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Born in the late 60's, Chesy hails from a Welsh mining village with a long name and was pretty glad when he got the Hell out of there. He got into Rock/Metal in about 1980, thanks to a TISWAS related incident (Rainbow video for All Night Long) and thankfully has never looked back. Chesy often sang solo in the school choir, but thanks to a puberty related incident his voice is now completely bolloxed, although in his own head Paul thinks he sounds like a blend of Coverdale and Dio (R.I.P). He was brought up on the classics - Deep Purple, Rainbow, Thin Lizzy, Rush, Whitesnake and loved melodic rock and the Hair Bands of the 80's. (Nowadays, he has progressed a little and prefers a more technical and/or progressive metal - Dream Theater, Rush, Symphony X, Porcupine Tree, Pain Of Salvation, Spock's Beard. He hates Black and Death Metal (can't stand the grunting) but for some unknown reason loves the magnificent Opeth! He wont stop this blog until his beloved FM finally play the likes of the NEC as a headlining act!!!

Sunday 4 December 2016

Top 5 Melodic Rock Albums of 2016

2016 has seen more than a decent year for Melodic Rock/AOR releases, and its pleasing to see that the Brits are leading the way with modern AOR.

5. Hardline - Human Nature
To be honest, I wasn't expecting a Hardline album to be this good! Only Johnny Gioeli remains from the original line up, and with Ramos and the Italian contingent in the fold, it made for their finest release since their superb debut. The first four songs are some of the finest they have produced and its like a Nitrous boost to the lug 'oles.

4. Dante Fox - Breathless
Does what it says on the tin. Dante Fox have plugged along for God only knows how long and seem to eclipse the previous album releases. This is no exception, its pure quality from Manford and Willetts. Songs like 'Dynamite' and 'Young Hearts' are two of the best of the year. Highly polished and top drawer melodic rock

3. Vega - Who We Are
In any other world (1985), or any other time (1985), Vega would be huge. To be honest, they still deserve to be. Few bands pen such huge songs like the Brothers Martin. They even do it for other bands. On 'Who We Are', practically every song is an anthem. Now this could prove a bit tiresome, but not when the quality is as high and consistent as this lot. The best British melodic band that wasnt formed in the 80s...or 90s!

2. The Defiants - ST
The debut album from The Defiants is bloody huge. Thankfully its not just a Perugino project to shift some CDs. And rightly so...as songs like 'Love and Bullets' and 'Waiting On A Heartbreak' are just pure ear pronography. It was a clear runner for my fave album of the year, but because of Brexit, I'm sticking with the Brits, and this.......

1. Angels Or Kings - Go Ask The Moon
'Go Ask The Moon' is a superior release than what was already an excellent debut. Its choc full of huge choruses and sumptuous harmonies. Jackson is in the form of his life, and Tony Bell and Steve Kenny certainly have listened and learned from the best and come up with an album of pure quality. 'Heartbreak Railroad Company' is one of the best songs of the year. Who'd have thought a Brit would have penned a song quite like this....

Thursday 3 November 2016

Glenn Hughes - 'Resonate' Review

Glenn Hughes – Resonate

I have to admit, if I had a voice like Glenn Hughes, I myself would call it ‘The Voice of Rock’. Few singers, and I mean few have the set of pipes they were singing with 30 years ago. In Hughes’ case, make that almost 50 years. The bloke is a phenomenon. Most people’s careers would have been cut short had they taken more than Calpol for a prolonged period in the 80s. Thankfully Hughes came out of that decade relatively unscathed, and now in 2016 we have his long awaited solo album, Resonate. It’s been 8 years since his last (Jesus where does time go?)

The last few years have been troubled so to speak, a falling out over BCC (but now thankfully resolved and back on track), and the quite short lived (but excellent) California Breed album. I get the feeling he could be demanding. But after a stint with Blackmore, who wouldn’t be!

