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Airrace - 'Back To The Start' http://rocktopia.co.uk/media/reviews/photos/thumbnail/200x200s/d3/32/63/1406_airracebacktothestart_1309974725.jpg Hot

Added by Central Electronic Brain     July 06, 2011    
 
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As the NWOBHM began to falter and lose momentum in the early 80's, the once Brit dominated hard rockin' airwaves became increasingly congested with ever more glamorous foreign imports – particularly from North America. As history shows us, the likes of Def Leppard and Iron Maiden were the last home-grown acts to make it big before the shutters slammed shut and left those that followed becalmed in little more than a parochial backwater. Yet, whilst it's true to say that it was the start of more than a decade of US domination, you could still find the odd local nugget if only you knew where to look ... London based melodic rockers Airrace being one band with particular promise.

Formed in late '82 by ex More guitarist Laurie Mansworth and featuring the skin bashing talents of one Jason Bonham (the son of late Led Zeppelin legend John), Airrace certainly caused a minor stir with the release of their Beau Hill produced 'Shaft of Light' debut via Atlantic offshoot Atco a couple of years later. Slick, radio friendly AOR with great hooks and strong melodies (expertly interpreted by the vocal star in waiting that was Keith Murrell), it should by rights have set the band on their way to a meaningful career, but thanks to mishandling by the record execs of the day and Bonham moving on to Virginia Wolf, it would also prove to be their swansong.

Amazingly, more than 25 years later Airrace regrouped, and after a successful 'comeback' tour which culminated in a highly memorable appearance at Firefest back in 2009, decided that now was the time to record the follow up to 'Shaft Of Light'. Entitled 'Back To The Start' and produced by Mansworth himself, this long overdue sophomore set has a real old time warmth and vibe to it; and whilst the guitars are noticeably more prominent this time around, the hooks and melodies are still as bold and vibrant as they always were.

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Unlike many of his contemporaries Murrell seems to have survived the years with his voice still largely intact, and it's the constant interplay between him and Mansworth that really makes this album shine for me. Trading licks and bouncing ideas off one another as if they've spent the last 30 years touring the world together, there's an absolute belief in what they're doing that really shines through in the music. And, although as I said earlier it's the guitars that rule the roost this time around, I defy anyone not to find their toes a tappin' after just one spin of tracks such as 'Enough Of Your Loving' (very Thunder like at times), 'Keep On Going' and 'Two Of A Kind'. The band clearly had a blast putting this album together, and that's something that translates well into the final performances – you can really feel the energy crackle as the band hit their stride!

Realistically speaking, this album has come too late in the day to set 'em on the road to international superstardom, but if we take it at face value as a reliable barometer of the potential Airrace still hold, I for one can only hope that they stick around to make a few more ... excellent!

Dave Cockett

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Review By Woody

It’s been a long time coming and now the long awaited second album from Airrace is here, just 27 years after the debut created waves back in the day. “Back To The Start” features the core of the original line-up although Jason Bonham is currently busy with Black Country Communion. The line-up on this album is Laurie Mansworth (Guitars), Keith Murrell (Vocals), Dean Howard (Rhythm Guitar), Jim Reid (Bass), Simon Dawson (Drums) and Cannock born Chris Williams (Keyboards). The album sees a mixture of brand new songs and unreleased and unfinished songs from the bands vaults getting updated & completed.

The band really have bounced back with a bang and they have already created a lot of noise along with making new fans playing live over the past two years, in which many of these songs have gotten an airing to rave reviews. High profile support slots with Thunder and Winger have woken up old fans and introduced the band to a whole new generation of melodic rock fans. I’ve seen the band twice and can categorically say these dudes rock big time live – you can check my live reviews of their support slot with Winger @ JB’s Dudley and their headline show @ The River Rooms right here on Midlands Rocks.

Like their live shows the band have developed a slightly heavier and more guitar heavy sound here, but the band’s identity and style is still very much present in fact the band benefit from the heavier stance in my opinion. I found their critically acclaimed debut album “Shaft Of Light” a bit lightweight and wasn’t overly fussed about it myself, that been said the songs come to life live and the heavier vibe definitely makes the songs appeal to me more.

