FM – Thirteen

FM’s Thirteenth album doesn’t mean its unlucky. In fact its the finest of this version of FM

Said in my best Smashy and Nicey voice “FM are probably one of my favourite bands of all time, probably of all time mate!” Just like Mervs missus’s band, FM never let me down, especially live. OK I have selective memory with Dead Mans Shoes, but there are still a couple of belters on that album (Sister and Tattoo Needle). So, this thirteenth studio album from FM is aptly called, well, er…..’Thirteen’. I’d like to have been there for that meeting.

This current version of FM is the most stable in the bands illustrious history. The vastly underrated rhythm section of Jupp/Goldsworthy are firmly behind the wheel and Steve ‘The Voice’ Overland is still here, sounding as good as ever. He sits comfortably alongside Gramm, Perry, Hughes, Dio and Coverdale, and that is how high a regard I hold him in. Drop in Jem Davis adding sumptuous layers and Jim Kirkpatrick (still the new bloke) who has turned up yet again with a suitcase full of riffs and melody, and this magic recipe has delivered the best FM album since Metropolis, possibly after Tough It Out (and this assessment is just after a single listen) and instantly gets into my top 4 FM albums of all time, and could go higher after repeated listens.

Opening track ‘Shaking The Tree’ shows that FM have lost nothing of their vim and vigor. Its fair to say this is one of the finest openings since ‘Tough It Out’. Jem Davis add some nice keyboards to this song and he threads through the whole album like a champion sewing bee. Proving that its not just the one song being great, ‘Waiting On Love’ shows why they still are one of the finest bands to come out of Blighty. Mr Overland sounds at his absolute best and the fab 5 harmonies wash over me like a coveted security blanket. I don’t think there is a chink in his armour. ‘Talk Is Cheap’ has a tougher edge to it and ‘Turn This car Around’ is something that Don Henley would have killed his granny for in 1986. ‘Love and War’ takes me back to the very underrated ‘Run No More’ from ‘Aphrodisiac’. ‘Every Man Needs A Woman’ is a barnstorming track, and is Jim Kirkpatricks tribute to EVH. And nails it. I’ve never quite understood the phrase ‘Fight Fire With Fire’ because surely you just get more fire! Its the kind of song that would have adorned an 80s B movie. That is no insult when you listen to soundtracks like ‘The Wraith’. The final track ‘Be True To Yourself’ has a bit of a proggy undertone to it, only with harmonies a plenty and rounds off a cracking album.

To summarise, Overland is still one of the best vocalists of all time, the harmonies are to die for, Kirkpatrick’s playing gets better with each album, (not that he was shite before!) and the understated rhythm section of Jupp and Goldsworthy are the meat and bones of FM.

FM have brought their ‘A game’ for ‘Thirteen’ as the quality of songs are probably the best that this version of FM have put together. I have waxed lyrical about some of the previous FM albums, but this one is the absolute bollocks!

Tracklisting –
Shaking The Tree
Waiting On Love
Talk Is Cheap
Turn This Car Around
Love And War
Long Road Home
Be Lucky
Every Man Needs A Woman
Just Got Started
Fight Fire With Fire
Be True To Yourself

FM – Tough It Out…Live

‘Tough It Out’ in its entirety has been a long time coming but worth its weight in gold.

FM – Tough It Out Live

It just so happens that my very first FM gig was on the ‘Tough It Out Tour’. October 26th 1989 to be precise. We broke down on the way there, but was determined to see them for the first time. Since then Ive probably seen them live at least 40 times, I should have kept count! Getting old is a bastard.

Dec 20th 2019 was the date we want to see them on the 30th anniversary tour at the Manchester Academy 2. It turns out to be one of the last gigs I saw because of the Covid situation. Strange times indeed.