The fire has obviously been raging within Hughes as he’s has served up one of his best efforts yet - whether its a solo album, Deep Purple, project or otherwise. One thing you know you’re getting from Hughes is his bluesy, soulful tones. He could almost call it Ronseal and not Resonate as you know exactly what you are gonna get from him. That said, the Hughes hammer falls more on the rock side than his soulful side for resonate, and that people is one huge plus. The opening bars of ‘Heavy’ are offering up his intent. Hughes voice rips though the speakers on the chorus, and into your ears. Coupled with Chad Smiths pounding drums and Soren Andersen’s guitar riffs, and it makes for one memorable opening track. Thankfully he is not intent with taking his foot off the gas at any point, with ‘My   Town’. It has Pontus Enborg on drums for this and most of the album, and again it just pounds you into submission with that glorious chorus. Hughes is truly on a mission from God.

“Flow’ begins with a huge, dirty riff that a lot of metal bands would die for, and is a huge slice of stadium rock. ‘Let It Shine’ is a song that seems to come effortlessly out of Hughes, and shows his versatility for just a melodic number as he side steps the Classic Rock vibe for a second. ‘Steady’ harks back to the days of Deep Purple with its organ intro with Lachy Doley giving his all, before the band wade in in equal measure. ‘God Of Money finishes off what would be Side 1 so to speak with a doom lade, track driven by Hughes’ bass guitar. The opening bars to ‘How Long’ are the type that used to fill stadia in the late 60s a huge swirling wall of sound. The album take off at a big tangent with the restrained ‘When I Fall’, built on Glenn Hughes rich and soulful voice, mellotron, and orchestral strings and proves to be a beautiful vehicle for ‘that’ voice.

Glenn heads home to the funk with ‘Landmines’, and is akin to the early days of RHCP, whereas ‘Stumble and Go’ is a straightforward rocker with a riff that reminds me a little of Neil Young’s ‘Rockin’ In The Free World’. Chad Smith returns for closer ‘Long Time Gone’, and proves to be a true partner in crime for Hughes. It’s a fine way to end, with some incendiary vocals, and goes for the jugular. Like catnip for the ears, you just want to stick it back on and go through the whole album again.

Hughes has been on autopilot for some of his previous solo albums, but not this one. On Resonate he clearly takes the reins and drives this one forward, every inch a muscling, and powering supercharged beast of an album. I though Frontiers had topped themselves this year with The Defiants, but coming up to the tape its Hughes by a head, make that a length.

This is what CLASSIC ROCK is all about! Resonate isn’t about making a small ripple, it’s a huge wave of sound that will be heard around the world. One of the elder statesmen of rock has pulled off one of the finest albums of his career

It’s a crying shame that he has been forced to cancel his UK tour as this album is something special and deserves to be heard live. Be quick in coming back to your homeland dude, we are waiting….

Score 95/100

Glenn Hughes - All Vocals, Bass, Acoustic Guitar
Soren Andersen - Guitars
Pontus Enborg - Drums & Percussion
Lachy Doley - Keyboards
Chad Smith - Drums on -Heavy' & 'Long Time Gone'

My Town
Let It Shine
God Of Money
How Long
When I Fall
Stumble & Go
Long Time Gone

Produced By Glenn Hughes and Soren Andersen

Out - 4th December

Thursday 20 October 2016

FM - 'Indiscreet 30' Review


FM – Indiscreet

I’ve taken a revised tune on this, as my I-30 album arrived yesterday and it sounds volumes better on CD than a streamed version. Because of a few knob heads, the ‘many’ have to put up with streamed versions of an artistes blood, sweat and tears to review!

Thirty years have passed (yes, you heard me, THIRTY!) since FM released their most beloved (and debut) album Indiscreet. Apparently they have been asked many times in the past about re-recording their classic album, and that day is now here. From my very early days in seeing them on the 'Tough It Out' tour, I have always said that some of these songs sound under-produced, especially when some of the live versions had a certain amount of ‘welly’ to them especially as it lacked some of the ‘punch’ that was being achieved on albums coming from the other side of the Atlantic.

So I stepped forward with little bit of (dreaded?) anticipation of what they have done. Why mess with their definitive album? Well, for one, modern techniques should put the expansive sound in, and it’s also quite cheap to re-record what FM would have spent a small fortune on with Portrait back in 86. FM have been playing most of this album live for the last 30 years, so the recording should be a relatively easy and the songs well worn in.

