|Shark Island Gathering Of The Faithful||Frontiers Records|
The return of Shark Island…who would have ever thought it? This is a great thing for fans of the band, unanimous in their belief that the band's career was cut short before they ever reached their full potential.|
There remains such a passion for the band's debut album Law Of The Order that this release is bound to find it's way into many hands.
Those that didn't pick up on the band first time around get a second chance here, but I feel that the majority that will be impressed with this release will be those long established fans.
This is a very interesting release. It is not entirely as I expected it would be, but after living with it for some 2 months now, I could not imagine it being anything else.
First a little background – before eventually splitting up, the band wrote and recorded a staggering amount of demos. Many have grouped these tracks and one certain grouping was being traded as the band's unreleased second album.
Truth is, things never got that far. The great number of demos were just that and no second album was ever recorded. Until now.
Gathering Of The Faithful is the result. Frontman Richard Black proclaimed that the band would first have to go back before they could possible move forwards, so on this album, the band's choice of 13 of their best original demos were gathered and re-cut from scratch.
No polishing or re-mastering here - these are 100% new recordings and in some instances, completely new arrangements of some well traded classics. As a long time fan of the band, these songs are very familiar. The 2006 arrangement and fresh treatment of them however is not.
I think fans that know these songs will be of the same opinion I have. At first the new arrangements took some getting used to. I was very surprised on at least a couple of occasions. The band have put a new spin on a few tracks here and the production and overall sound quality is perfect for the band. It is clear and mixed brilliantly.
The band individually sounds as good now as they ever did. The vibe might be a little more laid back in places and the album is definitely a more mature piece of work, but the class of the band as writers and as musicians shines through in every way.
Several tracks have a more acoustic base and a raw, stripped back feel, yet the attitude of the debut remains.
The feeling of a mellower album is probably exaggerated by the relatively relaxed way the album starts. Blue Skies and Tomorrow's Child are acoustic driven and somewhat easy going compared with the angst of the debut.
Then there is the sultry The Stranger, which although slow in tempo, is a more riff driven track and features that trademark Richard Black snarl.
The uptempo pop/rocker Go West typifies this album. It has the bluesy swagger of the band's traditional sound and a great little chorus, but is more relaxed in the overall vibe.
The rock ballad Welcome Goodbye is a very cool update on the original demo. Haunting, soulful and totally commanding of the listener's attention, the song features a warm but edgy vocal and spells out why this band means so much to fans.
The subtle, smoldering rocker Life Goes On sees the band dabbling with their Led Zeppelin affinity and is another testament to the musical ability of the guys.
Down To The Ground is one track that hasn't been changed much from how it was written. I saw this track performed live by the band once in 1992 and to this day the melody remains familiar to me. This is classic rocking Shark Island and I love it.
Looking For The Sun has been updated beautifully. It was always a sentimental ballad, but this version features a brilliant vocal and a terrific updated arrangement. Another highlight.
Heaven has been rocked up a little and given a slightly more modern guitar sound, but still rocks as it always has and is another typical Shark Island rocker.
If I Had A Dream is another of my long time favourites songs of the 'lost demos'. In this case it has been given the most dramatic facelift of all the tracks. The uptempo anthem rock ballad has been turned on its head to be a soft, subtle, emotional and haunting ballad, with an acoustic guitar and a raw, emotional vocal delivering the message.
It has taken the most getting used to, but is such a classy song in every way.
Will To Power is another traditional bluesy Shark Island rocker and like Heaven and Down To The Ground, could easily have been lifted from the debut. Same could be said of Need Your Love and Temptation, which fulfill the trend of the album getting heavier as it progresses. These two dramatic hard rockers have been updated with a more contemporary sound, but the style will be easily recognizable to long time fans.
Shark Island devotees finally have another album they can wrap their ears around and imagine most will be impressed. What cannot be mistaken is the class of the performance and production, which helps bring some classic songs into the now.
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