Album review: PHENOMENA – reissues

PHENOMENA

Explore Rights Management Ltd [Release date 09.11.18] www.phenomenaproject.co.uk

Phenomena was a concept developed by Tom Galley with brother Mel who had featured in Whitesnake and had previously worked with Glenn Hughes in Trapeze..  It brought together various rock alumni including Hughes, Cozy Powell, Neil Murray and John Wetton.

The “trilogy” is now given a new lease of life in attractive digi-paks and with decent liners.  Each album was defined by a linking “concept” but this isn’t intrusive and all tracks can be enjoyed in their own right.  In fact, this was one of Tom Galley’s objectives, he wanted the individual tracks to appeal to casual listeners.

The first album Phenomena was originally released in 1985 and – together with its successor – does sound very “eighties” with the period production values but at least benefitting from solid draughtsmanship.

As you would expect, the debut marks a sterling performance from Hughes and several standouts including ‘Phoenix Rising’ and  ‘Believe’ with keyboard wizardry supplied throughout by Richard Bailey  who had been with Magnum on their early albums.  Don Airey and Ted McKenna crop up on ‘Who’s Watching You?’  Iain Lowe’s artwork for the first album which appeared with the original vinyl version is reinstated with his own commentary.  ****1/2

Glenn Hughes and Bailey contributed to Phenomena II – Dream Runner (1987)  However Ray Gillen (who’d just left Black Sabbath) and Max Bacon also feature on vocals along with John Wetton who contributes to the hit single ‘Did It All For Love’.   This song features Scott Gorham and it was from his involvement with the project that he formed the excellent 21 Guns with fellow contributors drummer Michael Sturgis and keyboards/programmer Leif Johansen.  ***1/2

Phenomena III – Innervision (1993) completed the trilogy and retains Sturgis, Johansen and Gorham whilst adding Brian May (on ‘What About Love’ and ‘A Whole Lot Of Love’) and original Airrace vocalist Keith Murrell.  At the time of original release there wasn’t really the appetite in the industry for elaborate “concept” pieces and the visual element of Galley’s concept was never properly realised, at least in the packaging.  Even the original artwork concept was rejected, although reinstated here.  ****

The Phenomena albums are a testament to the vision of Tom Galley who has overseen the reissues and supplied liner note commentary.  The project was not without its hiccups.  It is evident that the debut was recorded economically and the release wasn’t helped by the Bronze label’s demise whilst the second album was picked up by Ariola then merging with BMG.  It’s as much an achievement to have coralled the assembled cast of musicians some of whom who would have been well committed to other projects during the period.

There are no bonus tracks on these reissues although  previous Phenomena II reissues have included alternate versions (including an extended remix) of the single ‘Did It All For Love’ and a song called ‘Forever’.   Likewise, Phenomena I and III reissues have included bonuses including ‘Karma’ and ‘Scalpel And Heart’.   It’s a shame they are missing from these latest “definitive” editions.

These albums are as much of interest for the contributions and discography of sadly departed rock icons such as the late Mel Galley, John Wetton and Cozy Powell.   They will also appeal to fans of Asia, GTR, Alan Parsons Project, and indeed lovers of late-1980s, early 1990s melodic rock.

Review by David Randall


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