Apparently the seed was sown whilst recording the follow up to Heroes & Villains, where they decided to put down a backing track to ‘That Girl’ to see how it would sound with the apparent huge sounds they were achieving. It gave the song a new dynamic that was not possible in the 80s. This is what has led them to give these classic songs a new lease of life. Thankfully, FM themselves realize that they cant just re-create the original which is sacred in many of the eyes and ears of their faithful fans. Basically, it’s the 2016 FM (still brilliant) with the sound capability of 2016.

You’ll be please to know that Merv didn’t dig out the DeLorean and reclaim his Alec Guinness ‘white suit’ from the That Girl video, or pink (!) jump suit, and thankfully, Steve and Pete shaved off their mullets a few years back.

2016 paints a different picture. The line up is now very well established with Jim Kirkpatrick on guitar, who has given FM a fresh new injection of energy, and, youthfulness to the FM repertoire. However, I personally think that none of this would not be at all possible if it weren’t for one thing – that ‘thing’ being Steve Overland’s voice. It’s as good today as it was back in the mid 80s when I heard Wildlife. Very few singers still have ‘the voice’ they had 30 years ago, but SO is one of them.

After just one quick listen, nothing much has been changed, subtle differences, the odd slight intro difference, but mainly the solos, bridges and general excellence of Indiscreet have remained on ‘I-30’.  ‘That Girl’ is a classic, both then and now. Where the original lacked some polish, the new version has been polished to within an inch of its like, sounding full and vibrant. , ‘Love Lies Dying’ has a new added guitar solo, and only ‘Hot Wired’ fell a little short for me. The ‘reasons to buy’ column for me come in the shape of ‘The Other Side Of Midnight’, which is punchy and polished and a proper kick in the nuts, ‘American Girls’, a song that should have catapulted them to the US market is fresh as a daisy, and ‘I Belong To The Night’ has some added depth and bass. Also the last three – ‘Face To Face’, ‘Frozen Heart’ and ‘Heart Of The Matter’ further add weight to the whole concept. The changes are small, there some added nuances in Jim Kirkpatrick’s guitar playing, and some of the vocals, but not too much that you can really notice. Subtlety is good!

Seven bonus tracks round out ‘I-30’, and the ‘biggie’ and real bonus for me is a song that never made it onto Indiscreet, but is of that era, and they have pulled out an absolutely storming version of ‘Let Love Be The Leader’. Also FM have recorded a brand new song for this, and that is ‘Running On Empty’ a now typical 21st century FM type song, an upbeat and all round feel good track that FM fans will lap up. ‘Shot In The Dark’ is the song that made its way to Ozzy via Phil Soussan (and he no doubt made a shit-load on the back of it) and this gives a feel for the alternate (but equally enthralling) FM version had it have been recorded in this style at the time. The final track ‘That Girl’ (Acoustic) is one of the best covers they have ever done, very soulful and is a personal fave of closet FM fan, Mrs. Chesworth.

There may be a few ‘naysayers’ proclaiming that FM shouldn’t have re-done it, but I for one am very happy, as some of these songs sound fresh and lively as they did when I first heard them on cassette, only now with added ‘oomph ‘ where it belongs.

Indiscreet 30 isn’t pointless. The songs have been given the love, care and attention they deserve with a more ‘modern’ sound and twist, and ‘I30’ sits perfectly as a companion piece to the original. I can’t give it more praise than that.

What started out as trepidation and caution, ended in praise and jubilation.


Steve Overland – Lead Vocals, Rhythm Guitar
Merv Goldsworthy – Bass, Backing Vocals
Pete Jupp – Drums, Backing Vocals
Jem Davis – Keyboards
Jim Kirkpatrick – Lead Guitar, Backing Vocals

That Girl
Other Side Of Midnight
Love Lies Dying
I Belong To The Night
American Girls
Hot Wired
Face To Face
Frozen Heart
Heart Of The Matter

(Bonus tracks)
Let Love Be The leader
Running On Empty
Rainbow’s End
Shot In The Dark
Bad That’s Good In You
Love And Hate
That Girl (Acoustic Version)

