Onto another listen through of a record I’ve never heard before. Today I introduce you to Vow Wow, who used to be called Bow Wow but changed name to avoid confusion with Bow Wow Wow! I’ve plumped for this one as a friend procured the vinyl version of V while we were at Hard Rock Hell. Released in 1987 during a peak in the melodic soft rock and AOR scene.
I’ve had to listen to it twice to get a better feel of it. On first listen it was a little bit uninspiring and just seemed to slide into background music in the car. To me the vocals sounded a bit weak and drowned out by the music.
Listening to it again you can start to pick out all of those mid 80’s traits and it’s almost a colour by numbers release. Grandiose keyboard intros reminiscent of Journey or Europe. Huge nods towards UK AOR rockers Magnum and dashes of early Queensryche in there as well. The vocals come across to me as sounding like Lenny Wolf from Kingdom Come with that Robert Plant inspired sound, but on some tracks the vocals are almost Tom Keifer like. And the obligatory power ballads? Yes, they’re there too.
Maybe a lot of the mixing pot of influences can be expected when you realise the band are from Japan. So many of their bands always seemed to want to be the Japanese version of someone else.
After the second listen I liked it that bit more, but again nothing special here to make me listen to it on a regular basis.
No Marillion records for 42 years, then like buses two come along together. Advancing to 1995’s Afraid Of Sunlight and my duck is broken listening to “new” vocalist Steve Hogarth. This is his fourth release with the band and is (so I’ve been told) this era’s best release.
It opens well with the up tempo Gazpacho, the quirky Cannibal Surf Babe and the ballad of Beautiful is, well, just beautiful.
Afraid Of Sunlight is a very polished album and much more grown up than the Marillion album I’d heard directly before this, but unlike Clutching At Straws which grabbed me immediately this just started to pass me by as it just seemed too pedestrian along it’s course. Some of the songs build up to a nice peak, but the vocal delivery doesn’t seem to match. I’ve listened to it twice now and it’s by no means a bad record, it just doesn’t have enough variation to it for me to enjoy it more. At one point I thought I was listening to a U2 record as Hogarth’s vocals in places sounded like Bono on some of U2’s more recent output.
On a personal note my family has a tie with the events that are portrayed within in Out of this World. Donald Campbell was a British land and water speed record breaker. On January 4th 1967 Campbell attempted to break the water speed record on Lake Coniston, Cumbria with his Bluebird K7 “rocket boat”. Unfortunately the boat got into trouble and eventually spun out of the water and broke up decapitating Campbell in the process. My dad was apparently one of the naval personnel there to help with the search for his body. The wreck of Bluebird and Donald’s body remained submerged on the floor of Coniston for another 34 years. Diver Bill Smith was inspired to look for the wreck of Bluebird after hearing Out of this World.
The other night a friend went to see ex-Marillion vocalist Fish performing Misplaced Childhood in full at a venue in Bristol. I was chatting online to another friend as why he wasn’t there as he’s the biggest Marillion fan I know – apparently solo Fish is “rubbish”. Great fun managing to wind up two people over one band.
Apparently I’m a bit of a wind up merchant. I have no idea where people get that impression of me from!
Anyway this got me thinking. I’ve NEVER listened to a Marillion album in full in my 42 years, so I asked for a recommendation of an album by both vocalists. This could be the start of regular thing on this blog as there are so many records that evaded my musical radar and with the introduction of the shuffle function on an iPod and iTunes giving to the option and the ability to buy a single track my listening habits have evolved over time.
We stumble back in time to June 1987 and Clutching At Straws for the first part of my Marillion introduction. I am aware of who Marillion are, I quite like Kayleigh – doesn’t everybody?, but I’ve only ever liked them as a singles band. I’ve never purchased an album but I may have acquired a 7″ many moons ago – Sugar Mice, I think, from a fairground of all places, but why and what happened to said record I don’t know.
Last night I stuck the 1999 remastered version of Clutching At Straws in my Spotify library and this morning at work I gave it a blast. If I’m being truly honest I have to say I really liked it, even though they fall in that category of uncool bands with the likes of Nickelback.
I was well aware of Incommunicado, and the aforementioned Sugar Mice was a lot better than I remember it being. I really liked Slàinte Mhath with its slow build up. Plenty of slower atmospheric tracks and some really rocky up tempo stuff on offer throughout the original 50 minutes.
On the evidence of this isolated listen I’m more than likely going to be listening to a few more of the Derek Dick era recordings in the very near future.