TONY MILLS – Beyond The Law

As a teen who’d got a taste of Melodic Rock and AOR through Def Leppard and Bon Jovi back in 1984, I was totally floored when the radio played Shy’s “Hold On (To Your Love)” one year later. I spent a few years playing their albums Brave The Storm (1985) and the magnificent Excess All Areas (1987) until I wore them out, totally convinced that they one day would be in the same league as the two mentioned acts. When they went all in to break the U.S., the album Misspent Youth (1989) that was supposed to that, bombed completely. It had good songs but also a production that was a total disaster – it was almost unlistenable. The fact that said album was produced by a producer-icon like Roy Thomas Baker (Queen) made the whole thing a mystery. This debacle made their whole USA venture a total failure and the guys had to turn back home to England with their tails between their legs – and with a lead singer short.

Shy gave it one more shot with a singer named Wardi but that failed as well. Mills tried to resurrect his career with melodic prog-metal band Siam, but they called it quits after two albums. Mills was also the replacement for Tony Harnell in TNT and made three albums with them that didn’t make anyone happy. He returned to Shy for one more album, Sunset And Vine (2005), but that didn’t last long. From 2002, Mills have had a solo career going and has to this date has released five solo records. As a fan (and as a human being), it’s with a heavy heart I take up writing this review for what most likely will be Mills’ last recording ever. In April, Mills revealed that he was diagnosed with terminal cancer and that he probably didn’t had that much time left. To review a dying man’s last album isn’t easy. How can I slag it off if I don’t like it? When I think about the fact that Mills’ solo outings has been decent to good but never lasting, it’s a bit uncomfortable to even listen to the album with reviewing purposes.

The album kicks off with “The Westside”, a Melodic Rock track that holds a mid tempo. It’s a bit heavier than what we’re used to from Mills. It’s a punchy and pretty tough track, without going into Metal territories where the highly memorable and hook-laden refrain marries just fine with the more edgy rhythms and the bluesy guitar solo. It holds a whole lot of pop-arrangements melodically, but I wouldn’t say it’s smooth or radio-friendly. It’s a very good song which bodes well. The latest (and last?) single, the album’s title-track, follows. Faster paced and quite heavy, the song goes more into plain Hard Rock mode albeit with vocal melodies right from the Melodic Rock files. It’s a good, beefy track that really stays with me and it feels like it should go down well live. Latest single “Running Guns” is more blues-based on a beefy rhythm that starts with a keyboard intro before the riffing starts. The refrain is big and memorable but not in a hit kind of way. Very good indeed.

“F.B.I.” is built on a Hard Rock ground with the guitar riffing to go with it. It’s a speedier track, quite in-your-face and quite heavy but as far as the vocal-melody arrangement go, it’s more AOR meets Melodic Rock laden. Mid-way, it slows down for a breather before rocking things up again. The song do stick but it’s more good than great. “Black Sedan” is upbeat and semi heavy with a swing and a groove. At first glimpse, this is a Melodic Rock tune but the chunky Metal riffing gives the song a rougher edge. The main melody is Shy-like and the refrain is damn catchy without being radio-friendly with a whole bunch of hooks to go with it. Good one. “We Sold Our City” is on the classic AOR side but it also brings on a Pomp-rock influence and a crunchy edge where the massive chorus seduces me right from go – very good. “Crackin’ Foxy” is a meaty rocker, a bit Sleaze-influenced with a party-rock twist. This is Melodic rock with crunchy guitars, a striking beat and a juicy and catchy refrain – very good.

The only ballad on the album comes in “Bonnie’s Farewell”. Based on only piano and vocals it also brings on a jazzy saxophone that also gets the solo. When the rest of the instruments enters, the tune moves towards power balladry but in a Classic Rock kind of way with jazz and blues influences. It’s smooth yet emotional and soulful and Mills really sings with his heart out here. A great tune. “Code Of Silence” is more of a direct and tough hard-rocker, quite rough and punchy with only a slight touch of Melodic Rock. It’s only an ok tune but Tony’s glass-breaking high note towards the end is impressing – and then some. The album ends on a heavy and fast note with “Gunfire” – an in-your-face belter that’s clearly metal-influenced but it also holds a melodic melody and a refrain that sticks without being sugary at all. A damn good closer.

While I really like this record – it’s a lot better (and heavier) than I had expected and without a doubt his best solo effort – I do wonder just how objective I am here considering the circumstances of its release. The answer is that I just can’t tell – I only know I dig the album. Reading back on my review of Over My Dead Body (2015) – I missed out on Streets Of Chance (2017) – the 8/10 I gave it feels very distant now as I the last time I heard it, it didn’t resonate with me that way at all and I can’t remember a single song from it, which I guess means that I would probably give it a five or a six today. Song wise, this record is memorable with strong songs that leaves a lasting impression and Mills’ shows no signs of disease as he sounds vital and full of spirit. This is a really good Melodic Rock record with clear nods to Hard Rock that contains memorable melodies that never gets sticky or sugary. If this Tony’s last album he can go with his head held high. I hope that the rest of your life will be painless and as joyful as possible, Tony.

7/10

More Tony Mills reviews:

Over My Dead Body

Tracklist:

1. The Westside
2. Beyond The Law
3. Running Guns
4. F.B.I.
5. Black Sedan
6. We Sold Your City
7. Crackin’ Foxy
8. Bonnie’s Farewell
9. Code Of Silence
10. Gunfire

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