Wednesday 19 October 2016

Saxon - 'The Vinyl Hoard' Review

Blimey! where do you begin with four double albums of live Saxon to go at? You play them in chronological order and then shake your head at the breadth of a career spanning decades.
Let’s face it not everyone can be Iron Maiden but if anyone could have been Saxon surely fits that bill. A lifetime of metal, still going strong long after most of their contemporaries have hung up their spandex, Saxon proudly play their music and drive the audience onward with stirring choruses to sing along to whilst banging your head. Excellent.
This release consists of a nice box with four double albums inside, the records are pressed in 180g gold vinyl (yes gold) and you get that nice gatefold feeling with lots of archive pictures from tours past printed on them.
These are all live albums from different tours; ‘The dogs of war tour’ 1995 which has a great warm sound to it. ‘The lionheart tour’ 2004 which does not, it isn’t bad but it has been a little over produced; maybe to fix some sound issue, and this has left it with a rather flat sound, not terrible but lacking slightly in the ‘live’ feeling.
Next up is ‘A night out with the boys tour’ 2005 which is back to having a great big sound, so if you don’t like the version of Crusader on the 2004 recording you can listen to a much better one on the 2005 recording as several songs repeat over the albums. Lastly we have ‘Rocksound festival’ 2006, Crusader is on here and the 1995 tour too, take your pick.
Now let’s face it if you’re interested in this you’re a diehard completest fan and are probably going to get a copy whatever I say. These recordings are already available in different formats and have been for years so this is aimed squarely at the person who just wants the vinyl to feel, smell, look at on a strange angle near the window checking for imperfections and lovingly place on his deck like a sacrificial offering and doesn’t mind the cost, which is a lot.
Saxon are a British treasure and listening to these recording gives you a feeling of pride that they come from our shores. If you’re into your vinyl and have the cash, you won’t be disappointed.
1.  The Dogs Of War Tour, 1995”
Recorded on tour in Germany
Featuring: Dogs Of War, Denim And Leather, Wheels Of Steel

2. The Lionheart Tour, 2004”
Recorded on tour in France, England and Germany
Featuring: Lionheart, Court Of The Crimson King, Are We Travellers In Time

3. A Night Out With The Boys, 2005: The 25th Anniversary of the NWOBHM
Recorded on tour in Germany and Sweden
Featuring: And The Bands Played On, Suzie Hold On, Stand Up And Be Counted

4. Rocksound Festival, 2006”
Recorded in Switzerland
Featuring: Backs To The Wall, Princess Of The Night, Crusader

Thursday 13 October 2016

Hardline - 'Human Nature' Review

Hardline – Human Nature

Hardline are one of those bands that passed me by initially. You see, I was a massive fan of melodic rock / hair metal / AOR, and then the check flannel shirt brigade came in and fucked it all up for me. Pretty much for about 5 years. I didn’t stay true to the bands / music that I loved, I just wallowed in my pit of  despair, just listening to everything pretty much from the previous 25 years. Unless a band that managed to survive (Queensryche / Dio / etc) only then did I keep up with their output. There was a whole host of bands like Unruly Child, Signal and Hardline that hit the street without me realizing. I eventually returned came to the party in the late 90s. Hardline’s debut, even though it was 92, is about 9 years younger than it actually is to me! What an album that was, and still is. 

Onto Hardline, and Johnny Gioeli is the only original member still driving the hardline bust forward into the future. ‘Human Nature’ sees Josh Ramos to return to the fold and its definitely made a difference. The Italian connection still holds true from 21012s Danger Zone, with Anna Portalupi (Bass), Francesco Jovino (drums) and Alessandro Del Vecchio (keyboards, BVs, Producer, and all round good guy to boot)

Immediately the album begins as if someone has flicked a Nitrous switch or Boost button, as Human Nature definitely has a harder edge than recent albums. Its more powerful, but still retains its melody, proving you can have both without compromise.  This is clearly seen and heard on ‘Where Will We Go From Here’; ‘Running On Empty’; the storming ‘The World Is Falling Down’; and is to be a sure-fire hit live, ‘In The Dead Of Night’ which is one of Hardline’s heaviest songs ever thanks to Ramos’ ear for a killer riff; and the anthemic ‘Fighting The Battle’.

Interspersed throughout all of this is a fine ballad, ‘Take You Home’, some typical Hardline melodic rock in the title track ‘Human Nature’, and a superb bluesy/ soulful song called ‘Trapped In Muddy Water’.

