HardReviews 3
by Martin Popoff


Celebrating the issue of the legendary shelved '78 album (or more accurately, collection of finished album tracks) as Notes From San Francisco, Eagle embarks upon a reissue program, offering up at once, Photo Finish, Stage Struck, Jinx and the Irish legend's most hard rocking record, Top Priority, from '79. We're focusing on this one, for the reason that it's got the most direct ties to the Notes record, relevance being that the Notes material didn't emerge because there was too much gunk on it. Anti-gunk, Top Priority is all electric guitar sizzle, featuring a wall of gritty hard blues, passionate pop metal and uncharacteristically harder fare like 'Follow Me', 'Philby' and balls-out metal classic 'Just Hit Town.' Frank Marino, Gary Moore, Robin Trower, Rory... same sort of frustrating deal for the angry young metalhead of the '70s (like me) who tirelessly wanted more 'Juggernaut' and less 'World Anthem'. OK, before we go, killer coupla bonus tracks to this thing, 'Hell Cat' being an almost AC/DC-ish bar man's metal and 'The Watcher' being a dark hard rocker with a striking couple of long guitar solos which again, demonstrated that bluesy Rory could have been a metal axe hero had his pencil contained more of that colour lead.
Rating 7

JOHN WETTON - Raised In Captivity

Is he a man with a twilight years goal to finally get that huge celebration of life and friends-type album out? That's what one can imagine as Crimson/Heep/Roxy/UK/Asia legend John Wetton crafts the greatest solo album of his career. We know - yes, we know - that a huge part of Raised In Captivity's success goes to Billy Sherwood, skilled in all areas, co-writer of every song, producer, the only full member of the record's "band" besides John, playing guitars and drums. The result is an album that cannily plays to all the creases in John's past and personality, Billy holding up an ornate mirror to the lines on Wetton's face, suggesting and then receiving layers of proggy pop obscurity, oddly evocative of Bill Ward's sprawling and hugely under-rated catalogue, maybe even Glenn Tipton solo. The trademark o'ertop is Wetton's distinct voice which sounds simultaneously asthmatic and powerful: like Graham Bonnet and Roger Daltrey, Wetton sounds laboured, pushing a lot of air, and so a desperate passion leaps out, obscurely, humanly. Poignant, mature lyrics further enhance the album, as does a profusion of arrangement evoking expense. The celebration of life and friends part? Well, Raised In Captivity is spiffed with cameos by Mick Box, Geoff Downes, Steve Hackett, Eddie Jobson, Tony Kaye, Alex Machacek and Steve Morse, who look in on one of rock's nice guys and hope he's doing well.
Rating 8

Hard Reviews Page 4