Fireworks

Virginia Wolf - 'Virginia Wolf/Push' http://rocktopia.co.uk/media/reviews/photos/thumbnail/200x200s/7d/0a/61/328_VirginiaWolf_1273083792.jpg Hot

Added by James Gaden     May 05, 2010    
 
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Remastered and reissued efforts from the band which featured Heartland singer Chris Ousey and Jason Bonham.

 

There certainly seems to be renewed interest in UK AOR these days. F.M. are back with a great new album and tour, Airrace are touring again, as are Romeo’s Daughter, and even Strangeways have agreed to play at Firefest and are recording a new disc as I type. Ironically Manchester’s Virginia Wolf were Jason Bonham’s next band after he left Airrace in the mid-eighties and suffered the same fate after the original big money signing with Atlantic, but not before their two album career found favour with the more loyal and knowledgeable fans of the genre.

The band were formed by guitarist Nick Bold in the late seventies but it wasn’t until the addition of former Monroe and future Heartland singer Chris Ousey a few years later that Virginia Wolf became more inspired by Foreigner than Hendrix. After plugging away for a few years and losing their rhythm section they eventually recruited session bassist Jo Burt and John Bonham’s only son and recorded their self-titled debut under the watchful eye of Queen drummer Roger Taylor. The self-titled album is very strong indeed with upbeat melodic rock songs like ‘Are We Playing With Fire’, ‘Only Love’ and ‘Waiting For Your Love’ all having cool verses, memorable choruses and a great performance by Ousey, who I’m sure would appeal to any fans of Eric Martin. The keyboard parts, courtesy of Queen alumni Spike Edney, add to the smooth layered sound and the latter half of the album boasts the excellent and insanely catchy ‘For All We Know’ and the pompy epic ‘Goodbye Don’t Mean Forever’. The only fault I can find with this album is that as good as nine of these tracks are, they’re eclipsed halfway through by the sheer excellence of ‘Livin’ On A Knife Edge’, which is a true gem and should be better known.

Despite a tour of the US with the Jimmy Page/Paul Rodgers supergroup The Firm the album sold fairly modestly and the band chose Journey producer Kevin Elson to work on their second album. By this time the band were more into writing on keyboards than guitars and the album has a very 80’s hi-tech synth-pop feel about it, which really works on the bright and breezy ‘Tables Have Turned’ but less so on ‘Open Door’ and ‘Let It Go’, the latter of which is reminiscent of ‘The Heat Is On’. ‘You Don’t Know What You’ve Got’ could have come from one of Eric Martin’s early solo albums and ‘Don’t Break Away’ is a great upbeat opener, but the highlights are the big ballad ‘Man On The Moon’, the memorable ‘Standing On The Edge Of Time’ and the overblown arrangements of ‘The Strangest Thing (It’s Called Love)’, although there are some cool westcoast-type songs in ‘One night’ and ‘Can You Feel The Fire’, complete with tasteful fretless bass runs.

There are two bonus tracks on ‘Push’ that I’d never heard before, and unusually for such things they actually make the album stronger. Both were originally on 12-inch singles – ‘Tear Me Down’ is a good mid-paced AOR song and ‘Matter Of Time’ could well be the best thing on the whole disc with it’s upbeat LeRoux/Shooting Star feel.

You’ve probably guessed that I much prefer the debut Virginia Wolf CD to ‘Push’, but both are worth looking into if you’re a fan of the genre and have never heard them. They come with the usual sound quality and informative sleeve notes (from our own Dave Cockett) that we’ve come to expect from Rock Candy. If you’re already a fan and have the previous re-issued versions from a few years ago, suffice to say that these are the definitive versions.

Phil Ashcroft

 

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