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Friday, September 23, 2011

Airrace – Back to the Start album review

Airrace – Back to the Start album review
Released on: Frontiers records. Release Date: Available now

Airrace possibly got their first break, thanks to the drummer being a certain son of Led Zeppelin legend John Bonham, in Jason Bonham and as sad as that sounds, that it took his involvement to get the band some attention, is kind of sad.
In 1984 when the very classy ‘Shaft of Light’ was released the band had some very songs indeed, so you’d like to think they could’ve been notice for their talent alone. I guess the line, it’s not what you know it’s who you know is very true.
The band had some great opening support slots back in the day, with Queen, AC/DC and Meatloaf to name a few.
Sadly the band didn’t last for long and Jason Bonham moved on to various other projects that equally got him more attention over the years, as they still do today.
In 2009 for the ‘25th’ anniversary of ‘Shaft of Light’ there was a reunion of sorts with Bonham, Keith Murrell (Vocals), Toby Sadler (Keyboards) and Laurie Mansworth (Guitars), who were joined by former T’Pau guitarist Dean Howard and Dave Boyce (ex-Samson) on bass, but Bonham didn’t stay long and Simon Dawson (The Outfield) replaced him.
Soon after Toby Sadler left to be replaced by Chris Williams and bassist Dave Boyce was replaced by original man Jim Reid.
Cue new album for Frontiers titled ‘Back To The Start,’ which is what we have here and it’s actually a very good song driven release, with a sound that is very familiar Airrace style with perhaps a hint of FM’s sound about it too and in fact I detect that Keith Murrell is actually throwing in some Steve Perry’isms in places. It’s all good stuff!
With so many greatly produced masterpieces in the market place right now, that is the only thing I think this album has a slight difference about it, with the mix. It’s not bad at all, but sometimes it seems there’s a certainly lack of crystal clear AOR perfection to it, but it is still very, very strong overall. I actually felt FM’s last album ‘Metropolis’ was lacking something too, although I know I’m in a minority for thinking that.

‘Two of a Kind’ starts with a riff that’s kind of akin to Rick Springfield’s ‘Jessie’s Girl,’ before then getting into a riff not unlike Boston, but then the main meat and potatoes of the song is pure, classic Airrace!
The songs presented here are totally ‘Shaft of Light’ part two, but brought right up to date and no dated drum sound as Jason Bonham had on ‘Shaft of Light.’
A nice driving riff pushes ‘When Baby’ next in an up tempo beauty and seriously this is a very good album indeed. I really did not know what to expect after all this time.
‘Call Me Anytime’ is a clear revisit and close cousin of ‘Promised to Call’ from ‘Shaft of Light,’ I mean seriously long time band fans, tell me I’m wrong?! Still sounds good to me though and I have no complaints!
With ‘So Long,’ there’s more than a nod to Survivor’s 80’s sound, with this steady mid-paced steady chug along pop rocker.
It’s funny that the press release for this album had a very good and apt sentence in it, when it said As good as anything the Yanks have to offer, we think that you’ll agree 'Back to the Start' is well worth the wait!’
There’s a great deal of truth to that!
Title track ‘Back To The Start’ is a pretty steady typical, familiar sounding style slice for old fans of the band, but as a title track to me, is possibly one of the weakest tracks here, if there is such a thing here!
There’s certainly a good groove to ‘Just One Kiss’ next, which tends to be one of those tracks that’s perhaps more of a grower than many other tracks here, plenty of melody and a hooky riff too and I love the little piano finish at the end, that seems to come from nowhere.
‘Wrong Way Out’ is possibly the edgiest track on the album plenty going on too, big driving riff, that yes is a little familiar but I can’t nail that down right now.
Keith Murrell’s vocals throughout the album really impress me and it’s like meeting up with a long lost family member or friend again, when I think back to how much I played ‘Shaft of Light’ when it came out. This really is an album I would certainly be happy to play again and again.

There’s a huge Journey feel in ‘One Step Ahead’ right down to Laurie Mansworth’s (Neal) Schon like solo, very well executed punchy number, with a delicate piano ending in true AOR style.
‘Enough of Your Lovin’' picks up the edginess that ‘Wrong Way Out’ gave us again and it’s an almost heavier funk rocking number.
With ‘Better Believe It’ it keeps up the rockin’ edge and it’s like the guys here want to prove that they can rock with the best of them, but at no time do they lose the touch of melody, but there’s a riff in here around the midway mark, that you know you’ve heard before and it actually reminds of a little of Saxon’s ‘Strong Arm of The Law,’ I know … Stop it with the comparisons Al!!!
‘What More Do You Want From Me’ is much more in keeping with the rich, hook driven Airrace sound that got us all hooked in the first place, excellent stuff! The track has it all!
That’s it! Yes, Airrace are certainly back and on form big time! Here’s hoping they get out on the road and back this album up with live dates, as this music and the classic ‘Shaft of Light’ album, beg to be heard live!
Thanks guys, enjoyed this new one.

Rating: 4 out of 5

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