Le Mans

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Like many bands assembled to order by Shrapnel Records owner Mike Varney in the 1980s, Le Mans were built around a pair of talented young guitar shredders in Chicago native Derek Frigo and Bay Area son…
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Like many bands assembled to order by Shrapnel Records owner Mike Varney in the 1980s, Le Mans were built around a pair of talented young guitar shredders in Chicago native Derek Frigo and Bay Area son Josh Ramos. But Le Mans -- which also included singer Peter Marrino, bassist Richard Burns, and drummer Kenny Stavropoulos -- seemed unusually interested (for a Shrapnel signing, anyway) in composing palatable songs around their solos, and their memorable 1983 debut, On the Streets, still ranks among the label's best true band efforts. Unfortunately, it suffered the same fate as most Shrapnel releases by failing to achieve anything beyond modest sales and limited support within the heavy metal community, subsequently leaving Le Mans sidelined until fortune finally smiled upon them again three years later.

Ramos was already out of the picture by then, but when Shrapnel secured an upstream distribution deal with Columbia Records, new guitarist Johnny Johnson was enrolled to match his battle axe against Frigo on Le Mans' belated, eponymous sophomore album of 1986 (also introducing replacement bassist Brett Bloomfield). Sadly, the new effort revealed a band whose creativity had either devolved since its last outing, or been coerced into adopting many of the lamest, mindless cock rock songwriting clich├ęs of the period in a desperate bid for quick commercial success.

All of it was for naught, as it turned out, since this second album fared even worse than the first, and Le Mans were soon forgotten to history when Frigo joined Chicago power pop peaceniks Enuff Z'nuff (a chronic victim of substance abuse, he would sadly die of a heroin overdose in 2004). Vocalist Peter Marrino, too, had little trouble finding new employment thanks to the ever faithful Varney, who almost immediately paired him up with Marty Friedman and Jason Becker's Cacophony project (also featuring former Le Mans drummer Kenny Stavropoulos on their second album).