KERRANG! ISSUE 79 October 1984

AIRRACE: “Shaft Of Light” (Atco 90219-1)

ALTHOUGH AIRRACE have been in official existence for over 18 months (two years if you count the abortive Phil Lewis liaison), they’ve been playing their cards extremely close to their collective chests, perfecting and polishing a sound that has almost unprecedented potential.

‘Shaft Of Light’ is almost certainly the classiest slice of vinyl released so far this year and perhaps in the Eighties thus far. Authoritative yet firmly conventional, this album sets a standard of melodic intensity that is both frighteningly excessive yet warmly inviting.

Conisting of five members (including guitarist Laurie Mansworth, who saw a smattering of action with More, and drummer Jason Bonham, whose father I needn’t mention), Airrace provide an accessible, multi-layered sound bathed in dense melodic harmonies strengthened by tight, uncluttered delicacy. Interested? If so, read on. If not, then, at the very least, I can only say that you ought to be shot. This album is that good.

Side One: keyed into the pompous overblown memories of the glorious and much-missed Touch and (for kollectors) Roadmaster, the commitment displayed is staggeringly similar. Surrounded by a whirlwind of marvellous pomp and circumstance (that’s Toby Sadler’s flexible keyboard manipulations), ‘I Don’t Care’ kick-starts the LP with cotton-wool sensitivity. Punctuated, regularly and with precision, by a chorus of warmth and distinguished magnificence delivered, of course, by the superb Keith Murrell (similar, and try not to laugh, in some respects to Cliff Richard), the song is a almost perfect example of unquestionable excellence.

‘Promise To Call’ follows hot on the latter’s syndrum finale but switches the light breezy freeway cruisin’ to a strict lowdown pumping rock tempo padded by Mansworth’s spluttering axe work. But it’s Bonham who wins on this one. Technically rigid, he smashes that fine division between violence and restraint with a tempered snare beat that threatens deliberance yet retains human identity. The comparison, although I really didn’t want to mention this, is totally valid.

‘First One Over The Line’, spacey with crystal clear vocals, ‘Open Your Eyes’, steady but disfigured with divergent counter melody, and the heavy efficiency of ‘Not Really Me’ close the side with a direction end tension that hasn’t been seen since prime period Styx.

Side Two: probably more consistent but subject to fewer arresting hooklines (only marginally, I might add). ‘Brief Encounter’ is, in my humble opinion, the weakest track on offer. Engulfed by surrogate electric (Fairlight) strings, the song is far too loose and motionless (due to the lack of hooks) to establish a firm foothold. Sure it’s grandiose, but that’s where it falls flat; it’s simply too involved.

‘Caught In The Game’ and ‘Didn’t Wanna Lose Ya’ redeem matters, however, with confident ease. Both are constructed on Jim Reid’s firm bass and showcase the gorgeous interweaving harmonics of the instruments matched against the vocals. It’s here that Murrell takes full honours. Leaping and soaring like an eagle in full flight his voice carries the melody and buries it deep into the brain; established and never to be forgotten.

The classiest cuts on this side are without doubt ‘Do You Want My Love Again’, brilliantly American in nature and pulsating with speedy ferociousness, and the toe-tapping infectiousness of ‘All I’m Asking’. Indeed, produced by the superior Beau Hill (probably the fastest rising production giant of the decade), ‘Shaft Of Light’ is an awesome and technically brilliant first achievement.
But an accomplishment of this nature does pose major problems. Airrace are now faced with the daunting prospect of having to recreate this masterpiece in a live setting, Anything less than an accurate reproduction will serve only to discredit them and the album.

I just hope they realise what they’ve let themselves in for.



KERRANG! ISSUE 79 October 1984

WILDFIRE: “Summer Lightning” (Mausoleum Skull 8338)

‘SUMMER LIGHTNING’ is a far cry from last year’s unsatisfactory debut Wildfire LP, ‘Brute Force And Ignorance’, wherein a badly produced collection of simplistic riffs did little to enhance the band’s arrival or indeed their future.