One thing is for sure, and its that Hardline, with the Italian contingent are finding their feet, and could be a force to reckon with in the future. ‘Human Nature’ will never beat the debut, but it’s easily their second best album, and a contender for a Top 10 spot come the end of the year. I have to say that I wasn’t expecting this quality from Hardline. Its not just a filler for Frontiers, its one of Frontiers finest in 2016. Highly recommended.

Score 85/100

Tracklisting –
Where Will We Go From Here
Nobody’s Fool
Human Nature
Trapped In Muddy Waters
Running On Empty
The World Is Falling Down
Take You Home
Where The North Wind Blows
In The Dead Of The Night
United We Stand
Fighting The Battle

Johnny Gioeli – Lead Vocals
Josh Ramos – Guitar
Alessandro Del Vecchio – Keys, BVs
Anna Portalupi – Bass
Francesco Jovino - Drums

Friday 7 October 2016

Alter Bridge - 'The Last Hero' Review

Alter Bridge – The Last Hero

The Chesworth family has been praying at the Alter (Bridge) since 2004. We were on our holidays listening to local rock station WJRR and they played an Alter Bridge track. We were hooked like a salmon in a Bass Pro Shop. Since then we have watched them many, many times and seen them grow and develop into the behemoth that they are in 2016.

It’s a singular family event for us as its probably one of the few bands that unites us all. I say that as 2 x 49 yr olds, and the kids at 24 and 21.  Not many bands expand across generations in this day and age.

Its been a long three years since the skull pounding ‘Fortress’ was released, and the anticipation levels have been measured only on critical scales such as DEFCON & RICHTER in our household. My personal Alter Bridge pinnacle is Blackbird, a modern day classic and it’s up there with the likes of ‘Heaven & Hell’ as far as I’m concerned. Is ‘The Last Hero’ a worthy contender….?

Without getting too technical, ‘The Last Hero’ is definitely ‘Alter Bridge-y!’ Opening track ‘Show Me A leader’ starts off with what could be the opening to anything (could it go either way? A ballad, or a rip-snorter of a song). Thankfully it’s the latter, and its probably the best opening song on any Alter Bridge album to date. (awaits for abuse to come in). Mark Tremonti pulls riffs out of his ass like a magician would with white rabbits! It has a riff that Angus would swap Axl for, and with its FM friendly chorus, its pure joy! In Myles Kennedy they have unearthed the best vocalist this side of Ronnie James Dio in my opinion. He adds a 4th dimension as his voice is an extra instrument, hitting notes that few others could do without getting their balls trapped in a car door. But…..if you think its all the ‘Myles n Mark’ show, you’re wrongly mistaken. Driving the rock bus to their destination are the gruesome twosome of pulsating rhythm – Brian Marshall’s throbbing, powerful bass lines, and the Prince of Pound, Scott Phillips.

‘Writing On The Wall’ to coin a phrase, is ’Heavy as Fuck!’ and mixes up its neo-classicism with a melodic chorus, and epitomizes what Alter Bridge do best. ‘ The Other Side’ almost lulls you into a false sense of security before its Sabbath-esque riff. Think Slayer covering Sabbath Bloody Sabbath.  ‘My Champion’ is an uplifting and positive song; when knocked down, just dust yourself off and get back up again, and is as near to mainstream as Alter Bridge ever get.

A couple of tracks (Poison In Your Veins & Crows On A Wire) don’t quite live up to the usual Alter Bridge ‘Acme’ (the name you can trust) high standard.  Alter Bridge have a voice and have something to say with ‘The Last Hero’. None more so than on ‘You Will Be Remembered’. A song that I’m positive that will be picked up with their troops back home. It’s also the kind of  now trademarked ‘funeral service’ song  (Watch Over You) that they are now known for. ‘This Side Of Fate’ and ‘Twilight’ certainly hark back to the very early days of Alter Bridge. ‘Island of Fools’ has a huge chorus that really highlights Kennedy’s vocal prowess. Finally we are into the title track; it talks about ‘the fight’ and asks if we have lost our last hero, leaving the listener gasping for breath and wanting more, finishing on a high.

