AIRRACE – Untold Stories

Airrace were one of those AOR/Melodic Rock band from the 80’s that I should have dug but for some reason never got into. Why? Well, for starters, they played exactly the kind of Rock that bands like Bon Jovi and Def Leppard got me addicted to in the mid 80’s and I bought several albums by bands that never went anywhere and is today considered obscure. Why I never bothered with Airrace is something I’m clueless of myself especially as they had a singer in Keith Murell whose voice I had come to appreciate a lot later on – and they were the first band one Jason Bonham (Bonham, Foreigner, Black Country Communion), son of Led Zep John Bonham, played in. The album they released, Shaft Of Light (1984), was the only album they released before they quit and fell into oblivion for most people. Jason went on to other projects, Murell did one underrated album with Mama’s Boys and guitarist Laurie Mansworth has a hand in the band The Treatment where his son Dhani handles the drums.

In 2009 Murell, Mansworth and keyboard player Toby Sadler reunited Airrace with new guys, guitar player Dean Howard, bass player David Boyce and drummer Simon Dawson for 25th anniversary of Shaft Of Light and did some shows together and decided it felt so good that a new record was a must and in 2011 Back To The Start was released. That album failed to grab me, I thought it was underwhelming to say the least which didn’t exactly encourage me to finally check out Shaft Of Light. Quite the contrary, I left Airrace there and then and haven’t given them much thought since then. But now they have a new album and a new line-up. Today, Mansworth is the only remaining original member and for this album he brought in his drumming son Dhani, singer Adam Payne, ex Sweet and MSG bass player Rocky Newton and keyboarder Linda Kelsey Foster. With that one can have opinions whether this band really should work under the Airrace moniker but no matter those opinions they do and they have a new album out.

Opener “Running Out Of Time” is an upbeat rocker that lands somewhere between Classic Rock and AOR. The tune comes with a big groove with softer intermissions weaved in here and there. The tune brings my mind to The Night Flight Orchestra actually – crunchy Rock with big AOR-influenced melodies and a very catchy refrain. I have a feeling this will go down really well live. A very good song. “Innocence” is a big, uptempo and groovy AOR-rocker with some influences from 70’s Pomp Rock and I can hear influences from both Queen and Thin Lizzy here. It holds a brilliant refrain that’s catchy without being overly radio-friendly – a very good tune. “Eyes like Ice” was released as a single back in 2017 but has been given new life on the new album. It’s a bouncy rocker that’s both quite heavy and dark, in an AOR way that is. The tune holds both Classic Rock and Hard Rock undertones and shows that these guys are here to actually rock – which they do. Great tune!

“Different But The Same” is groovy with a Hard Rock stomp, a moderately heavy Melodic Rock track where a 70’s Classic Rock influence comes in with a twist. It’s quite riff-happy, Led Zep style and a song where their early 80’s AOR roots feels very distant. Still, there’s enough catchiness for the song to stick – a very good tune indeed. Latest single “New Skin” is a raunchy, 70’s Deep Purple influenced rocker with a slight Melodic Rock twist on top. It’s upbeat and in-your-face and even modern-day Europe comes to mind at times. The chorus really shines here which makes for a great single choice. A plus for the fact that the tune isn’t all that radio-friendly either – very good. The laid-back ballad “Lost” takes an acoustic guitar and piano start but moves towards a more pompy style where both Queen and Sweet comes to mind, not a far cry from how a band like Cats In Space sounds. There are also lots of strings here and they’re the reason why ELO comes to mind as well – a very memorable tune and a favorite here.

“Love Is Love” is a quite smooth yet groove-laden AOR track that also holds a 70’s pomp influence. At times I think of Norwegian rockers TNT which is probably why I also think of, once again, Queen. It’s bombastic and authentic with a huge sound where the 70’s meets the 80’s with lots of hooks – very catchy but not the least sugary. Awesome! “Men From The Boys” is slower in pace and comes off as pretty heavy with an organic groove. This one holds a big Deep Purple MK III groove and the dirty, bluesy feel is taken right from David Coverdale’ naughtiest times in early 80’s Whitesnake. It’s punchy and bouncy and even though it’s really damn catchy, it’s not that radio-friendly and another song that makes you forget that Airrace were once a full-blown AOR act. Great stuff!

First single “Summer Rain” is an uptempo Pop song on a base of acoustic guitars that’s quite smooth and holds a late 70’s AOR vibe and a Classic Rock style guitar solo. It’s a positive sounding tune made for warm summer days with a nice groove and a pretty obvious choice for a band like this. I like the song even though I don’t find it one of the stronger numbers on the album. “Come With Us” is a distinct, quite raw and raunchy guitar-driven rocker that dwells somewhere in the middle of Classic Rock and Melodic dito. It holds a big groove – think Whitesnake and Thunder – and a very direct and effective refrain. Magnificent stuff. Closer “Here It Comes” is a good, meaty rocker in a more upbeat pace. The acoustic guitars blends well with the electric ones and the tune swings and grooves big time. With big melodies, a catchy refrain and a good mix of Pop, Hard Rock and Classic Rock makes it a winner and a worthy closer. Well done!

First of all, this album has little to do with either Shaft Of Light or Back To The Start musically and it stands pretty clear that the new line-up has taken Airrace on a new route. Again, one can debate whether this band should actually be called Airrace because, well, nothing here except Mansworth himself has anything in common with what was once the band. That said, it do say Airrace on the cover and judged as an Airrace record, I holds this effort their best to date – without any competition at all, really. Gone is the standard AOR of the last album and instead the band have gone for a more organic and earthy Rock sound where Classic Rock, Hard Rock blends with Pop, Pomp and Melodic Rock and even there are traces of AOR here, it’s in minority. But it’s just not that, where the last album was light-weight and underwhelming in the quality of the song writing, this is the opposite. Also, many of the songs here will sit very at home live. A very pleasant surprise.

7/10

Tracklist:

1. Running Out Of Time
2. Innocence
3. Eyes Like Ice
4. Different But The Same
5. New Skin
6. Lost
7. Love Is Love
8. Men From The Boys
9. Summer Rain
10. Come With Us
11. Here It Comes

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