The band look better now. Comprising some of the less lucky survivors from the Dark Age (NWOBHM), notably vocalist Paul Mario Day from the late, great More and ex-Weapon guitarist Jeff Summers and drummer Bruce Bisland, their image has been shaped and teased so that they now look like a band and notjust an ad-hoc committee from an ethnic musicians collective.

Displaying a continuous flow of uproarious mighty melodies, ‘Summer Lightning’ bursts forth from the speakers with serious intent and Shuttle-shaped combustibility. The tendency, for the most part, is to shell-shock rather than gently persuade, with opener ‘The Key’ the meanest example. Cruising on 10, the duelling guitar rift cascades with a rampaging similarity to Sabbath’s ‘Neon Knights’ – speedy, effective and actively enjoyable.

But it’s not all cranium crushing, far from it ‘Gun Runner’ and ‘Natural Selection’ may both be fast and furious, but a copious quantity of intellectual class has been retained via the use of snappy time changes and chunky Metal solidarity.

‘Nothing Lasts Forever’ and ‘Passion For The Sun’ are also worthy of individual mention; the former a considered and stylish stab at commercial pop rocking garnished with a catchy chorus and fine melodic arrangement; the latter an adventurous trek into spacey atmospherics and the cellular complexities of U2 and, perhaps, the Police. Touchingly different, yet essentially (very) Metal.

An excellent release then, dogged only by a less than sympathetic production (a bigger name would have been a shrewd move) and a rather contrived (typical) ballad, ‘Give Me Back Your Heart’. Can we have some more live shows please?



KERRANG! ISSUE 79 October 1984

DOKKEN Tooth And Nail (Elektra 960376-1)

WONDERS WILL never cease – Don Dokken has actually got out of bed long enough to make a follow-up to that long gone Carrere debut which set spines a-tingling two and a half years ago. In the meantime, the States finally got that same record in remixed form late last year, which means that in one area at least ‘Tooth And Nail’ won’t be considered dramatically overdue. But it is..

I suspect, in fact, that the Double D is capable of making a better album than this, but as 1984’s episode in the Dokken saga it’s meaty and mighty, and more than a match for most of the pretenders to the throne of LA Metaldom.

Dokken’s voice is a melodic one, not a rock bellow, and as a result his material takes on a strongly melodic format notwithstanding the gut- wrenching power of the band, with Don and George Lynch hammering out some thunderous riffing and dazzling soloing between them.

The warm but threatening instrumental opening ‘Without Warning’ leads into the Metal thrash of the title track with pleasing style, although ‘Tooth And Nail’ is probably the least meritorious track on the album despite being a classier than usual example of the genre. The ensuing ‘Just Got Lucky’ scores big points, though – so melodic that it’s almost poppy, yet maintaining an unerring course for the Metal grail. lt’s followed by two more killers in the shape of the clenched-fist drive of ‘Heartless Heart’ and the anxious rise and fall of ‘Don’t Close Your Eyes’ with its richly melodic hook.

The slower, statuesque power of ‘When Heaven Comes Down’ opens Side Two strongly, leading into the excellent ‘Into The Fire’, rising from a picked electric intro to proud riffola and peaking on yet another of Dokken’s characteristically strong hooks. Whatever the heat of the beat there’s always plenty of melody in a Dokken toon, and this one even features a delightful multiDokken harmonised bridge.

‘Bullets To Spare’ is potentially predictable fare, but the gruff riffola makes way for a harmonised build to the – admittedly predictable – hookline, granting a touch of individuality to what would otherwise have been pretty much standard issue.

‘Alone Again is the standard big rock ballad, but sounds far too committed to be completely written off as it rises to a towering peak. And then it’s son of ’Nightrider’ to finish, the storming ‘Turn On The Action’, where again the potential cliché is dressed in colourful new clothes, racing from a crazed intro to a skidmarked conclusion in furiously excited – and exciting – style.

Like I said, I suspect Dokken’s capable of more than this, but oh boy is it good stuff anyway!



