Written by Central Electronic Brain July 06, 2011
Airrace - Back To The Start
|Value for Money:||4.0|
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?