Wednesday, March 25, 2015

The Tygers Revisit Their past

Classic New Wave of British Heavy Metal (NWOBHM) band Tygers of Pan Tang hits back with a new disc containing re-recorded songs from their first two legendary albums Wild Cat (1980) and Spellbound (1981). These songs have only been released on two different discs as a fan club specials in 2010 and 2011. Thanks to Polish label Skol Records we all can enjoy these re-recorded songs on the new disc entitled Tygers Sessions: The First Wave.

Tygers of Pan Tang formed way back in 1978 in Whitley Bay, northern England by only remaining member and guitarist Rob Weir, bass man Richard "Rocky" Laws, lead vocalist Jess Cox and drummer Brian Dick. The band took their name from the evil sorcerers portrayed in Hawkwind collaborator Michael Moocock´s Elric novels. Working their way up through the local club circuit they were soon contracted by local label Neat Records and the first single "Don´t Touch Me There" was released in 1979. That single attracted the interest of major label MCA Records and the now legendary debut album Wild Cat was recorded and released in 1980. The album reached no 18 on the British album chart within the first week of its release.

Tygers of Pan Tang with John Sykes
Picture courtesy of  Heavy
Things were not all well and good in the Tygers camp despite the big success of the debut album. Soon after the album's release the band recruited legendary guitar slinger John Sykes (later Thin Lizzy, Whitesnake, Blue Murder) from the band Gunslinger. Lead vocalist Jess Cox had a big falling out with the other members and quit, being replaced by the former Persian Risk man John Deverill. With this line-up, they released the excellent albums Spellbound and Crazy Nights in 1981. John Sykes quit the band after Crazy Nights to audition for Ozzy Osbourne but when he did not get the spot he joined Thin Lizzy instead. Sykes instead. Sykes was
quickly replaced by Fred Purser (ex-Penetration) who had just two days to learn the songs before the tour started. With Purser, they released The Cage in 1982. All four albums are today considered to be classic albums and all played a major part in the metal wave sweeping through the UK in the early 1980´s together with bands like Saxon, Iron Maiden and Diamond Head to name just a few. The Tygers had seen a hit with the cover song "Love Potion No. 9" which inspired MCA Records to demand them to play more cover songs. They of course refused being an original songs band and MCA responded by refusing to promote The Cage. When MCA also refused to release them of their recording contract the band broke up in frustration in 1983.

Back From The Dead: The First Time:
In 1985 lead vocalist John Deverill and drummer Brian Dick reformed the Tygers of Pan Tang and joining them were new guitarists Steve Lamb (ex-Sergeant)  and Neil Sheppard (ex-Warrior, ex-Satan) along with bass player Clin Irvin. Dave Donaldson soon replaced Clin Irvin taking over the bass guitar duties. Original vocalist Jess Cox and original guitarist Rob Weir formed the spin-off band Tyger Tyger instead. With this line-up, the Tygers of Pan Tang recorded the albums The Wreck-age (1985) and Burning In The Shade (1987). The style had now changed to a more commercial, melodic and radio friendly version of hard rock. Unfortunately that move did not work, alienating old fans and not gaining enough new ones. The band broke up again in 1987.

Back From The Dead: Part Two:
Things started to happen that created hopes of a reunion when Jess Cox joined fellow NWOBHM band Blitzkrieg on stage at Wacken Open Air in 1998 playing three old Tyger classics. The huge response from the crowd convinced Cox that it was time to try to put the band back together again. The band was invited by the Wacken organizers to play the main stage at the 10th anniversary of Wacken in 1999 and at the same time celebrating 20 years of Tygers of Pan Tang. Original guitarist Rob Weir was up for it but unfortunately Brian Dick and "Rocky" Laws were unable to join the band. Weir and Cox were joined on stage by Blitzkrieg guitarist Glen S Howes, bass player Gavin Gray and drummer Chris Percy.

Despite the success of the Wacken gig which resulted in the live disc, Live At Wacken, Jess Cox did not continue with the band and in 2000 Rob Weir reformed the Tygers again. It was an all new line up including new lead vocalist Tony Liddell, guitarist Dean Robertson, Brian West on bass and behind the drumkit was Craig Ellis. A comeback album was recorded and released in 2001 as Mystical on the British Z-Rock label. The album meant a return to the old and classic Tygers sound of the first four albums.  A couple of years on Liddell left the band and was replaced by Angel Witch bass player Richie Wicks and Noises From The Cathouse was released in 2003. It continued on in the trodden path with a little modern touch around the edges. A little later that year it was time yet again to change frontmen and in came Italian vocalist extraordinaire Jacopo Meille.  He provided some much needed consistency in the frontman department and is still today the band's lead vocalist. This new line up recorded the excellent Animal Instinct, released in 2008. The Tygers then went on to re-record and release songs from the first two albums as limited fan club editions (which are here assembled for the first time on one CD as Tyger Sessions: The First Wave).

Before recording their latest disc with all new material entitled Ambush (2012) Gavin Gray returned to the band replacing Brian West. In 2013, long time guitarist Dean Robertson left the band and was replaced by Mickey Crystal. A deal was signed with Skol Records to re-release the fan club editions on an official CD.