Five albums and twelve years into Alter Bridge and they still have a lot to say. Hopefully we will see another twelve out of them. Once again, Mike ‘Elvis’ Baskette has produced the ass out of the album, In fact the production is slicker than a Castrol (UK) / Pennzoil (US) factory.

Its not their best album for me, but its still an excellent example on powerful and melodic metal. In a world of average bands, Alter Bridge is one that soars high above the mediocre. If they don’t headline Download within the next two years then something is seriously wrong!

Alter Bridge aren’t musicians, they are alchemists, turning metal into gold!

Score - 9/10

Show Me A Leader
The Writing On The Wall
The Other Side
My Champion
Poison In Your Veins
Cradle To The Grave
Losing Patience
This Side of Fate
You Will Be Remembered
Crows On A Wire
Island Of Fools
The Last Hero
Last Of Our Kind (Bonus)

Friday 23 September 2016

Gillan - The Vinyl Collection Box Set Review

A few years back, Edsel released the Gillan back catalogue with bonus tracks. Again the Gillan glory years are being revisited with this vinyl box set. This current set, the Gillan vinyl box set is entitled ‘The Vinyl Collection’ an this new box set will feature 5 chart albums (7 LPs in total) and is the first time they have been reissued on vinyl in this cracking box set

There was a time in British rock history that Ian Gillan was not in Deep Purple. On leaving the Purps in '73 and rejoining in 1984 he set about a solo career as either Ian Gillan Band, Gillan or the delightfully named Garth Rockett & The Moonshiners. With 'Future Shock' we join the band four albums in. This is another CD from the Edsel reissue series of Gillan albums. 'FS' was the first of two Gillan releases in 1981, the other being 'Double Trouble'. This was a Golden period for the NWOBHM, especially for Gillan. Between Oct 79 and Nov 81, Gillan racked up both album and single success. In this two year period, they had 3 albums that hit the Top 20, all within the Top 12. Future Shock went to number 2!!

Gillan disbanded the jazz fusion Ian Gillan Band and took just Colin Towns over to the newly formed Gillan. In came guitar virtuoso Bernie Torme, bassist John McCoy, and drumming stalwart Mick Underwood, he of The Outlaws, and Gillan’s old stomping outfit, Episode Six.

The set covers the ‘Glory’ Gillan years so to speak. From Mr. Universe through to Magic. And we start with Mr. Universe…..
It was the one Gillan album I didn’t buy originally back in the day , so fast forward 30 odd  (37!!) years and it’s a new listen for me.I’d heard a couple of tracks, the two main standouts being the title track, the building block and staple sound that Gillan would expand on in future albums. Frenetic guitar frippery from Torme, pounding rhythm from McCoy/Underwood, and the ovary inkling prowess of Towns.  ‘Mr Universe’ is a rip roaring, pulsating, melodic and soaring track with Gillan’s voice the main instrument. The other main standout being ‘Vengeance’ the more melodic/straight down the middle rock side of Gillan’s repertoire. ‘Secret Of The Dance’ set the stall out for Mr Universe, a fast paced, blinding opener (ignoring the intro track ‘Second Sight’). Gillan were off and running….

If you are like me, and fit into the 40+ age bracket of which I am a member, then you probably can remember some, if not many of your album purchases, I mean good ‘ol vinyl. Most of the young ‘uns today probably call them ‘big cd’s!’

Well this text one was one such purchase. I was flicking through the vinyl at my local Woolies (in the days when they had quite an extensive collection and not just the pop shite represented in the charts today), and I came across the ‘GLORY ROAD’ album, attached was a big sticker proclaiming “includes FREE album ‘For Gillan Fans Only – Limited Edition’”
And it was, as I still don’t know of many who managed to get their mitts on this masterpiece, even though over 25000 copies were sold! All this for the princely sum of £1.99!!! It was a bargain.

I loved this album, as it was my first official foray into “Gillan”, (oo-er missus!). This was released in 1980 and was the 2nd official Gillan album, after Mr Universe,  and, unlike the other ex-Purple offshoots, Gillan went for it with fiery and explosive gusto.

