Album review: VANDENBERG – The Complete Atco Recordings 1982-2004 (4 CD Boxset w/bonus tracks)

Cherry Red [release date 27.08.21]

Vandenberg (1982)
Heading For A Storm (1983)
Alibi (1985)
Demos and Live (2004)

Emerging unbloodied and unbowed from the golden age of AOR, Vandenberg’s 3 albums (now remastered) embody all that was good and all that was formula about the genre.

On the band’s debut, Vandenberg, Dutch Guitarist /songwriter, Adrian Vandenberg and his band, Bert Heerink, Joe Zoomer and Dick Kemper, had taken classic seventies’ rock and percolated it through a radio pop filter, smoothing the sharp edges and dialling up the melodies.

Naturally then, it resonated with familiar rock sounds. ‘Back On My Feet Again’, ‘Wait’ and ‘Ready For You’, tuneful songs full of sturdy but carefully calibrated riffs, all owed a debt of gratitude to Bad Company, Van Halen and Y&T.

The balladic first single, ‘Burning Heart’ stood out a mile. A modestly graceful rock song, constructed around the elegant strum of an acoustic guitar, it blazed a trail up the Billboard Top Forty. ****

Insatiable record label demand for new product back then belies the myth that they were patient, nurturing, parental figures. Vandenberg’s follow up album Heading For A Storm was on the shelves a year later. Despite the apparent rush, the artist in Adrian Vandenberg succeeded in writing a a bunch of vividly delineated rock songs, full of confident brush strokes, lots of energy and suitably dramatic arrangements.
It struggled to gain over-the-counter traction. ***

They waited two years before recording and releasing their third and final (so we thought) album, Alibi.
With Golden Earring’s Japp Eggermont at the studio helm, it veered toward pop metal, with standout tracks, ‘All The Way’, ‘Fighting Against The World’, and ‘Once In A Lifetime’ all indicating that this subtle change in direction could pay off.
But it didn’t and Vandenberg disbanded, with the man himself eventually succumbing to David Coverdale’s entreaties, joining Whitesnake. ***1/2

The fourth CD in this boxset is a treasure trove of Demos, Live and Bonus Tracks.

The clamour and clang of live performance often disguise the quality of the music being presented. Vandenberg’s mainstream rock songs, sprinkled with big anthemic choruses, present as robustly constructed, easily able to withstand the rigours of touring. ‘Ready For You’ and ‘Friday Night’, both pivotal tracks on the first two albums, rose to the occasion, delivering the band and its music into the arms of an enthusiastic crowd.

The band’s magnum opus, ‘Burning Heart’, appears three times. A mono edit, a stereo edit and an unplugged version. Of all the band’s great songs, this is the one that best rises to the challenge of a power down. No better way to close the album, and the boxset. ****

Adrian Vandenberg himself has “written” the liner notes, detailing the life of his band, from its inception to present day. From firing the “unreliable” Bert Heerink, to A&R Guru, John Kalodner’s two “job offers”, to joining David Coverdale’s Whitesnake at third time of asking, to getting the band back together in 2020. It’s a fascinating and often entertaining journey.

Review by Brian McGowan



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UNTIL 9 Headstone (indie)
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WAKING THE ANGELS Stand Back From The Redline (CD Baby)
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KUBRICK Devastate (indie)

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