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GARY JOHN BARDEN The Agony & The Xtasy
Escape (2006)

Gary Barden's often strained tones will never put him in the Premier league of great vocalists, but the man is one of rock's great survivors- anyone that can remain on good terms with Michael Schenker long enough for the mercurial German to supply a guest guitar solo (on Let me Down) deserves to succeed!

After many years in the wilderness, Gary has had a recent resurgence with the Silver project, Statetrooper reforming with a fine album, and a re-recording of old MSG classics. Now comes his first ‘proper' solo album, with Silver colleague Michael Voss producing, playing guitar and co-writing.

The album doesn't tread any new ground but is a refreshing listen from start to finish and the arrangements give Gary's voice a relaxed, lived-in warmth. Indeed he puts in possibly the finest vocal performance of his career.

The music is in the tradition of classic British hard rock- think UFO, Uriah Heep and some Deep Purple-esque Hammond organ. There isn't a weak track but Stop (whatcha doing to me) and Wounded just shade it in terms of the best songs. The final two tracks head into bluesier territory and the ubiquitous Tommy Denander supplies some very Gary Moore esque lead guitar on the meandering Need of Some Love.

When Gary Barden made a sudden return to MSG at the Reading Festival in 1982 after Graham Bonnet's departure, he came on stage, rolling his ‘R's distinctively, uttering the words ‘Surprise Surprise'. Those were my feelings too on hearing this unexpected gem of an album.


Review by Andy Nathan

***** Out of this world | **** Pretty damn fine |
*** OK, approach with caution unless you are a fan |
** Instant bargain bin fodder | * Ugly. Just ugly

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