|Paul Raymond Project - ‘Terms & Conditions Apply’ (Hear No Evil)|
|Written by Johnny H|
|Friday, 18 January 2013 03:00|
As a long standing (and some might argue long suffering) fan of British hard rockers UFO I’ve always found the various band members side projects fall into one of three camps, the good (Phil Mogg’s $ign Of 4), the bad (Paul Chapman’s Ghost) and the…way…sorry I mean superb (Pete Way’s Waysted of course).
For keyboardist/rhythm guitarist Paul Raymond’s various Project albums it’s probably safe to say that whilst they have all had some individual redeeming qualities that have ultimately been let down for either featuring “of it’s time” bloated AOR tuneage as on ‘Under The Rising Sun’, or a vocalist, who however good, still sounded like Spike doing Japanese karaoke as on ‘Raw Material’, or when it did all finally come together musically as it did with 1999’s ‘Man On A Mission’, the album ended up being released via a rip off record label that ultimately gave it zero support, allowing it to sink even before it had a chance to fire up it’s record sleeve’s jet engines.
I must admit that somewhere along the way I managed to completely miss Paul Raymond Project’s next album ‘Virtual Insanity’ but that twelve tracker from 2009 did see the continuation of Raymond’s working relationship with guitarist Andy Simmons, something that I’m very pleased to see is still all present and correct with studio album number five, the provocatively entitled ‘Terms & Conditions Apply’.
So having veered from AOR to Quireboys influenced rock ‘n’ roll via their main man’s hard rock roots on previous albums, the buzz around ‘Terms & Conditions Apply’ has apparently already had Metal Hammer declaring the record to sound like ‘The Black Crowes if they came from Streatham’, which truth is not that far off the mark, well for one track at least, and as it happens it is also the album’s lead track ‘Born & Raised On Rock ‘n’ Roll’, a song that does have a kind of Rod Stewart circa ‘Foolish Behaviour’ swagger about it. Raymond in particular sounding in fine voice, and I can just picture him now out front strutting and pouting his way through 3 minutes 39 seconds of lads own rock ‘n’ roll. A cracking start if ever there was one.
It is at this point though that I do have to make something very clear about this album, and that is whoever decided on the choice of drum sound seriously needs to have a good kick up the arse, because at times the whole thing actually comes close to sounding like Robocop is running after the song firing a nail gun at some tin sheeting.
However once you do get past this annoying distraction what you actually find is some pretty damn decent hard rock music.
Andy Simmons for this scribe is once again the star of the show here, the guitarist seamlessly switching his tone and style from Jim Cregan, to Paul Chapman, then Michael Schenker to Gram Parsons to ultimately suit the songs varying moods, whilst also turning out some of his finest solos to date (have a listen to the album’s instrumental ‘Whiskey Mac’ and you’ll see exactly what I mean). Raymond also seems happy to be flipping from Rod The Mod to Phil Mogg via a particularly fine Keef Richards impression on the excellent ‘Driftin’ Apart’, one of the few tracks on the album not to blighted by that drum sound from hell.
Likewise the long lost son of ‘Never Trust A Stranger’ that is ‘Love Is Blind’, which features a darkly romantic vocal guest performance from Stampede’s Reuben Archer and a refrain from Simmons that is primetime Schenker, also stands out as a highlight.
Now MSG fronted by Reuben Archer - who missed that potentially golden pairing back in the eighties then?
Talking of Schenker, the mad axeman himself pops in for a guest appearance, not on ‘C-List Celebrity’ as I first thought before checking the PR blurb, but on a frankly bizarre sounding cover version of The Four Tops ‘Reach Out I’ll Be There’. Likewise the blues/jazz (or is it jazz/blues?) version of ‘If You’ve Got To Fool Somebody’ actually caused me to spit a large amount of coffee over my monitor the first time of listening, the track sounding about as far removed from the James Ray original as anything heavy metal sounds in the hands of Hellsongs.
Having fallen out of love with UFO of late (largely due to the playing of Vinnie Moore) I’m happy to report that here Raymond manages to rekindle some of what I would call the band’s classic sound. ‘The End Of Life As We Know It’ sounds like it could have fallen off ‘No Place To Run’, whilst there is an unmissable Cherry flavour to ‘Deeper Shade Of Blue’. ‘The aforementioned ‘C-List Celebrity’ is perhaps a little like the heavier version of the band that made the highly underrated ‘Sharks’ album (one that as far as I’m aware Raymond did not play on), whilst the album’s title track is the kind of epic orchestral rock that the UFO used to excel in around the time of ‘Obsession’.
Certainly if any UFO fan out there pines for the heady days of Schenker, Way, Moog, Raymond and Parker then ‘Terms & Conditions Apply’, the track, is where it’s at. It’s actually like finding the Holy Grail after the band’s recent albums that’s for sure.
Of the rest of the album ‘We Will Be Strong’ tries to out "Meat Loaf" Meat Loaf and ends up sounding like Elton John meets Queen covering ‘Love To Love’ instead, albeit with Robocop back firing his bastard nail gun willy nilly. I’m not sold on this one, but the likes of ‘Bright Lights’, ‘Still The Same’ and album closer ‘Partners In Crime’ all tick the box marked UFO with suitable aplomb.
‘Terms & Conditions Apply’ then is the record that with the right drum sound could have been the best album Paul Raymond has been involved with since the superb ‘Walk On Water’ album back in 1995 (now that does make me feel old), as it is with Doktor Avalanche’s best mate keeping time it just ends up sounding like a demo tape with promise.
Which is such a bloody shame.