Given the wealth of talent on show here it’s surprising Laurie Mansworth and the uber talented Keith Murrell aren’t household names. Keith’s vocal performance on this album definitely establishes him as one of the best AOR voices in the business, his voice extremely well suited to this style and sound. Mansworth obviously gets to show off his guitar skill’s off far more on this album given it’s more guitar orientated stance, and he really does let rip with raw sounding riff’s and licks. It’s the guitar sound that really updates the bands signature sound, far rawer and less crisp and clean like back in the day. One thing I like about the band is they have a VERY British AOR sound which helps them stand out in the crowd, no AOR by the numbers here.

The album kicks off with upbeat rocker “Keep On Going” which is very much in the vein of genre godfathers Journey. It’s instantly memorable and there is some great use of harmonies along with Keith’s vocals making a real impression. “Two Of A Kind” is highly reminiscent of the “Shaft Of Light” album especially in its hooky vocal harmonies, but with a stronger guitar presence. “When Baby” has an awesome air-guitar inducing riff and an infectious chorus that’ll get stuck in your head. Mansworth’s guitar work particularly shines on this track.

The insistent keyboard riff on “Call Me Anytime” really grabbed me and drew me into this song. It’s in your face and punchy chorus will definitely tick all the right boxes with AOR fans. “So Long” opens eye of the tiger style building up the power of the song making sure when the chorus hits it does so with maximum impact! The driving rhythm and swirling keyboards will capture your attention and the sweeping chorus has some soaring vocals. Title track “Back To The Start” is a mid tempo rocker but it didn’t really make an impression on me.

Another upbeat rocker follows “Just One Kiss” which shows off its musical influences with its retro fitted guitar and keyboard riffs – a song straight out of 1984. I’m pretty sure this is a song from the vaults and is also great live, trust me! It has a killer chorus and harmonies showing the band at their most commercial. A tougher song is next “Wrong Way Out” and it’s one of the heavier tracks on the album. A punchy rockin tune with an in your face chorus, but it failed to interest me. The hook filled and highly memorable “One Step Ahead” has an infectious chorus with great vocals from Keith and keyboards from Chris Williams.

“Enough Of Your Lovin’” has a tough, heavy stance which sees Laurie unleash a beast of a guitar riff. With Its bluesy and swaggering chorus I see this going down a storm live. Keeping up the hard rockin stance is “You Better Believe It” which has a catchy as hell chorus – very Rainbow! Closing the album is my favourite song “What More Do You Want From Me” with its magnificent sing-along chorus and top notch emotive vocals from Keith. It’s a strong song to close the album, infectious and full of hooks, a full on AOR anthem.

Old school AOR, albeit with a harder edge, for a new generation of fans and should definitely be on fans of early ‘80’s AOR and Rainbow to buy lists! You get infectious melodies, wonderful harmonies, stunning vocals, pomp fuelled keyboards and a crunching guitar sound – what more could an AOR fan wish for? British AOR at its finest, here’s hoping there is more to come from the band; I know I’m really looking forward to catching the band live again at Hard Rock Hell 5! Bring It ON!

Track Listing: Keep On Going / Two Of A Kind / When Baby / Call Me Anytime / So Long / Back To The Start / Just One Kiss / Wrong Way Out / One Step Ahead / Enough Of Your Lovin’ / You Better Believe It / What More Do You Want From Me?

Album Rating: 8/10

Woody’s Essential Track: What More Do You Want From Me?

Overall rating 
 
4.0
Production Quality 
 
4.0
Music Quality 
 
4.0
Artwork  
 
4.0
Value for Money 
 
4.0
Reviewed by Woody December 09, 2011
Top 10 Reviewer  -   View all my reviews (31)

Airrace - Back To The Start

Review By Woody

It’s been a long time coming and now the long awaited second album from Airrace is here, just 27 years after the debut created waves back in the day. “Back To The Start” features the core of the original line-up although Jason Bonham is currently busy with Black Country Communion. The line-up on this album is Laurie Mansworth (Guitars), Keith Murrell (Vocals), Dean Howard (Rhythm Guitar), Jim Reid (Bass), Simon Dawson (Drums) and Cannock born Chris Williams (Keyboards). The album sees a mixture of brand new songs and unreleased and unfinished songs from the bands vaults getting updated & completed.

