AVM 1982 / The Right Honourable 2018
Catching up to the chase, British ensemble explore metal thunder underneath their hood.
Having never stuck to any given movement, this collective got somewhat lost in the early ’80s when stylistic splintering started to rule the day and it was time to choose a single strand of the band’s unique formula. With the recent rise of NWOBHM – whose emergence WISHBONE ASH’s double leads contributed to – the foursome didn’t find it hard to pick a direction and occupy, albeit briefly, the genre’s melodic verge, embracing AOR yet adding their own flavor to the format. Harnessing pure hard rock couldn’t come easier now, as Andy Powell and Laurie Wisefield found lower-key kindred spirit in URIAH HEEP alumnus Trevor Bolder to match the duo’s own talent for a tune; at the same time, the ensemble provided Trevor with a chance to turbocharge his playing, the new environment conducive to bass heaviness in terms of tempos and arrangements. The result turned out to become as dissimilar, if logically consistent, to the group’s precedent albums as “Nouveau Calls” would five years later: strange in comparison to other albums but a top-notch standalone work.
If such a change happened at the expense of the band’s patented guitar sonics, which the record’s title – a phrase from the powerful funky opener “Engine Overheat” summing up the quartet’s refreshed method – refers to, it only stressed their ability to inhabit a different aural space yet remain as expressive and, more so, to pump up choruses on the punchy likes of “Genevieve” and reach for a racetrack scope without inappropriate speed. Raving and revving to the nervous riff of “Streets Of Shame” – a rare slice of social consciousness in the ensemble’s canon – the ensemble may hark back to their classic model on “Angels Have Mercy” with envious vigor but, for the most part, a previously unseen ambition is at play here. While “No More Lonely Nights” and “Can’t Fight Love” are the obvious examples of the veterans’ attempt to conquer arenas and pass soulful refrains to the audience, there’s familiar six-string and vocal weave, as opposed to in-turn solos, on “Wind Up” and “Me And My Guitar” where the collective can unfold opulent harmonies and apply sparse swagger to the songs that will translate to luminous elegance for “Hold On” and let Bolder’s balladry shine.
The album’s sessions produced a smattering of outtakes, included on the first disc of this reissue, among them the beautifully belligerent “Cat And Dog Fight” – a distillation of the short-lived line-up’s approach, ostensibly left out just because its groove got too close to the album’s initial number – and “Night Hawker” which repurposed some lyrics from “Streets Of Shame” for a frivolous rock ‘n’ roll jaunt. The second CD of the set features an American version of the album, with a different track order and an alternative mix that the group always disliked and disowned, glossing over the already sleek sound and, despite taking percussion to the fore, deflating the record’s panache. Successful back in the day but scorned by many a fan later on, “Twin Barrels Burning” has surprisingy stood the test of time and is ready for another race now.