Glory Road was issued prior to Gillan’s Reading festival appearance for the Fri night support slot of Rory Gallagher. ‘GR’ enabled Gillan to enter the charts for the first time since his Purple days with ‘No Sleeping on the Job’ reaching No55. It was a strange choice of single. The album fared better reaching No3. They were on their way.

‘Unchain Your Brain’ still stands out as being a great rock song and typifies this (the best) line-up, with Hendrix like riffs courtesy of Bernie Torme, one if not the most underrated guitarists of the 80’s. McCoy and Underwood form the backbone of the rhythm section, pulsating and driving the songs along. But the highlight of the band is the man himself, screaming and wailing like the proverbial banshee on ‘Are You Sure’. There’s not many people who have been able to sing the same range as Gillan (extending from the E2 to the G above soprano high C, and beyond!)

‘No Easy Way’ kicks off with a wild, frenzied axe solo before settling into what I believe should have been one of the singles. How this album only spawned one single in ‘Sleeping On The Job’ is beyond me. What on Earth were Virgin up to? ‘Unchain..’, No Easy Way’ and ‘Running, White Face, City Boy’ could have been worthy contenders, as these the have/had Top 20 written all over them. The very underrated ‘If You Believe Me’ is a classic blues song, and typical of some of the crackers, it was written very quickly, and was a cracking staple of the then live set

So……what of the bonus album? Well, this was the prize asset for me, something I still refer to in my many ramblings to this day. ‘For Gillan Fans Only’ is a collection of leftover songs, general studio tomfoolery and was put together by the band and its road crew (aka The Franks). You must listen to it, even today, as it doesn’t disappoint, and is a great testimony to a band set out for having a great time.

The main highlights are all the ramblings in-between the songs, one of which you still need vinyl as its difficult to play a cd in reverse! ‘Higher and Higher’ deserved its place on the Glory Road album and was only on here as it was a B side to ‘Sleeping…’ single. Gillan was a master in wordplay, who can forget the bands spotlighted, ‘Cosmo Toons & The Split Knee Loons’ with ‘She was A Real Egg Timer’ and the legendary Arthur Guitar & his Hamster Cage Ensemble performing the Harry Lime Theme (Fucking Brilliant even to this day! Its my wife’s ringtone FFS!). Its up there with a lot of comedy albums, and it still makes me laugh (a lot) a mere 36 years down the line! That said there’s some belting songs that never quite made it.

The band that recorded the excellent 'Glory Road' were still in place.....just! ‘FUTURE SHOCK’ is probably the album that most defines Gillan. 'Future Shock' spawned two singles, 'New Orleans' and 'No Laughing in Heaven'. It’s a missed opportunity to include 'Mutually Assured Destruction' (probably THE DEFINITIVE Gillan song) but they have gone for true relication of the originals.

'FS' is a more experimental album than its predecessors, possibly down to the fact that it was the first to be produced by the band. The sound is more stripped and raw. Opener is the title track, and by now is a typical Gillan offering, fast paced and frenetic, with vocals to match. The single 'No Laughing in Heaven' is a real surprise, a merging of rap and rock years before Run-DMC/Aerosmith ever thought of it! 'New Orleans' the other single taken from this album is another cover in the Gillan back catalogue, all of which have proven to be firm favourites with the fans. 'Bite the Bullet' again is a typical signature song, followed by a real surprise of a ballad, (I don't remember Gillan being known for his ballads) 'If I Sing Softly'. Once again the strength of the songs rise higher than a lot of the competition at the time

As I mentioned above, changes were afoot. To keep it short and sweet, Virgin offered to fly the band from Germany to appear on TOTP to promote the 'No Laughing...' single. It was on one of their rare days off, and Bernie Torme refused to go. Net result, in comes Janick Gers but he was not allowed to be seen on TV performing another musician's solo.

Like Glory Road, I had a similar buying experience. ‘DOUBLE TROUBLE’ was the second album release in 1981, following ‘Future Shock’. As a randy adolescent I was attracted by the two lovely ‘hooker-esque’ young ladies on the front cover. It was a toss-up (no pun intended honest!) between this and ‘FS’. Something in the trouser department won and I bought ‘Double Trouble’. Knob 1, Chesy 0.

