Album review: TYGERS OF PAN TANG – The MCA Years


Caroline International [Release date 19.12.16] 5-CD box set

Formed in the north east of England in the late-70s, Tygers Of Pan Tang were part of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal, and achieved moderate success, including the minor hit cover of ‘Love Potion No 9’. And although they were often considered a second division act, and have at one stage performed with no original members, they have still produced some fine metal. Originally signing to local label Neat, they soon signed to the major MCA, and released four albums and a number of singles. This set compiles the four albums, each with bonus tracks, and a bonus disc of live material recorded 1980-1982 for the BBC.

1980’s Wild Cat featured vocalist Jess Cox, guitarist Robb Weir, bassist Richard Rocky Laws and drummer Brian Dick, and it was produced by Chris Tsangarides. With the lessons of Deep Purple and Black Sabbath, combined with the DIY attitude of punk, ‘Euthanasia’ gets off to a cracking start. The guitar riffage stands out, and ‘Don’t Touch Me There’ is a Tygers galloping classic. A little rough and ready, but then most period metal albums were.  Don’t underestimate this album for some decent tracks and a lot of rocking.

Bringing in former Streetfighter John Sykes (later of Thin Lizzy, Blue Murder and Whitesnake) as a second guitarist, Cox left and was replaced by Persian Risk vocalist Jon Deverill, the new line-up recorded 1981’s Spellbound, also produced by Tsangarides. The music is largely uptempo and completely blistering. With the twin guitar it’s easier to combine the solos and riffing live and the album is more full on. Opener ‘Gangland’ and tracks like ‘Hellbound’ and ‘Blackjack’ represent the Tygers at their peak.

Recorded the same year, with the same line-up (produced by Dennis MacKay), Crazy Nights is another underrated classic, and artwork from Rodney Matthews adds to the package. It was also rumoured to be the last album recorded at London’s Trident studios before it closed. A tightening of the sound (although it’s slightly less polished than the predecessor, possibly due to the change in production) and some seriously classic guitar riffs make for another great and criminally overlooked album. ‘Do It Good’ is one of many tracks to inspire some serious air guitar.

With guitarist Fred Purser replacing Sykes, 1982’s The Cage would be their last for MCA. A few hit singles, including Love Potion No 9 and Rendezvous (both covers) led to MCA asking for more which caused disagreements. With producer Peter Collins (Gary Moore, Bon Jovi, Alice Cooper, Rush etc), it is a more commercial affair, a far cry from their rough’n’ready debut. ‘Lonely At The Top’ is more a mid to late 80s metal track; the guitar work and solid vocals were as good as ever. As mainstream NWoBHM albums go, this is Polished Plus.

The band split soon after, with reformations and relaunches, rotating line-ups, and the band now feature Robb Weir as the only original member. But the music as remained great and underrated along the way.

Each album in a replica card sleeve has a few bonus tracks (but not as many as some previous remasters), and the bonus discs features a March 1981 BBC In Concert, April 1980 BBC Friday Rock Show, and the 1982 Reading Rock Festival performance.

The booklet includes some pictures, extensive sleevenotes and lots of information, so in the main, except for the vinyl completist, this set features all (or most) of what you need from the era, pretty much everything you need to know about the band’s first three years.

Great music, albeit with the odd drop in quality, a great package and a wonderful snapshot of history too.  ****

Review by Ed Stone

David Randall presents a weekly show on Get Ready to ROCK! Radio, Sundays at 22:00 BST (GMT+1, repeated on Mondays and Fridays), when he invites listeners to ‘Assume The Position’. This show was first broadcast on 2 August 2020.

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