There was simply no way I could overlook an album that has become such a monumental part of my life in so many ways.
I really thought long and hard about which album I should feature as the milestone release of my life. You see, when I was thirteen years old and just really discovering Rock music for the first time, it was 1987 and there was a wealth of great Rock albums around at the time, but there were three key albums available that would be pivotal in forever altering my musical tastes; namely Def Leppard's 'Hysteria', Bon Jovi's 'Slippery When Wet' and Whitesnake's '1987'. All three were hugely influential on me, and two I still regard as each artiste's crowning glories (one would be surpassed by 'New Jersey'). I still hold two of the bands in high esteem, my interest in one would eventually wane, I'll let you deduce which...
In subsequent years however, I began to favour the less mainstream bands after discovering the TV Programmes that still aired Rock videos, like The Chart Show, The Power Hour and later the mighty Headbanger's Ball, where I would discover the likes of White Lion, Cinderella, Great White, Firehouse, Mr. Big, and then a band from New Jersey that went by the name of Tyketto...
Anybody who knows me or has read any of my reviews will already know how highly I regard this band, so there was simply no way I could overlook an album that has become such a monumental part of my life in so many ways. I actually remember when I first heard 'Don't Come Easy', I thought it was good, but it wasn't until I saw the band live that I realised just HOW good they were; the band themselves were amazing, but it was the sheer showmanship and charisma of the lead vocalist Danny Vaughn that really struck a chord with me - and boy, could he sing...
The band were formed in the late eighties by former Waysted vocalist Vaughn, drummer Michael Clayton, bassist Jimi Kennedy and guitarist Brooke St. James, and though undeniably they had the looks to compete with the wealth of image-conscious Rock bands of the time, they also possessed the substance and musicianship, along with the knack of writing a damn fine tune that many bands of a similar ilk lacked. A deal with Geffen Records ensued, and with no expense spared Tyketto entered the studio in 1989 with acclaimed producer Richie Zito to record their debut album. However, somewhat inexplicably, Geffen delayed the album's release until 1991, when the shift in the musical climate would ultimately prevent 'Don't Come Easy' from selling by the bucket-load and Tyketto from becoming global megastars. And yet, the sheer quality of the album ensured it would be regarded as a cult classic among the Melodic Rock fraternity that, twenty-five years later, is still held in such high esteem.
Inevitably, the powerfully anthemic opener 'Forever Young' was destined to become Tyketto's signature song; accompanied by a promotional video that has stood the test of time extraordinarily well, the song is the staple of any Rock Club's playlist and the potent, dynamic finale to any Tyketto show (even though I recall seeing them actually begin gigs with it back in the early days!) Dominated by Brooke St. James' scything riff and the driving thrust of the rhythm, it's an Arena-Rock-sized monster of a song with a quite amazing vocal performance from Vaughn, the mesmerizing, elongated note held at the end a prime example of his talent; Vaughn once told me "if I knew back then how popular the song would become, I'd never have held it for so long!" Following such an impressive musical statement is an unenviable task, yet 'Wings' is the perfect alternative; a simplistic love song at heart, yet blessed with a wealth of insanely catchy melodies that cascade from all sides – it's sheer melodious enjoyment from start to finish and the ultimate sing-along.
Though the opening duo 'Forever Young' and 'Wings' are two of Tyketto's most recognised songs, it's the shimmering 'Burning Down Inside' that for me is one of the band's defining moments. A true slow-burner whose dynamics are gradually introduced as the song develops, it's enveloped in lush keyboard textures and saturated with immense vocal harmonies and a soaring chorus that is, quite simply, to die for; it's Tyketto at their most accomplished and sophisticated best. Then, at track four is 'Seasons', and 'Don't Come Easy's first real demonstration of what has become synonymous with Tyketto's trademark sound; the outstanding dynamic between Vaughn's strummed acoustic and St James' electric guitar riffing. Other bands like Tesla and Winger have successfully combined the acoustic/electric guitar sound to great effect, but for me, none more seamlessly than the perfect, powerful, Hard Rocking melodic style that Tyketto achieve.
