Album review: WAYWARD SONS – Even Up The Score

WAYWARD SONS - Even Up The Score

Frontiers [Release date 08.10.21]

Toby Jepson is a man who never lets the grass grow under his feet. Since bursting onto the scene with Little Angels in 1984 he’s been a constantly creative whirlwind, going from the Scarsborough hard rock upstarts through to stints with Fastway, Gun and Dio’s Disciples and onto a busy solo career.

Despite this constant work ethic, he’s never seemed truly settled since the Angels split after a decade together in ’94 but things changed when he put together Wayward Sons in 2017.

With the goodwill and respect he’d engendered throughout the years, matched with some top quality song writing and musicianship, the band were seemingly welcomed with open arms and with a brace of albums already under their belts, not to mention a constant touring schedule, it comes as no surprise that this latest release would be good.

The fact that this is so great an album has possibly surprised and delighted not only their growing legion of fans but the band too and ‘Even Up The Score’ well and truly knocks it out of the park. Whilst absolutely the de facto leader, Jepson leads his band of brothers on an equitable footing and the sense that this is truly a band in the traditional sense of the work permeates its very pores.

Whilst recently keys maestro Dave Kemp stepped down from the band, his presence is truly felt and this, along with the guitar wizardry of Sam Wood and the solid groove of drummer Phil Martini and Nic Wastell’s bass match Jepson’s vocals and guitar in a perfect balance of muscle and melody.

From the helter-skelter titular opener ‘Even Up The Score’ glorying in a touch of The Who and Bad Company mixed with a touch of Glam, we’re thrown immediately into classic hard rock territory where the song is centre. Wood peels off a fine solo, his fretwork hugely impressive throughout but it the chance for Martini and Wastell to really shine as they drive the locomotive that is ‘Big Day’, another thrilling rollercoaster that shakes your bones.

The band are fully on fire not just musically but lyrically too, Jepson’s words razor sharp and brutally honest as he once more proves himself to be a man with not just a brilliant turn of phrase but a passionately social heart.

The trick here is that he conveys all he has to say but you never feel it to be a relentless polemic, this is protest songs to dance and have a good time to, even if there is a human cry at their core. Tracks like ‘Sign of the Times’ and ‘Fake’ tear along with furious intent, the sound slamming into you, whilst others like ‘Bloody Typical’ is imbued with the sort of clever glam rock that 10cc mastered and ‘Faith in Fools’ could match the big stadium anthems of anything Dave Grohl has ever penned.

The album can switch from the split personality of ‘Downfall’, at one minute crawling and dangerous, the next raging to the incredible harmonies and dazzling keys of ‘Looking for A Reason’. The opus closes with the dual hit of the vitriol fuelled ‘Land of the Blind’ as another set of huge melodies and lush soundscapes juxtapose with another furious solo from Wood until final track ‘They Know’ brings things to a perfect end.

There’s a real blend of Tom Petty Americana, Queen’s pomp and Bruce Springsteen’s blue-collar rock ‘n’ roll here that shows that the band have never been afraid to show their influences but given the quality of those artists, you can’t go wrong.

Without doubt, Wayward Sons celebrate all that’s best in rock music and add their own names loud and proud into that roll call of bands who’ve led the way with songs that have touched hearts and moved feet. A band for the people with an album that sets a dizzyingly high benchmark, ‘Even Up The Score’ shows that they’re here to stay and that’s something worth rejoicing.  *****

Review by Paul Monkhouse

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