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 harmonies.com
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
|Picture courtesy of the bands facebook page.|
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!
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