Archive for December, 2014

Marseille – Unfinished Business – Album Review

Posted in Album Reviews with tags , , , , on December 9, 2014 by novametalreview

MarseilleUB

The music business is full of stories of unfulfilled destiny and at times some of these leave me just shaking my head. As you may well guess, the subject band of this review, Marseille, are a prime example of this. My bet is there are very few who will read this who will have even heard any material from this band. So first a history lesson….

Marseille were formed in Liverpool, back in 1976, a time that was spawning many of the roots of what became know as the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal (NWOBHM). Originally garnering attention by winning the very first UK Battle of the Bands, being judged by Brian May and Roger Taylor from Queen at Wembly Arena in 1977, they signed a record deal with Mountain Records, which was an off-shoot of the band Nazareth I believe. Recently I had the privilege of having dinner with Andy Charters (rhythm guitarist from the band), and learned that the unbeknown to the band, the CEO of Mountain died in a plane crash two weeks before the band signed their deal. This unfortunately set a sequence of events in motion that would not do the band any favors.

The bands first release, “Red, White and Slightly Blue”, was produced by Nazareth guitarist Manny Charlton, and did not receive the promotion or distribution it needed to really blow up, but the second album, simply titled “Marseille” from 1979, broke the band to a much larger audience and most importantly was the first NWOBHM album to get released in the USA on RCA. At this point I don’t think it unreasonable to have anticipated a rise that may have rivaled that of Def Leppard, Saxon or Iron Maiden.

However, this story has a twist that would suck the life from the band. Following the US release, the band were invited to tour the USA in 1980 along with Nazareth and Blackfoot, which seemed like the next and most logical move up the rock’n’roll ladder, and indeed the tour was successful. However, behind the scenes, the bands record label Mountain, due largely to completely inept management (remember that plane crash…), was drawn into bankruptcy and the moment the band returned to the UK they were dropped into a two-year legal battle, leaving their equipment stranded in the USA and unable to move on with another record deal until all the lawyer stuff was done with.

Faced with this, the original band more of less disintegrated, with lead guitarist, Neil Buchanan, moving on and finding a successful career in kids TV, Andy Charters moved the USA and Paul Dale (vocals) simply quit. The remaining two members, Keith Knowles and Steve Dinwoodie continued on and recruited vocalist Sav Pearse and guitarist Marc Railton from local Liverpool band Savage Lucy to complete a third album entitled “Touch The Night”, which I must say is a cracking good record and strangely is the album I first bought back in 1984 and how I first discovered Marseille. If you ever see a copy, immediately snap it up – it’s a must have for any NWOBHM fan, even if it isn’t really the “real Marseille”… Unfortunately, times had moved on and the record industry largely ignored the band leading to their split.

After a successful career in TV, Neil Buchanan reunited the original line-up in 2008, which in itself is no mean feat. However, Paul Dale left after about a year and was replaced by Nigel Roberts, who remains the vocalist to this day. In 2010, Keith Knowles and Steve Dinwoodie stepped down to be replaced by Gareth Webb (drums) and Lee Andrews (bass). This is the line up that recorded the album being reviewed hrere! To complete the history, Gareth Webb, left the band in 2011, with his drum stool being filled by Ace Finchum (also of Tigertailz). Lee also left and currently the bass positioned isn’t permanently manned. So, the original two guitarists and founding members, Neil Buchanan and Andy Charters, continue to lead the band, and while not active on a regular basis (mainly because of the 3000 mile stretch of Ocean that separates the members), they continue to play festivals and the odd small mini-tour mainly in mainland Europe.

So, turning to the album that is supposed to be the subject of this review, the first thing to point out is that you’re probably only going to find this as download, with the CD being out of print now (unless perhaps you are prepared to find a copy on one of the “used” sites out on the internet). As you might guess from the title, “Unfinished Business”, this album basically continues on from what might have followed the second album, but here we have the benefit of some very nice production.

As soon as the title track “Unfinished Business” kicks off, the band is firing on all cylinders and I’m talking at least a V-8 here. There is a classic NWOBHM vibe stamped all over this record, but it doesn’t drag along a dated feel at all, sounding fresh and charged with energy. In fact it’s as if the band has stored up all those missing the years worth of rock and released it in one hit. The double guitar line up brings some very nice interplay and the vocals are strong and remind me of several great British bands – Thunder and Little Angels come to mind, but there may be others.

The second track, “I Believe” continues the theme that the music is still relevant and the rock’n’roll dream is still alive, and really could be my personal theme song, haha! Having just gotten back from a 600-mile weekend round trip to see bunch of great metal bands I can’t really argue. “Rock Radio” is a somewhat humorous comment on the sad state of music on the radio these days…! Spot on I’d say. What I can’t really convey in these words is the great upbeat vibe all the tracks on this record bring. “Wanna Get High”, the fourth track here, is a slightly faster number, and, again is a ‘let’s live life to the full’, positive number. There’s some great guitar work in the middle of this track. Solid heavy metal, rock’n’roll.

With track five, there’s a definite hint of Def Leppard (from the good Def Leppard days…) but better than anything that particular band has put out for a long time. This song carries a great melody and it really digs into your brain, such that it’s almost too annoyingly catchy! Skipping over track six, “Blown It”, which is fine, but perhaps my least favorite, we get to “Raise Hell” which is a nicely mid-paced rocker, and just one of those songs you want to crank to ‘11’ when your driving down a nice stretch of highway.

The album closes out with “Everyone Dies Young”, “In For The Kill”, both of which are fine songs, but take us to “The Game” which is another strong number with a cool drum-driven riff through the verse. I found myself leaving this CD in the car player for multiple plays on my most recent trip and was sneakily jacking the volume up as the tracks played through.

So who’s going to like this? Well, least I don’t misrepresent anything here, this isn’t NWOBHM in the vein of Maiden, Saxon or Priest, but more on the Def Leppard, Tygers of Pan Tang and later British bands such as Thunder, so, if those bands ring a bell with you, you will most likely really dig this. There’s definitely a blues edge here, leading me to feel a little more denim, as opposed to leather, but overall it is a really great album and now I have a copy, it feels like one of those that I will always want to hear from start to finish, no matter I’m in shuffle mode on the ol’ iTunes. Again, another testament to music of the late 70’’s/early 80’s, a crackin’ good come back album – how this didn’t do better when it first came out in 2010 is a mystery to me, but then again I’ve only just discovered it myself. My rating for this is a strong 8.5/10.

You can find this on Amazon (http://www.amazon.com/Unfinished-Business-Marseille/dp/B0045JB5H4) and iTunes.

Advertisements