Although Merv Spence is always associated with WISHBONE ASH, being this ensemble’s bassist and singer between 1983 and 1986 and leaving his mark on "Raw To The Bone" also as a writer, there’s much more to the musician from Norther Ireland. Not a lot of connoisseurs know that he used to be a member of TRAPEZE – replacing Pete Goalby when the latter quit to join URIAH HEEP, just like he would replace Trevor Bolder in WISHBONE ASH, the references emphasizing Mervyn’s mastery of the trade – but some remember him as a driving force behind one of the installments of the famous PHENOMENA project. And it’s this project the veteran’s returning to with an album titled “Phenomena Recovered” on June 2nd
On this record Spence presents his own take on familiar tracks from the franchise’s first platters, delivering a stunning, and remarkably different from the original, version of “Phoenix Rising” among those. There’s no other “name” performers this time, yet the line-up is strong. Still, how come Merv appeared to have the rights to it all? Over to him.
“I knew Tom Galley from my time in TRAPEZE where a played bass and sang, with his brother Mel,” – explains Mervyn. – “After touring in the UK in the early ’80s, we eventually went into the “Old Smithy” recording studio to start work on a new album but, unbeknown to me, we also started working up songs for the debut PHENOMENA album. I still have a cassette copy of those sessions. But then David Coverdale got to hear some of the newly recorded material and loved the songs written by Mel and, asked him to join WHITESNAKE. With no more TRAPEZE, I then went on to join WISHBONE ASH.
Tom went on to release and have success with "Phenomena" and "Phenomena II: Dream Runner" and in the early ’90s started recording "Phenomena III: Innervision". I think the album was completed at PUK in Denmark, but a dispute between BMG and Tom Galley caused major issues, and BMG backed out wanting the return of their initial investment.
I was recording in Switzerland around the time and got a call from Tom to ask if I could help license the album but, unfortunately, with the unresolved legal matters with BMG, not many labels wanted to get involved. To cut a long story short, Tom offered to sell me the entire rights to the project, which I accepted. I also paid off the outstanding debts to musicians and studios and also negotiated a deal with BMG. I was lucky to secure a great deal in Sweden first, and all other territories followed.
Then, in the ’90s, I signed to a Japanese label, and they asked me to re-record a selection of tracks from the first three Phenomena albums. As I now own the rights, Explore Rights Management approached me last year to reissue it as “Phenomena Recovered” and this is the revamped version.
There is new product in the studio, including a new PHENOMENA project recording that will come out later in the year, but we are still working on that.”
1. Still The Night
2. What About Love?
3. Phoenix Rising
4. A Whole Lot of Love
6. Did It All For Love
8. It Must Be Love
9. No Retreat, No Surrender
10. Shape It Up
11. Slave (1993 version)
12. Dance With The Devil (2023 recording)
13. Rock My Soul (2023 recording)