Welcome back and thanks for joining us as we take another trawl through the Music For Nations back catalogue… starting this edition with:
5. Tsunami – Tsunami (MFN9)
Unlike many, if not most of their ilk from around the same time, little is now spoken of Californians Tsunami. That’s a shame, because their self-titled debut is rather a fine little nugget of American heavy rock. Based on the bedrock of the guitars of Tatsuya Miyazaki and Tomotaka Yamamoto and the excellent vocals of Doug Denton, the band cranked out a fiery mix of hard rocking metal that fell somewhere between Virgin Steele (Denton’s vocals are highly reminiscent of David DeFeis) and the heavier moments of fellow San Franciscans Y&T. Dewy-eyed ballads (The Runaround) rubbed shoulders with feisty metallised rockers (Revenge), very much in the style of most Yankee hard rock of the time, and if there’s any criticism it might be that some of the material on offer – especially on the album’s second side – might be politely termed rather generic.
That said, there really is a lot to like about this record. It’s aged well – the band were rumoured to have spent more money on it’s production than any other independent release at the time – with tracks like Call Of The Dogs sounding fresh as ever when I listened back to the album for the first time in aeons whilst researching this piece. And in Yamamoto the band had something of an unsung guitar hero – fans of such things might enjoy looking him up on this album!
Because of Tsunami’s relatively unknown status you can pick up a copy of MFN9 for under twenty quid if you’re prepared to do a bit of hunting around – and that’s definitely bargain territory!
The average price for a copy of Tsunami on Discogs is: AUD 15.00 EUR 9.30 USD 10.40 GBP 8.20
Gavins Gold Standard Rating: 70/100
6. Kix – Violent Breed (MFN11)
Mancunians Kix may well have been legends in their own lunchtime, but they definitely had the ability to be bigger – much, much, bigger – than they actually became. Indeed had they been American rather than British they almost certainly would have made a few leaps up the career ladder, if only because Kerrang! Would have treated them as heroes rather than slightly amusing jokers… Such was life in the Brit rock scene in the early eighties.
The band started life fronted by the madcap antics of Kevin ‘Kick Ass’ Kozak, but had tempered their glam/shock rock assault a little by the time MFN decided to take a punt on the band in 1983. The first track on Violent Breed, the incendiary Love Ya Like A Diamond, is anything but the work of pub rock chancers, however, being the sort of high-impact stadium rock anthem the likes of Starz had become rightly renowned for on the other side of the pond. Again, one shudders at the thought of the status of this song in 2019 had it been the work American songsmiths…
Alas the rest of the record wasn’t quite so memorable, apart from the classy radio rock of Say Goodbye To Love and the riffy Brit metal of Daylight Robbery, which would have been just as at home on a Tokyo Blade album as a Silverwing one. However the band proved themselves adept at marrying British heft and cheek with American melody and guile, with Red’s superb lead work a consistent highlight throughout the record. To this day Kix remain one of British rock and metal’s greatest ‘what might have been’ bands…
A copy of Violent Breed in pristine condition could set you back as around fifteen pounds, although playable copies can change hands for as little as three pounds fifty!
The average price for Violent Breed on Discogs is: AUD 9.80 EUR 6.10 USD 6.80 GBP 5.40
Gavins Gold Standard Rating: 72/100
7. Exciter – Violence & Force (MFN17)
Apart from Rush, Exciter were the first metal band I’d ever heard from Canada. My friend Merlin purchased this LP from HMV in Cardiff on a whim – he liked the cover – but gave it to me after listening to the first two tracks on the grounds that it was ‘thrash metal shit’. Although Merlin was older than me and usually right about things metallic – he sagely predicted that Persian Risk would go nowhere when I was convinced they were about to conquer the world and not just South Wales – he was wrong on both counts about Violence and Force.
It does have fast parts, yes, but for the most part, this record – superbly and very loudly produced by Carl Canedy of The Rods – just gives traditional metal a bit of a rev-up… Motörhead, and, well, The Rods are the blueprints for success here, and with everything amped up to eleven the effect was -and is – exhilarating in the extreme. Again, it’s hard to see why Exciter didn’t become huge on the back of surging metal like Destructor.
The band is still going today, of course, but it’s debatable whether they ever touched the heights reached on Violence & Force again. A shame.
I’ve seen good quality vinyl copies of MFN 17 go for around twenty quid, although Japanese Import versions are a bit more pricey at around fifty if you can find them. A decent copy of the British pressing should set you back around six pounds.
The average price for Violence & Force on Discogs is: AUD 23.00 EUR 14.40 USD 16.00 GBP 12.70
Gavin’s Gold Standard Rating: 65/100
8. Alaska – Heart Of The Storm (MFN23)
Still recovering from his shock severance from Whitesnake, guitarist Bernie Marsden found solace in the pomp/pop rock stylings of his next creation, Alaska. Strangely – and this is the man who co-wrote Here I Go Again, remember – big labels weren’t snapping his hand off and so he found a warm welcome at Music For Nations, who put out this lovely album in 1984. Led by two superb singles (the Cars-like Susie Blue, and the more strident Headlines, later used by UK rag The Sunday Sport in it’s advertising campaigns), the record mixed the straight ahead rock of those two tracks with more complex material such as the title track, which wouldn’t have seemed out of place on a Magnum album from the time.
Marsden found a great vocalist in Rob Hawthorn, who mixed a smooth croon with some rough-around-the-edge Rod Stewartisms, and the vocalist handled the various styles found on the album effortlessly. Voice on the Radio strangely reminds the ear of Triumph’s Magic Power, and it’s this realisation that brings perhaps the key to why Alaska didn’t prosper in the same way as Whitesnake; the band simply tried to cover a few too many bases – usually stuff that was popular in America – when concentrating on straight up pop-rock might have been more conducive to success. Look what happened to The Outfield at more or less the same time!
But whatever the ins and outs, Heart of the Storm remains an eminently listenable album in 2019, and one that’s well worth digging around for. And, if you’re lucky, you’ll be able to find a good quality vinyl copy for around twelve quid.
The average price for Heart of the Storm on Discogs currently is: AUD 13.60 EUR 8.40 USD 9.40 GBP 7.40
Gavin’s Gold Standard Rating: 65/100
See you next time!
All prices correct at 29/05/19