Tony Mills – ‘Streets Of Chance’ (Battlegod Productions) Print E-mail
CD Reviews
Written by Mark Ashby   
Wednesday, 08 November 2017 04:40

Tony Mills artworkA couple of months ago, I got a message out of the blue… one of my best mates was turning 50 and his missus wanted me (and DQ, of course) to DJ the party. I’ve known the bloke for 35 years and am probably responsible for turning him on to most of the music he loves today – he used to come ‘round to my flat and raid all the latest LPs and singles I’d been sent to review in my column for the local newspaper – so there was no way I was gonna say no… After all, I probably know his musical taste as well as he does! Rifling through the piles of music that clutter my man cave, I lifted one single: simultaneously, I heard a pop in the letter box. The record I had in my hands was ‘Hold On (To Your Love)’, the 1985 single from Shy. Simultaneously, the package dropping on to the URHQ doormat included this, the new solo album from Tony Mills. A moment in time separated by 32 years but destined to align?


‘Streets Of Chance’ is something of a misnomer, as it sees the singer taking absolutely taking no chances and surrounding himself with a wealth of highly talented musicians. First and foremost, there is the inimitable Pete Newdeck, who not only produced the album but also adds his not inconsiderable vocal talents. Then there is Harry Hess on mastering duties: he’s the Midas of the AOR scene, as just about everything he touches turns to gold. Throw in guitarists Joel Hoekstra, Tommy Denander and Robby Boebel… yep, there’s certainly plenty of pedigree in these here grooves.


The first thing that strikes you as the opening bars of ‘Scars’ ease themselves from the speakers is how fresh and young not only this album sounds but also Mills himself. OK, in terms of range, he is singing slightly (ever so, maybe marginally) deeper than that still-catchy-as-fuck single mentioned above, but there is no doubt whatsoever that he still possesses a tremendous voice, which works even better because he has moulded this collection of tunes to complement the more mature musician that he has become rather than try to mimic the past glories of his youth – a mistake too many singers make, to the detriment of both their voices and their careers.


“Don’t live in the past” Mills urges us, and he’s definitely not doing that: he’s strong and confident in the here and now and looking, just as much so, to the future. He proves that ‘When The Lights Go Down’, true talent emerges from the darkness with its light shining brighter than ever, while ‘Legacy’ turns the clock right back to his Eighties origins, especially in its extremely retro keyboard runs, while managing to prove that this genre, despite what many say about it, is still fresh, vibrant and relevant.


Despite its title, ‘Battleground’ sees Mills ease off the pressure, but again demonstrating the ability to craft a beautifully crafted song, in which the backing vocals contrast yet counterpoint his own delivery, developing through richly crafted layers of harmony. ‘Dream On’ is a traditional melodic rock thumper, delivered at a good pace and not straying too far from the expected norm of the genre, while ‘Weighing Me Down’ re-introduces a welcome dose of heaviness, with its pacy drive and thumping rhythm.


The upbeat mood continues with ‘When We Were Young’, which makes you want to remember when you were just that and gets your foot tapping and head nodding in the process: hell, I even felt my hand slip off the keyboard as I was writing this, almost giving into the craving for a wee bit of old-fashioned air guitar. ‘The Art Of Letting Go’ starts off slightly disappointingly, with a twee keys-led intro, but develops into a reasonably responsible tap-along ditty with a pleasant guitar solo thrown into the middle, and saved by another superbly mature performance from Mills.


If ‘Storm Warning’ doesn’t get you up and doing the boogie-woogie thing on your local dance floor then neither you nor the DJ (and, of course, most likely the latter) have absolutely no taste, as it’s as infectious as a dose of Ebola – but, please, don’t give me the antidote, ‘cos this is one infection I want to catch. Closer ‘Seventh Wonder’, however, is a bit of an anti-climax: yes, the vocals and guitars are still superb but maybe it should have been placed in the album’s mid-paced earlier section, allowing it to sign off on an energetic high? But, otherwise, it doesn’t spoil what is an exemplary album from one of the best singers in his field.


‘Streets Of Chance’ is out now.


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