Album review : TYGERS OF PAN TANG – 1985-87 (3 CD Boxset)

Cherry Red / HNE [Release date 24.06.22]

Arguably there are two Tygers Of Pan Tang. This boxset features Tygers 2.0.

CD1: The Wreck-age (1985)
CD2: Burning In The Shade (1987) and
CD3: The Wreck-age Demos and the Burning In The Shade Demos

The band’s albums prior to 1985 inhabited the world of NWOBHM. It’s fair to claim that they were jostling for pre-eminence with other marquee names on the block, like Saxon and Iron Maiden. In 1983, four albums into their contract, a serious dispute with then label, MCA, led to the band disbanding.

Two years later it reformed and, aiming to get ahead of the curve, it left the fading attractions of New Wave Metal behind and like fellow travellers, Def Leppard, it pursued a melodic hard rock agenda. The Wreck-Age recording was the result. The Tygers 2.0.

It met with bafflement from the band’s traditional audience. And it took a pounding in the music press. This was no metallised magic, orchestrated by Mutt Lange, and yet it stretches a clearly limited budget into corners it had no right to reach.

The keyboard synths and electronic drums aside, there are some strong choruses here, and the riffs are finely calibrated. A handful of songs, ‘Waiting’, ‘Innocent Eyes’ and ‘All Change Faces’ and perhaps too, the lyrically ungainly ‘Desert Of No Love’ show that the band was perfectly capable of writing radio friendly hooks.

The band’s sound is further thinned out on follow up, Burning In The Shade. The songwriting remains strong in places, and the AOR flavour is sharp, but the band and producer just can’t seem to find enough beefed up, roadworthy arrangements.

Like many bands who tried to follow in Def Leppard’s backdraft, the Tygers got sucked into the slipstream, frequently complicating a simple concept, losing them more fans than they gained. Only ‘The First, The Only One’ and ‘Dream Ticket’ escape unscathed.

Turns out then, that The Demos CD is the key collection of recordings here. Without realising, it sets out on the road less travelled … the route the band could have taken, instead of pursuing lowest common denominator AOR.

The classy ‘Undercurrent’, pivoting on a bass heavy groove, has a hook with growth potential. And considering the band’s AOR direction, how did they let ‘You’re On Your Own’ get past them? Its regal, marching metre could have stepped neatly into a Styx show tune.

Two more tracks indicate the band’s abilities, if not its judgment… ‘Time To Regret’, a zippy pop ditty, and ‘Are You There”s Westcoast Rock inclination, filled out with sunbursts of Steely Dan harmonies, is a warm delight.

Where’s Quality Control when you need them?

The boxset comes with brand new liner notes from NWOBHM expert, John Tucker, who sheds further light on the band’s change of direction. ***

Review by Brian McGowan

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