Airrace - 2011 Back To The Start

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ARTIST: Airrace
ALBUM: Back To The Start
LABEL: Frontiers
SERIAL: FRCD 519
YEAR: 2011

COUNTRY OF ORIGIN: image

LINEUP: Keith Murrell - vocals * Laurie Mansworth - guitar * Dean Howard - guitar * Jim Reid - bass * Chris Williams - keyboards * Simon Dawson - drums

TRACK LISTING: 01 Keep On Going * 02 Two Of A Kind * 03 When Baby * 04 Call Me Anytime * 05 So Long * 06 Back To Start * 07 Just One Kiss * 08 Wrong Way Out * 09 One Step Ahead * 10 Enough Of Your Loving * 11 Better Believe It * 12 What More Do You Want From Me?

RATING: image

WEBLINKS: Site Link

Background

Britain's Airrace made a big splash back in 1984 with their debut album 'Shaft Of Light' produced by Beau Hill.

At the time I thought it was an OK if not unspectacular release, using Foreigner as a template and with the immaculate vocals of Keith Murrell and heavy drum bashing from Jason Bonham, there was some thought in the British press that this could be the band to break through into the big time.

Sadly that was not to happen. All the band members went onto other projects and after nearly 25 years away from the spotlight, Airrace reconvened for an appearance at Firefest during 2009.

The upshot of all this is a brand new album from the band following some encouraging feedback from fans and media alike. Three of the original members return; singer Keith Murrell, guitarist Laurie Mansworth and bassist Jim Reid, so there is a thread of influence going back to their 80's heyday.

'Back To The Start' featuring a remake of Escher's Staircase' on the album cover is a remarkably heavy affair, not some wimpfest from decades ago. Mansworth and Howard are the major shakers here, their guitar work laying a heavy stamp of authority all over this album. Upon first listen, you'd be wondering if this was Airrace at all!

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[L-R]Simon Dawson - drums, , Jim Reid - bass, Keith Murrell - vocals, Laurie Mansworth - guitars, Dean Howard - guitars, Chris Williams - keyboards

The Songs

Airrace set sail into the storm with the big booming sound of 'Keep On Going', a big brash opening with keyboard parps, aggressive guitar parts and Murrell's flight of fancy vocal work. Wow.

'Two Of A Kind' is more hard rock with no real sign of pure AOR yet to rear its head.

'When Baby' continues the raucous opening, coarse and gritty mostly, though the harmony vocals helps to smooth over the rough edges.

'Call Me Anytime' is the first sign of heading back into AOR territory with the heavy keyboard tapping courtesy of Chris Williams, though to be honest it still hangs out in the back alley like a bad dog hanging around for scraps.

A regimented drum beat heralds in the heavy pomp of 'So Long', which reminds us of the best qualities from the 80's. In fact, this is one of my highlights, the chorus is a slightly different take on Styx's 'Blue Collar Man' according to my ears.

More brash melodic rock kicks in on the title track 'Back To The Start' which shifts around the musical compass slightly, but likeable nonetheless. Seven tracks in, and I have yet to hear a ballad.

'Just One Kiss' doesn't abate for one moment, this one has a rock n roll vibe, with a hint of blues circa FM 'Takin' It To The Streets', but the organ work from Williams keeps things interesting.

Mansworth ups the ante in the guitar stakes for the bruising 'Wrong Way Out', so too 'One Step Ahead' which shuffles about like a cat on a hot tin roof, the heavier sound suiting Airrace to a tee.

There's no let up with 'Enough Of Your Lovin' continuing the loud n proud direction, 'Better Believe It' losing no momentum as the band fight their way to the finish line.

The final track 'What More Do You Want From Me?' diverts to an AOR sound with an emphasis on trademark keyboards in the vein of Bystander and their ilk. A grand way to finish up.

In Summary

Let's be honest here. 'Back To The Start' is one of the better Frontiers releases during the first half of 2011.

It maintains the British perception of grittiness, the fighting qualities of the bulldog (literally speaking of course) without letting the sheen of a decades worth of 80's North American AOR dominate precedings.

The Foreigner influences are well and truly blown away here, Airrace take a similar direction to the recent Moritz CD, but this has more dynamics and energy.

I think this album will surprise a lot of people actually, much like the recent Night Ranger return to form, so that means you should really check it out. To the guys in Airrace, take a bow chaps, and welcome back.


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