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Faster Than the Speed of Life

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Album Review

Mars Bonfire's late-'60s material occasionally bears some resemblance to Steppenwolf, particularly in the use of heavy organs. But in fact this is certainly on the lighter and more pop-flecked side than Steppenwolf, which might both disappointment Steppenwolf fans who seek this out on the basis of the "Born to Be Wild" connection, and make this LP a rather pleasant surprise to those fearing bombastic late-'60s hard rock on the order of Steppenwolf's less impressive aspects. There is a version of "Born to Be Wild" here that is far tamer and less effective than Steppenwolf's hit cover. Yet on about half the album Bonfire favors a pretty airy pop-psychedelic approach (reminiscent of his "Tomorrow's Ship" composition on the single for pre-Steppenwolf outfit the Sparrow, written under his real name of Dennis Edmonton) to both his songwriting and arrangements. Bonfire has a thin, crackly voice that lacks force and precluded any significant success as a solo singer and band frontman, but does have a sincere and likable quality in spite of its limitations. "Lady Moon Walker" in particular is an overlooked psych-pop gem, with Bonfire's best deployment of attractive melodies, spacy lyrics, and pleasing keyboard textures. "In Christina's Arms" and "Sad Eyes" are also neat-o tender love songs with just enough unexpected melodic changes and oh-so-slightly trippy lyrics to make them more intriguing than the usual decent late-'60s pop/rock tune. When Bonfire tries to rock harder and get a little bluesy, the music becomes undistinguished, and sometimes downright boring. The good half of the album make this a worthwhile find, though, and it's worthy of CD reissue (along with "Little Girl Lost" and "Time to Fly," non-LP cuts from the era). Sure it's obscure, but that hasn't stopped Columbia from reissuing lots of other commercially unsuccessful '60s stiffs from its vaults.


Born: 21 April 1943 in Oshawa, Ontario, Canada

Genre: Alternative

Years Active: '60s

Dennis Edmonton changed his name to Mars Bonfire when Jack London and the Sparrows split up in 1967. His only hits as a solo performer were "Ride with Me Baby" and "Faster than the Speed of Life." However, as a writer he penned Steppenwolf's...
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Faster Than the Speed of Life, Mars Bonfire
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