KERRANG! ISSUE 79 October 1984

JACK STARR: “Out Of The Darkness” (Music For Nations MFN34)

STEPS BACK IN AMAZEMENT! There was I, p155-taking sod that I am, ready ‘n’ willin’ to scoff me socks off at Jack Starr after the ludicrous quotes the Virgin Steele twanger had laid on me in a Covent Garden boozer a while ago, when he puts his plectrum where his mouth is and fires out a splendid solo album.

“I wanna be the first guitarist to go on record saying ‘Eddie Van Halen sucks!” the self-assured yank explained casually.

Laugh? I nearly wet me knickers, and coming face to face with Starr’s solo album just days after being dazzled into an orgasmic frenzy of hero worship by King Edward & co at Donington, I sharpened my pencil in anticipation…

But, lo, ‘Out Of The Darkness’ is a cracker; alive with energy and spirit and stacked high with Starr’s very fine, at times brilliant guitar work. It’s miles better than anything Virgin Steele ever produced and it certainly took me by surprise.

Acquiring the vocal talents of Riot’s Rhett Forrester and the rough ‘n’ tough rivvum readiness of the Rods’ Gary Bordonaro and Carl Canedy, Starr has at last found the band, the material and the inspiration he’s lacked over the past few years. There’s no obtuse HM dumbness here, rather a dextrous display of rock proficiency that owes more to intelligence than diligence,

From the rattling ‘Concrete Warrior’ and the heavy, multi- paced ‘False Messiah’ through an ‘Eruption’-style blitz called ‘Scorcher’ to the punchy panache of ‘Wild ln The Streets’ and the contrasting sensitivity of ‘Can’t Let You Walk Away’, the gang grab your attention and keep it in a half-nelson. What a delight to hear members of three rather ordinary rock bands fusing together like this!

On the flipside there’s the double-barrelled attack of ‘Chains Of Love’and ‘Eyes Of Fire’ along with the soothing, swaying instrumental ‘Odile’ and the jubilant Jack Daniels-swigging, pa-arty-time toon ‘Let’s Get Crazy Again’ where ex-Rainbow tub-tapper Gary Driscoll gets in on the act.

But despite the number of guest performers, it’s JS who’s up front all the way, revelling in the freedom of his own project and gracing the grooves of the best album I’ve heard since Dio’s last waxing.

Jack, despite your hilarious views, you’re a Starr!



KERRANG! ISSUE 79 October 1984


THOSE OF you who stay sober enough to actually read this rag might recall that a few issues back someone was whingeing on about an Essex trio called Pali Gap being ignored by the music press. Well, around the same time I saw the said threesome and was impressed by guitarist lan Ellis, though his reliance on old Hendrix-trix didn’t inspire me to put pen to paper.

Now I stumble upon the Sterling Cooke Force whose Hendrix influences are as subtle as a W.A.S.P. love song, and again I find a skilful six-stringer tied down to copying his idol. Unfortunately, none of the countless Hendrix-type bands I’ve seen have captured my imagination.

Sterling Cooke is a talented rock guitarist who has obviously spent many hours listening to all those old JH albums and studiously learning each lick. He even appears to have modelled his warbling on Jimi’s mournful strains, and while he comes off better on that score (let’s face it, I’ve heard a walrus with toothache sing better than Hendrix), he’s never gonna top the master’s innovative talent.

It’s a shame really, cos this bloke, like Gap’s Ian Ellis, can really do the business when he wants to, and his backing boyzz – Michael Dutz (bass) and Albie Coccio (drums) – are tighter than Mick Wall’s wallet. So why doesn’t he channel all that talent into something a little more interesting?

Songwise, there’s opener ‘Hit & Run’, which is lively enough, but I’ve heard that riff more times than Lemmy has had birthdays. There’s also ‘Makin’ My Way’, with its excellent solo, ‘Ain’t Wastin’ My Time’ and ‘Don’t Need You Anymore’. All are average-to-good rock songs, but all are so Hendrixy.

The guitar (heavy on the distortion, natch) is consummately tortured, notes are bent all over the shop and hands are sent scurrying up and down the neck like epileptic tarantulas. Close your eyes and you’ll see all your fave axeman antics. Or even the puzzled spectre of Jimi…