Four albums in, Albany Down offer up a collection of numbers that, for the most part, ought to illicit mainstream rock listener appeal. Greg Haver (Manic Street Preachers, Super Furry Animals) continues in the role of their producer delivering a strong sonic palette, with assorted strings, brass, keyboards and guest female vocals also making valid appearances.
As vocalist and guitarist in this power trio, Paul Turley tends to be the focus for your attention, but bass player Ben Atkins and drummer Pete Hancock, who both also add backing vocals, keep things tight while remaining a flexible rhythm section.
Opening with the big stomping sound of ‘Always Want What You Can’t Have’, a failed wish list is read out that ranges from the obvious to those a little absurd, keeping us listening with a bemused smile or sympathetic sigh, before side-shifting to a short barrage of guitar and higher-pitched big pop-rock sing-along choruses. Despite, sharing a thematic theme with the non-too dissimilarly titled Stones chestnut the lasting impression this tune leaves you with is one of euphoria.
Expressing a desire for better times ‘Good News’ comes next, its hook line sounding remarkably similar to the ‘60s Batman TV show, the verses’ strutting chords grifting like vintage Lizzy, some old school piano rocking in there too, yet all sounding pretty fresh. Summing up his current state-of-affairs as expressed thus far, Turley tells us how he’s stuck in a rut, yet ‘Same Damn Thing’, swings with a dash of the joys of early Motown, aided greatly by a brass section.
If we’re taking this album as a summation of feelings, ‘The Memory Of What Used To Be’ implies how melancholy’s set in. An electric guitar ballad, with sympathetic strings that work particularly well during the song’s climactic guitar solo, with Cat Wyn Southall adding harmony and backing vocals that serve well to express the other side of the coin to a lovers’ separation. ‘Reflections’ is blues rock with sing-along pop harmony choruses, title track ‘Born In The Ashes’ and its phoenix rising allegories edge more towards the worldly than previous inner conflicts, rumbling somewhere between Soundgarden and Ash.
Again, ‘Darkest Day’ is another that plays it bleak lyrically, but is delivered as loud and proud anthemic turnabout rock for the most part, then heads out somewhere quite spectacularly when the strings enter, then falls into a slower grunge lost in the far east miasma as slide guitars flit in during the first of two tracks that feature a truly unexpected Ritchie Blackmore influence. Bass heavy, ‘Kingdom Of The Blind’ rocks with a tight dance move, lyric hook melodies reinforced by an organ and as with the previous number, a bit of a musical detour, then ‘Don’t Look Back’ is pure Deep Purple of the kind that if it weren’t for the vocal delivery then you’d swear it was.
Bringing back the R ‘n B we have the soulful ‘I’ll Come Running’ before lighting up on the riffage again for ‘Your Days Are Numbered’ while applying a heavy-hearted vocal. ‘This Heavy Soul’ itself is a slower emotional number, strings work well here, and Turley’s first guitar solo is brief and bites deep, a second towards the song’s end while fine fits the power ballad mould.
The album finishes with the cathartic release of ‘Let Your Love Shine’ – A sharp fretted street-funk rock number in between rumbling heavily on the bass, Atkins and Hancock’s rhythmic counterpoints to the fore throughout, the three of them chiming in vocally.
How well Born In The Ashes works as part of the aural recovery programme required to get us through what may be man-made laboratory viruses unleashed, all-too human egos and prejudices dragging us towards third world wars and fiscal ruination, and ever-escalating very real personal problems depends on your mood for the day. That there’s often a dichotomy between the implication behind the words sung and the often rousing delivery of the them means a few required playbacks are required to get their full intentions. It’s varied, snappy and catchy for the most part, brooding at others, and it’s important records like this exist.
- Reviewed by Paul H Birch.
- Born In The Ashes is available now (from here).
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- Always Want What You Can’t Have
- Good News
- Same Damn Thing
- The Memory Of What Used To Be
- Born In The Ashes
- Darkest Day
- Kingdom Of The Blind
- Don’t Look Back
- I’ll Come Running
- Your Days Are Numbered
- This Heavy Soul
- Let Your Love Shine