Urchin – High Roller

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Review by Brian McGowan

Here’s yet another British hard rock band from the seventies that effectively served simply as a springboard to success and fame for several of its members. Dave Murray and Adrian Smith went on to join Iron Maiden. Andy Barnett, FM.

There’s a temptation, often not resisted, to lump the band in with NWOHBM, but the band’s recordings predate the movement by several years, rubbing shoulders, musically, with pioneering artists like Rory Gallagher, Thin Lizzy, Deep Purple, Cream and Free.

‘High Roller’ catches them at the height of their creativity, reacting to the explosion in hard rock and blue eyed soul as the sixties became the seventies. It’s derivative yes, and maybe that lack of true originality slowed their progress. By the time they hit their not inconsiderable stride, it was late in the seventies and punk had reared its ugly, shaven head.

Label interest, once enthusiastic, now dwindled. An all too familiar story.

These 2 albums have been cut, pasted and remastered from the band’s numerous unreleased recordings, by former manager Graham Sclatter, and they go a long way to unlocking the band’s potential. Clearly, the band could craft a song and knew how to deliver. With 4 burgeoning songwriting talents in the band – Smith, Barnett, keyboardist Richard Young, bassist Alan Levett – there’s more than adequate variation to keep your interest alive.

Opener, ‘Keeping It Mellow’ is driven by a thick cut, Free like riff that transforms on the 3 minute mark into a truly awesome axe solo. Melodic, biting, flowing, fluid, with its own breathess momentum, carrying the track to the finish line.  ‘Life In The City’ and ‘Countdown’ have a great live dynamic. You can tell these songs have been developed and battle hardened on the tour circuit grind into crowd pleasers.

‘Watch Me Walk Away’ and ‘Late Show’, Richard Young’s solo writing contributions, are clearly influenced by emergent US Westcoast rock bands. More accessible than the other stuff, with a stronger pop sensibility.

When any of the songs start to leak influences, Barnett and Smith’s solo axework – never simply displays of virtuosity, more emotional expression – keep them afloat. And considering the recordings are almost 40 years old, the sonics are surprisingly sound.

A second album of recordings made around the same time, ‘Get Up And Get Out’ has also been released. Review soon.

Rating 6/10