Tyger Sessions: The First Wave
First I must admit I am not a big fan of bands re-recording their old songs - it simply cannot be the same feeling. Mostly its a suicide even attempting to alter the recordings of the songs we all grew up with and learned to love. I did not discover the Tygers back in the day which may influence the way I look upon this new CD with re-recorded material. Saxon has done it with a limited success and I am not a fan of the re-recorded material by them.  So why do we even need this disc?

Well, first of all the Tygers of Pan Tang (although a classic band) were not as big as fellow collegues in Saxon and the old records are very hard to come by these days. A lot of fans do not have the emotional attachements to the old recordings. So, reluctantly, I have to admit that these new recordings really rock! The production and sound quality is far better and Meille is a much better vocalist with a greater range than Cox in my book. The re-recorded songs stay true to the original structure for most part and provide a new freshness to the overall impression. The band perfectly balances the attitude of punk rock and the energy and melody of punchy hard rock. The songs are almost as immediate as a pop song but still heavy of course.

Track By Track Commentary:
The first five songs on this disc are re-recordings of songs from the debut album Wild Cat (1980) and the last six songs are off Spellbound (1981). The CD starts off with classic rocker  "Youthanasia" which is a straight ahead rock song in the old school. A nice simple riff with a cool chorus and written in the band's humble beginnings in 1978. A great way to start the album and one of the strongest songs on this disc. Lyrically it's about terminating life before it´s over. It is followed by what must be one of the longest songs in the Tygers history, clocking in at just over six minutes. "Slave To Freedom" starts off with a nice guitar harmony from Robertson/Weir. It has kind of a boogie feeling to it with some nice tempo changes in the midsection and according to Weir it was inspired by Rush. The lyrics deal with the problem of trying to preserve or "save" democracy by using bombs and weapons driven by greed. Third spot is occupied by the big single from Wild Cat called "Suzie Smiled". In my opinion not the strongest song on the album and an odd choice for a single. Still its a song with a cool bassline and lyrically it's about Suzie dreaming of the big city and riding fast cars. Up next is the blues infused "Don´t Touch Me There" which was the band's first single, released on Neat Records and re-recorded for the Wild Cat album. It´s got a nice driving groove and big chorus. It also has Meille moaning "Don´t Touch Me There" over and over again - priceless! The song also has some talkbox effects from Weir and a 70´s feel all over it. Ending the Wild Cat section of the CD is the title track from that album, a fast paced rocker dealing with fast motorbikes and loose women. The lyrics "Wine and women, who needs much more? Motorbiking free" really says it all. A really nice solo from Weir on this song.

Current line up of Tygers of Pan Tang
Picture courtesy of bands homepage
The Spellbound section of the album starts off with "Gangland" (later covered by German thrash band Kreator) written by John Sykes and Rob Weir. It's a fast rocker that entices you to loosen those neck muscles and do some serious headbangin´. A song about the tough streetlife as a young kid in those "Ganglands". Then we are treated to "Take It" which is a great rocker and the lyrics seem to be about a woman taking all the money and a man's obsession with her. Then we turn up the speed a couple of knots for "Hellbound" which again is a really fast paced rocker with a strong chorus that easily sticks in your head. I am not surprised this song was originally a single off the Spellbound album. It has potential commercially. The lyrics seem to be about an air fight where I get shot down in the end. Finally, it´s time for the album's first and only ballad called "Mirror".  It´s massive and one of my definitive favourites on this album. Meille really shines on this one with some fantastic vocals. Up next is "Tyger Bay" written by Weir and John Deverill. "Tyger Bay" incidentally was a dangerous place near Deverill's hometown of Cardiff, Wales where all the villains hung out. It starts off with a great, driving riff and a cool bass line in the background. I sense some blues in this song as well. A great rocker. The album ends with "Don´t Stop By" which is a melodic rock song with a huge hook. It´s got a nice guitar intro and nice harmonies throughout the song. One of my faves on this disc. A strong way to round off a great album. My favourite picks off the album would be "Youthanasia", "Hellbound", "Mirror" and "Don´t Stop By".

Picture courtesy of  the bands facebook page.
Not being a fan of bands re-recording their old material I am pleasantly surprised by this album. Where the original recordings lacked production and power this disc adds that to these classic songs. You can still hear these are late 70´s or early 80´s compositions and the band never strays to far off from the original song. For fans that do not own the old albums and are not familiar with the band, this would be a great way to be introduced to the world of Tygers of Pan Tang. As I mentioned before Meille is a great vocalist and has got a much wider range than Cox. John Deverill might still be my favourite Tygers vocalist, but I think Meille really proves himself on these old songs.

This is a surprisingly strong disc with a revitalized band. I would give the Tyger Sessions 7,5 Geeks out of 10 possible. I am really looking forward to catching the band at Väsby Rock Festival this summer. I hope the band will bring on the second wave with songs from Crazy Nights and The Cage soon. Pick up this disc and rock like it´s the 1980´s all over again!

The Lionsheart

Tygers of Pan Tang official homepage

Tygers of Pan Tang on Facebook

BUY the album here!

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