Personally, I believe that track five is unquestionably stunning, mesmerising, sheer perfection, in the form of the album's sole ballad, the enduring, unforgettable 'Standing Alone'. Arranged around a somewhat understated, serene yet beautiful musical background, it's nevertheless crowned by the ultimate, emotional, towering vocal from Vaughn that never fails to reach deep inside your soul and tug on your heart strings. The heart-wrenching lyrics, beautiful melodies, glorious melodic guitar solo, and the section where Danny powerfully sings "I just don't want to be Standing Alone" completely unaccompanied, even after all these years, each and every time I hear this quite amazing piece of music it always gives me goose-bumps. It is my all-time favourite song and will forever remain so.
What follows could not be more of a contrast. 'Lay Your Body Down', a song inspired by the strip-clubs the band would frequent between recording sessions; as Vaughn recalled during their recent tour, at the time of writing for the album he declared to the other guys that "I want to write songs that will lift people up, that will be huge in stadiums, that will get people moving." Clayton however, "wanted to write a song that makes women take off their clothes!" So they did... Revolving around a gigantic, sexy groove and Funky bass-line, replete with a huge call-and-answer chorus, it's a true fan favourite that is always huge fun live. At its climax, a short-but-sweet acoustic interlude introduces the excellent 'Walk On Fire', another song that displays the Tyketto trademark sound. A groove-laden Melodic Rocker with a powerful chorus and delightful guitar solo, it's seldom performed live but has always been a perennial favourite of mine. 'Nothing But Love' follows with a similar characteristic, albeit with Vaughn's acoustic not quite so prominent, containing yet another excellent sing-along chorus. In a somewhat unusual move for a Rock band at the time, it's augmented with a sitar solo, offering something a little different from the regular blistering guitar workout. A harmonica melody paves the way for the return of that Funky bass-driven groove for 'Strip Me Down', certainly not one of the most inspiring of Tyketto's lyrical offerings (and it's highly unlikely they will ever write anything quite so raunchy again), yet it's still great fun and a more-than-worthy inclusion to the album, while the playful drum turn-around following the first chorus still brings a smile to my face.
Although 'Forever Young' is Tyketto's signature song, it's 'Sail Away' that is truly the band's most autobiographical, incorporating the story of how the friendship of the four original members developed and the band was formed, all during the course of a fantastic four-and-a-half minute Melodic Rock anthem, emerging from the stomping, acoustic intro into a full-blooded, commercial Rock anthem with another amazingly catchy chorus and double-tracked guitar solo to close the album in spectacular style.
Tyketto to me is not just my favourite band, it's something that has become a way of life. I proudly wear the band's logo tattoo on my arm, I've re-arranged holidays to ensure I won't miss any live shows and I will enthusiastically travel the length and breadth of the country to see as many shows as possible – the number of times I have seen Vaughn perform has easily surpassed the hundred mark. I'm also blessed to have been able to get to know all of the members on a personal level over the years too, something I have never taken for granted. There have been so many other fantastic albums from other artists that have become a staple part of my listening pleasures throughout the years (way too many to list here), but as much as I still love 'Strength In Numbers' and 'Dig In Deep', none have ever had such an overwhelming impact on me the way 'Don't Come Easy' has.
However, twenty-five years after it was unleashed, 2016 heralded the release of 'Reach' with a revamped line-up, an album that I have embraced for the last six months, and I now truly believe is actually every bit as good as, and can triumphantly stand shoulder-to-shoulder with 'Don't Come Easy', which as an immense Tyketto fan is a hell of a statement. No doubt, my enjoyment is intensified by the impetus that the new line-up has imbued within the band (having my all-time favourite guitarist Chris Green amongst the ranks certainly enhances that aspect), but it's the wealth of variation throughout the twelve songs that I find so impressive. An obvious highlight of the album is the stunning production; though obviously recorded on a fraction of 'Don't Come Easy's budget, the sound quality of 'Reach' is nevertheless mightily impressive (take a bow Bruce Buchanan and Nick Brine) and truly captures the energy and spirit of the band's live performances. Judging by the success of the album, the future is looking bright.
It's easy to reminisce and yearn for what might have been for Tyketto had 'Don't Come Easy' become the hit album Geffen had intended, yet nearly thirty years later they are still going strong and still picking up new fans along the way. I'm just grateful that I discovered them early enough to have been able to go along with them for the ride.