Highway Chile! In 1983, three very distinct versions of Storybook Heroes were released. However, almost every music-related website fails to CORRECTLY distinguish the three versions (even Rockdetector and Allmusic have it wrong). So I have done a little research and I am ready to set the record straight once and for all, and give this kick-ass album a little justice…
The first label to release Storybook Heroes was Lark Records (INL 3651) in 1983. This was a vinyl release. Lark Records was a sub-label of the Belgian/Dutch company, Inelco. The gallery section below shows the track listing that appeared on the back cover of the Lark release. There were eight tracks in total.
Shortly thereafter, due to Inelco’s financial problems, Highway Chile was able to sign with another label, 21 Records. Later in ’83, 21 Records released Storybook Heroes on vinyl (catalog number 210.006). This version contained all eight songs from the Lark release as well as an extra track, Fever. There is a pic in the gallery section below that shows a sticker on the front cover of the 21 Records release with the text “re-recorded, re-mixed and re-mastered”. Additionally, printed on the bottom corner of the back cover (see pic) there is text which reads “all songs have been remixed and remastered during July ’83”. This text fails to mention anything about a re-recording. You can also notice that the 21 Records version credits Ronald Baquer on guitar in place of Peter Barnouw (who was credited on the Lark version). So the question is, how much of the 21 Records version is actually re-recorded, and how much of it is simply a re-mix/re-master of the original Lark tapes? When I personally compared the 21 Records version versus the Lark version, I found the differences to be quite minimal. While the 21 Records version has a slightly superior mastering with respect to the Lark release, and it is evident that there has been some re-mixing, it seems to me that only portions of the record have actually been re-recorded. I can tell, for example, that the vocals to Highway Chile and Jesse James have been re-recorded, but other tracks such as Headbangers and Carol sound exactly the same to me. It is quite possible that the guitar tracks of Peter Barnouw may have been deleted and re-recorded by his replacement, Ronald Baquer, but I could not discern any such difference with a casual listen. So my conclusion is this; the 21 Records version is mostly a re-mastered and re-mixed version of the original Lark release, but there are definitely (at least) some parts that have been completely re-recorded. Get it? Got it? Good. Let’s move on…
Still in ’83, Storybook Heroes was released in the U.S. by Mirus Music Inc. (LP: MRG 60003, cassette: MRG4 60003). This version seems to be the same mix/master as the 21 Records version. However, two tracks, Run Run and Nothing You Can Do About It were NOT included on the Mirus pressing. Yet a track called Handing You Over (which did not appear on the Lark Records or 21 Records versions) was included. Furthermore, the track Fever is called The Fever on the Mirus version. I’ve included several pics of the Mirus version in the gallery section. Incidentally, the only Mirus LP versions that I have ever seen floating around are promo copies. I’m not sure why this is the case. I actually have two copies of the Mirus pressing and both are promo copies. One has a gold promo stamp on the cover (see pic), while the other has no such stamp, but does have a clipped corner. Both copies have white promo LP labels (see pic). (UPDATE: non-promo copies do exist, as confirmed by a friend of this site. I have also obtained a cassette version of the Mirus release since originally posting this review.)
In 1993, Storybook Heroes (same track list as Mirus version) appeared on CD as part of a “2 in 1” along with Highway Chile’s 1985 album, Rockarama. This was released on Reborn Classics Records (RC 1026). This is a bootleg.
Gallery (click to enlarge):
- After the original release of Storybook Heroes by Lark Records (but prior to the 21 Records release), Lark released a 12″ EP called Fever (INL 3652). The EP contained four tracks including the first appearance of the tune Fever. This tune later wound up on the 21 Records and Mirus versions of Storybook Heroes.
- The Mirus version of Storybook Heroes was the only version to contain the track Handing You Over. This track had previously been released on the Fever EP, and prior to that, as a B-side to the Endless Trail 7″ single (Lark catalog number: INS 1472).
- Referring to the Lark version, the introduction to the track Highway Chile consists of an M.C. introducing the band to a live audience. However, if you listen closely to the actual performance of Highway Chile, you will notice that it does not seem to be a live cut, but a studio version.
- In the gallery section, I have included a promo insert/press release that was included with one of my Mirus promo pressings. I assume this sheet was intended to promote the band and give some biographical info to radio disc jockeys, in the hopes of getting Highway Chile’s music on the air in the United States.
- Highway Chile was a Dutch band, however their lead singer Armand Vander Stigchel (despite having the most Dutch sounding name EVER!), did not sing with an accent. He was born in Chicago.
- 21 Records was founded by Freddy Haayen, the manager of another Dutch band, Golden Earring. The label existed from ’82 to around ’88.
- The “epitaph” on the tombstone on the front cover says “Rock & roll is better than music”.
My Worthless Opinion: If I had to pick my favorite version from the three different pressings of Storybook Heroes, I would definitely go with the 21 Records version because it is the only one which has both Fever and Nothing You Can Do About It on the same record. These are my two favorites songs from Storybook Heroes. Endless Trail is also a great ballad. Basically, this was an endearing, somewhat-amateurish band with a nice collection of hard rock songs in their arsenal. Unfortunately, Storybook Heroes suffers unfairly from less-than-stellar production. Get past that and your dealing with a gem. My score: B+