Review by Woody
It’s been five years since the last album from Black Country AOR-sters Dante Fox. There have been some line up changes in that time but they return with a new mini album Lost Man’s Ground. Song writing duo of vocalist Sue Willets and guitarist Tim Manford are now joined by drummer Andy Perfect, Alan Mills (Eden) on bass and although he doesn’t feature on this recording Pete Lakin has joined the band on keyboards. Keyboard duties on this album were completed by in demand American keyboard wiz Eric Ragno and help in the backing vocal department comes from Italian Alessandro Del Vecchio. The album features five new compositions and 3 bonus tracks including a re-recorded version of Fox classic ‘I Can’t Sleep’.
I have been a fan of the band since their debut album was released in the mid ‘90’s and their last album saw the band move away from their AOR origins and into a harder edged classic rock sound. I was curious to see how this album would turn out as the band had announced they planned to recapture the feel of their early albums. Lost Man’s Ground comes across to me as a meeting in the middle of styles, they have whole heartedly embraced a full on AOR sound but have combined it with the harder guitar edge Tim had brought to the group’s last album. For me it works perfectly and the five songs are a real revelation and without doubt the best songs Sue and Tim have written since The Fire Within.
Given the quality of the original songs here it does make you yearn for a full album. Hopefully this album will be the springboard for another mini album or indeed a full album in the very near future.
Tim obviously revels in the harder guitar sound and infuses every song with as much power as he can and some his solos are quite simply some of the best of his career, listening to his work on ‘Who Stole The Innocence’ it seemed as though a lot of time and love had been put in to create a genuinely enjoyable solo. Title track ‘Lost Man’s Ground’ is probably Tim’s pièce de résistance highlighting his guitar skills from big chunky riffs to more delicate and intricate guitar pieces.
I’ve always adored Sue’s vocals; she has an amazing passion drenched voice that just gives you goose pimples with every delicious melody. Sue has a great power and projection to her voice which was highlighted on the harder Under Seven Skies but here Sue has concentrated on melody over power, which hits all the right spots with me and reminds me many times of her outstanding performances on The Fire Within. Sue can be without doubt very proud of her performance here it should make many chart topping female vocalists very jealous.
Although his performance on Lost Man’s Ground is in a guest musician role Eric Ragno’s contribution cannot be overlooked. His efforts here help bring back The Fox sound of old, strong and upfront but never overbearing. It will be a real challenge for Pete Lakin to fit into Eric’s shoes on the next album. I think Pete’s a perfect fit for the Fox so I’m sure he’ll do well, but Eric’s set the bar high!
The album opens with a pounding rocker in the form of ‘Who Stole The Innocence’. It has a huge chorus that Sue really shines on and Tim’s solo is simply magnificent. There’s lots of nice keyboard touches and little guitar flourishes that really hook you into this great song. ‘Go Where You Heart Is’ has a passion fuelled chorus which screams classic AOR and I love Sue’s warm vocal melodies throughout. Its proper commercial AOR with a strong guitar presence and keyboard flourishes.
‘Secrets’ is a beautiful ballad with a spine tingling vocal performance. Its very old school Fox and its heart warming to hear Sue sing on a track like this again. Deliciously melodic pure AOR.
One of my favourite Fox tracks of all time is ‘I Can’t Sleep’ from their debut album which gets re-recorded for this album. Thankfully they don’t stray too far from the original feel of the song but Tim has given it a stronger guitar edge. They have done a great job and the song remains one of my favourites and hopefully this heavier version will mean it gets aired more frequently! Which would be nice!
‘Lost Man’s Ground’ is very epic sounding and it’s easy to hear why it’s been compared to Magnum in its composition. This is probably the track that highlights Tim’s guitar skills most of all! ‘This World’ is a moody mid-tempo rocker and has a progressive tinge to it in the verses but I love the out and out AOR chorus which brings light to a very dark song.
It’s great to have the Fox back especially when the quality of their songs is at such a high level. They have never been that prolific in their output but I’m hoping the interest and momentum behind Lost Man’s Ground will propel the Fox back into the studio sooner rather than later! Quality British AOR featuring one of the finest vocalists within the genre regardless of gender.
- Who Stole The Innocence
- Go Where Your Heart Is
- I Can’t Sleep
- Lost Man’s Ground
- This World
- Goodbye To Yesterday (Live acoustic version)
- Lost Man’s Ground (Radio Edit)