Tuesday, 30 December 2014

Bailey's 'Long Way Down' - Album Review

For my final album review of the year, I have chosen to look at Long Way Down, the debut release by British singer-songwriter Nigel Bailey, who is currently making a bit of a name for himself in the melodic rock/AOR world. He is not a total unknown, as some AOR fans will be familiar with his work in Three Lions with guitarist Vinny Burns (Dare; Ultravox; Ten; Bob Catley) and drummer Greg Morgan (Dare; Ten). Their self-titled debut album was released earlier this year, and I shall now have to go back and check that one out, as if it is anything like Long Way Down then I will enjoy it. When I first pre-ordered this album however I was a little sceptical. I really enjoyed the lead single, In the Name of the King, but I was worried that this was going to be what I call a 'Frontiers Album' - i.e. a place for some their stable of songwriters to 'get rid' of some unused songs they have had kicking around for a while. This was increased when I saw that Alessandro del Vecchio was producing the album. Now, I have nothing against him, in fact I like his production style and he writes some really great songs; but I just find the fact that Frontiers Records keeps packaging up his (and a few others') songs under different names and projects a little tiresome. So, you can imagine how pleased I was when the CD arrived and I saw that all of the eleven songs here were 100% written by Nigel Bailey! Although del Vecchio gets credit for helping to arrange the material, and playing keyboards, Bailey has written all the songs himself - which is very refreshing! The musicians here, apart from del Vecchio, are unknown too: with Mario Percudani handling the guitars, and Alessandro Mori playing the drums. Bailey himself obviously sings, but also plays guitars and bass too. In some respects, this is as close to a true solo album as you can get, and that has really increased my enjoyment of it. While there is nothing at all original or innovative going on here, this is an album that has plenty of finely-crafted melodic rock songs that are memorable and enjoyable. Despite all the songs are firmly seated in that 'melodic rock' camp, there is still a fair bit of variety here. Some of the songs based around tough riffs that approach classic metal territory, while others are much more polished and are pure AOR gems.

Feed the Flames is the album's first song, and gets us started with a driving rock beat and some excellent, melodic guitar leads. From the outset, it is clear how strong Bailey's voice is. He is not the most powerful of singers, but he has a really clear delivery that helps the smooth overall sound of the songs. The song's chorus is strong, with lots of big harmony vocals straight of your average 1980s AOR hit, and that melodic guitar lead from the song's intro keeps reappearing for another go around. In the Name of the King is the song that persuaded me to give this album a go, and it remains the best thing here by a mile. There are hints of Dio in the song's riff-based formula, plus the subject matter recalls the late legend too. This is one of the moments on the album that approaches metal, and Bailey carries it off well, despite his smoother voice. This is a powerful song that is chock full of solid hard rock riffs from these unknown guitarists and features a killer chorus with huge hooks and a strong vocal performance from Bailey. This is an extremely well-crafted song that is likely to appeal to anyone who likes classic heavy metal. It even includes a really great, bluesy solo that recalls the classic era of metal guitar! Dirty Little Secret attempts to be a sleaze rock tune, and mostly pulls it off. It does not hit the height of the big 1980s hair bands, but it is a catchy tune - even if the lyrics are a little derivative. Despite this, the song is still another solid slab of good quality AOR, with plenty of voluminous harmony vocals and overt melodies. Bad Reputation carries on in the same vein. It is more of a mid-paced hard rocker though with less polish, which actually works well for it. There is something about this song that makes me think of the second tier 1980s rock bands (Firehouse; Slaughter etc.) which is no bad thing at all. There are some subtle horns utilised in the chorus though, which does add a bit of pomp to the proceedings. Stay gets back to the more polished AOR of the opening song. It might sound strange, but Bailey's vocal delivery and phrasing during the verses reminds me of Phil Lynott in some ways - but by the time the soaring chorus kicks in these comparisons go out the window as the big melodies take over. Anyone who is a sucker for some melodic rock should give this song a whirl! Somewhere in Oslo takes the AOR thing much further. While it is very basic melodic rock, there is something satisfying about it; especially the soft rock chorus built around a tight guitar arpeggio that really enhances the overall melodies going on. This is the sort of thing that was all over the radio in the 1980s, so this is a nice throwback to that era.

The album's title track is up next and this is another song that walks closely to the metal line, with more big crunchy riffs. It is not as catchy or as heavy as In the Name of the King, but this is a song in that vein. The highlight in this song however is the guitar solo. Percudani does a great job here during his extended solo section that mixes fast bits with slower bits to good effect. Spend the Night is a quieter song that opens up with some simple acoustic guitar lines and Bailey's vocals. Bass and drums do come in too, but this never becomes a heavy song. It has all the hallmarks of a good ballad, with plenty of short, mournful guitar leads to add atmosphere and emotion when needed. Building from the regular short guitar breaks, this song contains another good solo - but this time in the slower, more emotive vein. Love Falls Down gets back to the more generic melodic rock sound of the earlier numbers. This song contains some excellent bass guitar work that is audible and interesting about the guitars, and shows that Bailey is a good musician as well as a good singer. The chorus in this song is full of big hooks, and the resonating power chorus bring out the power of the simple musical backing. Ticket to Yesterday is another ballad and probably the best example of that on this album. This is a really smooth song that just flows over you perfectly. Everything from the delicate guitar tone, the simple drum beat and Bailey's melodic vocals just oozes class - especially in the understated chorus. This is melodic rock at it's finest, and I am sure many people will enjoy this song. The album's final song is Dirty Angel that again gets back to that sleazy rock sound found on some of the earlier songs. There is something about mid-period Whitesnake here, and the guitar tone is something like that John Sykes might use, which aids that Whitesnake comparison. This one nails the hair metal vibe perfectly though, and really works to bring the album to a hard rocking close. The guitar work in this song is really strong, with some really tight and inventive riffing that makes the song stand out. Overall, this is a really strong album from a relative unknown in the melodic rock world. He is already booked to play at Frontiers Records' own festival in Italy next year, and I hope he does some live UK dates to support this album. I shall also have to go back and listen to the Three Lions album that he was a part of too! An enjoyable album for all who like melodic rock/AOR.

The album was released on 8th December 2014 via Frontiers Records. Below is his promotional video for In the Name of the King.

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