In this interview edit Pete Feenstra chats to Danny Bowes from Thunder (3:10).
The full version of the interview is broadcast again on Get Ready to ROCK! Radio, Thursday 9 February at 23:00 GMT
earMUSIC [Release date 10.02.17]
The claims that Thunder are bigger, better and harder than before are indeed born out by their new CD ‘Rip It Up’, but the inevitable hype almost misses the point. Yes, the album is excellent, but the real reason for Thunder’s successful return is their own indefatigable spirit which never settles for complacency. It’s also the very reason their fans have stuck with them over the years.
‘Rip It Up’ is a flagship album for all enduring classic rock bands. Thunder after all, operate in a musical genre that they have stretched out with a bluesy undertow for well over a quarter of a century. It’s their ebullient performance of Luke Morley’s well crafted songs that lay the foundations for a contemporary hard rock album with real heft.
For a band that has been successfully reborn after two retirements and with a recent chart album and arena tour, there’s a lot riding on ‘Rip It Up’ and it delivers impressively.
It pushes all the right buttons and is framed by a big production, punctuated by Morley’s big guitar figures and topped by Danny Bowes expressive phrasing on some great hooks.
The 11 track composite delivers all the essential elements that originally made rock music so exciting, while apart from the classic rock template which includes occasional retro influences, the only other real concession to the past is the fact that their musical journey does indeed sound like an album.
‘Rip It Up’ is built around the twin pillars of Luke Morley’s songs and vocalist Danny Bowes interpretive ability, as the duo soar above the rock solid rhythm section of Chris Childs and Harry James, while Ben Matthews gives the band additional sonic armoury.
The album makes a big splash by contemporizing some essential 70′s Classic rock values, from stirring verses with meaningful narratives to booming hooks and big solos, while the Morley/Bowes combination remains intuitively locked-in together, in a way that allows the band to achieve their aim of pushing themselves to the next level.
And if the Classic Rock label has helped sustain them and ride out the changing musical fashions – including grunge, which they ironically plunder on ‘Shakedown’ - then its their joie de vivre that gives them a little bit extra.
The galloping intro of ‘No One Gets Out Alive’ is a suitably brusque opener, but it’s the call to arms of the title track that really sets the standard. It opens with a Paul Kossoff guitar figure and a thumping ‘Gene Jeanie’ style bass line, before settling on being a stomp with lyrics that could almost be about the band’s previous frustrations: “Your vision’s gold but no one wants to see.”
Then there the cleverly worked contrast between the lyrical message and music, which sees Saint Jude vocalist Lynne Jackaman on unexpected gospel style bv’s on a track that shouts: “Don’t do subtle, burst their bubble, don’t rely on luck.”
The album’s ebb and flow draws us into ‘Right From The Start’, a love song on which Bowes’s effortless phrasing brings real presence to bear of a heartfelt ballad.
And as if to emphasize the push and pull nature of the sequencing, the band then slip into the exuberant ‘Shakedown’ on which Danny positively revels with a mix of pristine diction and powerful phrasing, before Morley adds a telling grunge style guitar break which is as unexpected as it is effective.
They really hit their stride on faux waltz-time ‘Heartbreak Hurricane’, before Harry James’s potent drum pattern leads the band into a huge hook on an anthem in the making.
Placed at just over the halfway mark, it gives the album a real lift, and is completed by another barrelling solo from Luke. The Steely Dan influenced groove of ’In Another Life’ almost feels like a link track to the magnificent ‘The Chosen One’, which thunders (no pun intended) down the track with manic intent, before referencing the funky undertow of Isaac Hayes’s ‘Shaft’.
This is Danny Bowes’s pivotal moment as he bring real expression and feel to the lyrics. Morley’s buzz guitar then towers above the track before a descending hook balances everything out. It would have been the perfect vehicle for someone like Glenn Hughes, but as it is, it marks Thunder out as special.
Very few bands this deep into their career sound this fresh and exciting. Morley also adds some clever some oxymoronic wordplay to maintain lyrical interest on ‘The Enemy Inside’, while he adds a Who style power chord intro and an accompanying Zeppelin riff to the stonking ‘Tumbling Down’.
The doomed relationship song finds the band at their peak, as Bowes’s vocal mirrors the huge arrangement and the track rises majestically towards a climatic finish
The stripped down ‘There’s Always A Loser’ bookends things with a timeless rock-ballad, voiced over a big drum sound that only works in the hands of a band who know their strengths.
And ‘Rip It Up’ plays to those strengths by rocking hard, exploring melodic depth, lyrical substance and enveloping hooks. Thunder still have plenty in the tank and their enduring brand of Classic Rock has come round again.
This is their time and ‘Rip It Up’ gives them all the ammunition they need to take full advantage. ****
Review by Pete Feenstra
Pete Feenstra presents his Rock & Blues Show on Get Ready to ROCK! Radio every Tuesday at 19:00 GMT, and “The Pete Feenstra Feature” on Sundays at 20:00
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Power Plays w/c 17 July 2017
DANIELLE MORGAN Shy (indie)
BIGFOOT The Fear (Frontiers)
JUDIE TZUKE So (Big Moon)
JONNY LANG Bitter End (Provogue)
Featured Albums w/c 17 July (Mon-Fri)
09:00-12:00 TEN Gothica (Frontiers)
12:00-13:00 RIVERDOGS California (Frontiers)
14:00-16:00 ELEANOR McEVOY The Thomas Moore Project (MOSCODISC)
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