Out had gone the wonderful Bernie Torme and in came (you either love him or hate him, ask any Maiden fan) Janick Gers from White Spirit. I thought he was Swedish for years, turns out he’s from Hartlepool! 

This was the Golden period for Gillan, even though the album, nowhere near as good as the previous two, still managed to spawn two Top 10 singles in ‘Restless’ and ‘Nightmare’. I probably haven’t heard it in more than 5 years, and still sounds fresh.

Gers fitted into Torme’s place seamlessly, with his widdly trickery trademark guitar work suiting Gillan perfectly. An ideal replacement! DT opens with a massive statement of intent, a thunderous flurry of drums leading into the primeval ‘I’ll Rip Your Spine Out’, followed by the melodic first hit single ‘Restless’. ‘Men of War’ is your typical Gillan ‘screamer’ of a song, concluding with the key changing ‘Life Goes On’. The 3 part epic ‘Born To Kill’ featuring ‘The Franks’ aka the road crew on backing vocals finishes things off. Whilst its not my fave Gillan album, it still has a lot of positives going for it

Finally we are up to ‘MAGIC’. In came Janick Gers for Tormé for this his second album, a Blackmore influenced guitarist if ever I heard one. This is evident on the opener ‘What’s The Matter’, typical if what Ritchie was up to with Rainbow, a sign of things to come….

‘Bluesy Blue Sea’ a mid pace song with a very repeatable and insistent chorus, penned and inspired as Ian sat staring at the sea off the Devon coast, mulling over his problems during the songwriting of this album.

What’s waiting around the corner for me is a real surprise in ‘Long Gone’. This is a very melodic offering which is a good two years prior to its soundalike and obviously more famous ‘Jump’ by Van Halen. A blatant copy if ever I heard it! ‘Driving Me Wild’ is more typical up-tempo track with surging riffs and Colin Towns’ nightmarish keys. What is noticeable is Towns return to the fore as main songwriter, which is why there’s a more radio friendly album to be heard here. ‘Demon Driver’ is a very dramatic song which is almost Broadway in style. It experiments with distorted vocals, and dark in nature, before picking up speed and letting rip as it draws to a close. ‘You’re So Right’  is a more sunnier, uplifting song, very American in sound and has a very sing-a-long-a Gillan chorus. The final track was also the single from the album, an excellent metalled-up cover of Stevie Wonder’s ‘Living For The City’. The CD also includes 8 bonus tracks, of b-sides and more cover versions.

This is without doubt the most commercial album by the band I’ve heard. It’s surprising looking back, how it never performed better than its predecessors. This line up deserved another stab at success. Problems beset the band, Gillan had tonsillitis and struggles through the rest of the tour, couple this with financial problems and the end was nigh. The album was released in the September, the final gig for the band was December. Obviously what happened next is history, Gillan joined Sabbath, and then no sooner had he joined, the Purple bandwagon was rolling, and what a comeback, but that’s another story

It is truly an essential record of one of the best exponents of rock in the 80’s. Go out and buy all of them, a worthy addition for any CD collection.

What we have is one of Britains finest vocalists covering an important period in the developing rock scene in the early 1980s. Full of experience and quality, Gillan, like Blackmore in the day, proved that there was more to life than just Deep Purple. The band was surrounded by controversy (internally) over the years from what Ive read, and the likelihood of reformation is as close as Blackmore sending Gillan a Xmas card.

That said, this box set is a fine example of a man and band in their prime, growing abd combusting in equal measure. Its hard to review a vinyl box set when you only have the CDs to review. I revisited my personal vinyl and have hoped that the exact same is to follow. Should you have a spare £80-100,  at  todays stupid vinyl prices, a little over 10 quid each is an absolute bargain

Gillan is truly an essential listen of one of the best exponents of rock in the 80’s. It was a short lived ride (79-82) but they road the coattails of the blossoming NWOBHM, headlined Reading back in the day, whuch was no mean feat in itself, and cement their place in British rock history. What more could you ask for….?

Mr Universe               75/100
Glory Road                90/100
                                 100/100 as a package. The inclusion of ‘FGFO’ still makes me laugh some 30 odd years later

Future Shock             80/100
Double Trouble        75/100
Magic                          80/100

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