The band really have bounced back with a bang and they have already created a lot of noise along with making new fans playing live over the past two years, in which many of these songs have gotten an airing to rave reviews. High profile support slots with Thunder and Winger have woken up old fans and introduced the band to a whole new generation of melodic rock fans. I’ve seen the band twice and can categorically say these dudes rock big time live – you can check my live reviews of their support slot with Winger @ JB’s Dudley and their headline show @ The River Rooms right here on Midlands Rocks.

Like their live shows the band have developed a slightly heavier and more guitar heavy sound here, but the band’s identity and style is still very much present in fact the band benefit from the heavier stance in my opinion. I found their critically acclaimed debut album “Shaft Of Light” a bit lightweight and wasn’t overly fussed about it myself, that been said the songs come to life live and the heavier vibe definitely makes the songs appeal to me more.

Given the wealth of talent on show here it’s surprising Laurie Mansworth and the uber talented Keith Murrell aren’t household names. Keith’s vocal performance on this album definitely establishes him as one of the best AOR voices in the business, his voice extremely well suited to this style and sound. Mansworth obviously gets to show off his guitar skill’s off far more on this album given it’s more guitar orientated stance, and he really does let rip with raw sounding riff’s and licks. It’s the guitar sound that really updates the bands signature sound, far rawer and less crisp and clean like back in the day. One thing I like about the band is they have a VERY British AOR sound which helps them stand out in the crowd, no AOR by the numbers here.

The album kicks off with upbeat rocker “Keep On Going” which is very much in the vein of genre godfathers Journey. It’s instantly memorable and there is some great use of harmonies along with Keith’s vocals making a real impression. “Two Of A Kind” is highly reminiscent of the “Shaft Of Light” album especially in its hooky vocal harmonies, but with a stronger guitar presence. “When Baby” has an awesome air-guitar inducing riff and an infectious chorus that’ll get stuck in your head. Mansworth’s guitar work particularly shines on this track.

The insistent keyboard riff on “Call Me Anytime” really grabbed me and drew me into this song. It’s in your face and punchy chorus will definitely tick all the right boxes with AOR fans. “So Long” opens eye of the tiger style building up the power of the song making sure when the chorus hits it does so with maximum impact! The driving rhythm and swirling keyboards will capture your attention and the sweeping chorus has some soaring vocals. Title track “Back To The Start” is a mid tempo rocker but it didn’t really make an impression on me.

Another upbeat rocker follows “Just One Kiss” which shows off its musical influences with its retro fitted guitar and keyboard riffs – a song straight out of 1984. I’m pretty sure this is a song from the vaults and is also great live, trust me! It has a killer chorus and harmonies showing the band at their most commercial. A tougher song is next “Wrong Way Out” and it’s one of the heavier tracks on the album. A punchy rockin tune with an in your face chorus, but it failed to interest me. The hook filled and highly memorable “One Step Ahead” has an infectious chorus with great vocals from Keith and keyboards from Chris Williams.

“Enough Of Your Lovin’” has a tough, heavy stance which sees Laurie unleash a beast of a guitar riff. With Its bluesy and swaggering chorus I see this going down a storm live. Keeping up the hard rockin stance is “You Better Believe It” which has a catchy as hell chorus – very Rainbow! Closing the album is my favourite song “What More Do You Want From Me” with its magnificent sing-along chorus and top notch emotive vocals from Keith. It’s a strong song to close the album, infectious and full of hooks, a full on AOR anthem.

Old school AOR, albeit with a harder edge, for a new generation of fans and should definitely be on fans of early ‘80’s AOR and Rainbow to buy lists! You get infectious melodies, wonderful harmonies, stunning vocals, pomp fuelled keyboards and a crunching guitar sound – what more could an AOR fan wish for? British AOR at its finest, here’s hoping there is more to come from the band; I know I’m really looking forward to catching the band live again at Hard Rock Hell 5! Bring It ON!

Track Listing: Keep On Going / Two Of A Kind / When Baby / Call Me Anytime / So Long / Back To The Start / Just One Kiss / Wrong Way Out / One Step Ahead / Enough Of Your Lovin’ / You Better Believe It / What More Do You Want From Me?

Album Rating: 8/10

Woody’s Essential Track: What More Do You Want From Me?

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