When you think about musicians associated with classic rock bands, the name Merv Spence is unlikely to be one of the first that’ll spring to mind. In fact, there are several hundred vocalists that’ll be part of the fan consciousness before this Irish vocalist even gets a look in. …And it’s with good reason. He first made inroads into a career in 1982 when he replaced Pete Goalby in Trapeze, but that association imploded by the end of the year when guitarist Mel Galley left to join Whitesnake, putting an end to a great band. Spence recorded an album with Trapeze that year, but it remains unreleased. He later joined Wishbone Ash, an association which was again brief, but yielded one album – 1988’s ‘Raw To The Bone’. By that point in their career, Wishbone were past their best and, as such, it was a release that was only really heard by the die-hard fans.
Welcome back to the Real Gone Singles Bar, the place where we explore some of the individual MP3s that have landed in our inbox over the previous few weeks. This visit brings the usual variety, from the expected rock and metal tunes, to some old style garage rock, another singer songwriter, and even some westcoast AOR/yacht rock gold. There’s something in here for most Real Gone supporters to latch onto – as always, hopefully, you’ll find something that inspires you to explore further.
When Stardust released their debut album in 2020, it came as a pleasant surprise. ‘Highway To Heartbreak’ arrived amongst a glut of average melodic rock discs, and by comparison, Stardust sounded far more enthused. Their overall sound had a little more punch than most, and in the song writing department, their gifts for penning big, old school choruses in the AOR tradition were huge. It was the kind of album that suggested a bright future, even for a band trading in sounds from yesteryear.
On their debut album (2020’s ‘The One’), Arctic Rain largely specialised in classic sounding melodic rock, but weren’t afraid to temper a big chorus with a slightly harder edge on occasion. That record presented a selection of very 80s sounding songs in tandem with some great guitar work, and as such, provided a huge amount of entertainment for lovers of bands like Alien, Last Autumn’s Dream and Miss Behaviour.
Their second LP, ‘Unity’, is a worthy follow up to a great debut, even though it sometimes takes a very different approach. Despite a heavier sound in places, the big choruses retain the same melodic charm as before, and on at least half of the songs, there are still some very broad melodies shining through. This is a record that fans will still enjoy, but it is also the kind of record that shows the band pushing forward.
Ten’s fifteenth studio album ‘Here Be Monsters’ was easily the band’s finest collection of songs in many a year. Although a lot of their post-Chris Francis albums are home to some great tracks, Ten’s later output, when taken as a whole, sometimes feels patchy or like a band desperately trying to recycle old glories. ‘…Monsters’ was a cut above. It’s choruses were often great; the music had a sense of fire that had been partly absent for a while, and the vocal contributions from the great Gary Hughes were especially good throughout. With all of that in mind, 2023’s ‘Something Wicked This Way Comes’ had a lot to live up to. The fact that the songs were recorded in tandem with ‘Here Be Monsters’ automatically stood the record in good stead, but would it merely made up from the tracks that weren’t good enough to make the cut almost a year earlier?