasoline, Lee addressed her Metal Queen days (1984) saying in an interview that she equated the era with theater, much the same way Vincent Furnier masquerades as Alice Cooper. It’s a title she’s proud to wear even though the new album isn’t even close to being metal. Back in 2009, however, Lee expressed her disdain in a Metal Hammer interview at having been stereotyped as “metal forever” thanks to the Metal Queen image because it was “definitely a barrier to being able to move forward musically.” She’s since come to terms with that part of her career.
“I think it’s far less true now than it was back then,” says Lee. “I think now that I’ve come full circle, I’ve ventured into make sort of an alternative rock album in the ’90s – a couple of them, actually – and I went on from there to make a jazz record in 2000. Now that I’ve done other things I think it’s changed public perception to some degree, so I no longer look at the Metal Queen image as an albatross. Nowadays I hear people calling me Canada’s Queen Of Rock or Canada’s Reigning Metal Queen, it’s more a title of honour. I feel more comfortable with it now, and I think my fans have grown up, too.”
While there are probably a handful of fans holding out for an album featuring songs in the vein of “Lady Of The Darkest Night’, “Beat ‘Em Up”, “Night Riders”, and yes, “Metal Queen”, most folks guessed correctly that Fire And Gasoline was going to be a completely new chapter in Lee Aaron’s musical legacy.
“It’s a rock n’ roll record,” she says. “I think it would have been a huge mistake to make an album that sounds like something I did before. Doing that doesn’t show any growth as an artist or a writer. I think the guitar playing, the fact I used my live band in the studio, and that we recorded it in the same room live off the floor made a huge difference in the way the record sounds. I think all these songs belong on the same record even though they’re different from one another.”
Lee dismisses the suggestion that lead-off single “Tomboy” is a tip of the hat to her Bodyrock album from 1989, which was a major breakthrough for her at home in Canada. The song goes much deeper than that.
“It wasn’t meant to be a Bodyrock re-hash because that would be a mistake; we’re all 25 years older. The song ‘Tomboy’ was written for my daughter because she’s 11 and she’s a tomboy (laughs), and in the history of Lee Aaron, I’ve always embraced themes of female empowerment. I look at my daughter and I see that she’s not exactly like all the other girls; she just marches to the beat of her own drum. I was a lot like that. I think that when you’re a younger woman you’re more caught up with people’s perceptions of you, and when girls start to become teenagers they have this great energy that translates as ‘I don’t care what you think of me.’ When you get over that as a woman like I have, me and her are kind of in the same place now. There was a mutual mission in writing that song. It was inspired by my daughter but I realized it meant more.”
“Rock fans might disagree with me or dislike me for saying this,” she adds, “but Bodyrock was a pop album with huge guitars. And there’s nothing wrong with that because so are the Ramones. There’s nothing wrong with writing a catchy chorus, especially if you’ve got something interesting to say. Those are the makings of great songs.”
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