Tower City – The Ones That Matter



Review by Brian McGowan

Harvested from the fertile ground of their two nineties’ albums, ‘A Little Bit Of Fire’ (96) and ‘All Or Nothing’ (98), comes this remastered “best of” from Cleveland’s Tower City, with four new tracks added. All the tracks from those two albums were originally recorded by the band in their home studio in 1992, with a little help from the legendary Mike Slamer.

In a ‘stop me if you’ve heard this one’ scenario, the band signed for Atlantic Records shortly before the Seattle tsunami engulfed the world of eighties’ styled melodic rock. It was another 4 years before Europe’s now defunct MTM Records, then in the vanguard of minor labels fighting the grunge tide, rescued the material from oblivion.

It adhered strictly to the Giant, Def Leppard, Michael Morales, Harem Scarem rock template. Big guitars, dramatic vocals, keyboard fills and frills, and urgent, driving rhythms. Several tracks could easily have fallen off the back of the ‘Last of the Runaways’ or the ‘Hysteria’ juggernauts.

But TC are no copycats, riding on the coattails of genuine talents. These guys are skilled songwriters and accomplished musicians in their own right, having honed their craft on the tour circuit grindstone for many years, before entering the studio. They’ve lifted the majority of the tracks here from the debut.

The title track, ‘A Little Bit Of Fire’, is immense. Filled with ringing guitars, pushed along by a thunderous percussive thump, rising to a vertiginous chorus, it’s maybe the best song Jack Ponti never wrote. And they know the value of a key change, using it to release a last rush of adrenaline on the coda.

‘Talking To Sarah’ and ‘Ain’t Nobody To Love’ aren’t far behind, both gloriously reminiscent of the Huff brothers, veering unerringly toward melodrama without descending into bombast, snagging us on giant hooks. Elsewhere, the declamatory stadium rock of ‘Moonlight’ and the balladic ‘When It All Falls Down’ will recall Brian Howe’s finest Bad Company moments.

Newer material like ‘Say you Love Me’ and ‘Smoke’ has an earthier, less polished feel. The songs remind me a lot of Canada’s Honeymoon Suite. In my book, that’s a huge compliment.

In a way, they are confirmation of the more contemporary rock route that the band later took with their band, Colorvine. The melodies are still there, the writing skills are evident in abundance, but the production has moved on, giving the music extra weight and renewed relevance.

The fact that the band, a trio – Heath and Larry Saltis plus TP Weiner – have resurrected these recordings (with help from Scott Sanders) and “re-released” them themselves indicates their strength of belief in the material. It’s well founded. The Tower City story is yet more proof that it’s all about timing.

And releasing ‘The Ones That Matter’ on the cusp of a Melodic Rock resurgence, might well mean that time is on their side, this time round.