Live albums are a bit hit and miss, none can recreate the feeling of being at the gig, but ask any rock fan 45 and over and probably only about 6 or 7 spring to mind – Kiss, UFO, Judas Priest, Scorpions, Thin Lizzy, Rush, and Deep Purple. Its a tough membership club that few get admitted to

Anywho, like the ‘Indiscreet’ tour, I was also hotly anticipating the ‘TIO’ tour. ‘Tough It Out’ is a vastly underrated album. It was the album that was supposed to break FM into megastars. The label brought in the golden pens of Desmond Child, (Bon Jovi, Aerosmith), Jesse Harms, and Robin and Judith Randall. The album contained some absolute gems – ‘Bad Luck’, ‘Someday’, ‘The Dream That Died’, ‘Burning My Heart Down’, and my all time favourite FM power ballad ‘Everytime I Think Of You’. For some strange reason, it just didn’t happen. So it was a chance again to hear most of these songs probably for the last time as they vanished from setlist obscurity, for as long as I can remember. Hardly a song from ‘TIO’ makes it into the FM set these days, and I always wanted a FM live album from that era. I had to make do with a bootleg cassette bought at a record fair some 31 years ago. Blimey.

To be honest, the album sounds fab. Production is nicely balanced between band and audience, and the mix is solid, hearing all instruments and vocals from band and audience. ‘Tough It Out’ and ‘Don’t Stop’ reaffirms my belief in these songs, Overlands vocals are excellent (when aren’t they – well on that bootleg cassette for starters). The bloke has never, ever let me down. Kirkpatrick’s and Overland’s guitar parts match the originals, and the harmonies are a melodic rock fans crusty sock dream. ‘Bad Luck’ one of the few that still makes the current day set is the big song that delivers in spades. ‘Someday’ is a melodic rock classic that deserves its place in FMs set list. ‘Everytime I Think Of You’ was classed as FM’s new ‘Frozen Heart’ back in the day, and was soon dropped. Its a killer ballad and one of the few I can still listen to. All the songs up to ‘The Dream That Died’ is a reminder of just how good ‘TIO’ was, and still is. The latter half of the album are a welcome addition to me, and I loved hearing them being given a proper dust off and airing, even if they never make the light of day again. The gig should have been sponsored by ‘Pledge’, and ‘Brasso’. They missed a trick.

The second CD is a deep dive into a clutch of songs that like ‘TIO’, hardly get a sniff of being played live. Which is a shame, nay its criminal, because there are some bloody fantastic beauties on this disc. How ‘Dangerous’ never made it onto ‘Indiscreet’ or ‘TIO’ is a mystery to me, and is the best of all their B sides. ‘Diggin Up The Dirt’ is one of the best songs to come out of FM since they reformed with Metropolis, and shows how good the current FM are. Had ‘Only The Strong Survive’ been picked up by a 90s boy band, it would have been a massive hit. Its the addition of three songs from ‘Aphrodisiac’ that whet my appetite – ‘Hard Day In Hell’, with sublime vocals from Overland; ‘Breathe Fire’, and the excellent ‘Blood And Gasoline’ wehre only someone like Overland can get away with a line ‘When I hold you in my arms, my blood feels like gasoline’. ‘I Heard It Through The Grapevine’ closes out the album, its the song that nearly got them the exposure they deserve. Overland is on fire, and even a heckle can’t shake him off his stride. 

‘Tough It Out Live’ is a mighty fine live album. Having waited 32 years for it, it lives up to my expectations. Are we likely to see the same of Aphrodisiac? I would like to think so. But having seen both ‘Indiscreet’ and ‘Tough It Out’ played in their entirety, I am content in having seen their two best pieces of work. 

FM were and still are one of finest rock bands Blighty has produced. How they never became big (massive) is a puzzle to me and probably all FM fans. In another parallel universe, the likes of Bon Jovi and Foreigner are opening for FM. I’m hoping one day there’s an Overland biography that will fill in all the blanks, or more succinctly….’Diggin Up The Dirt’. In the meantime, enjoy FM at their finest.

8/10

Track list – 

Intro

Tough It Out

Don’t Stop 

Bad Luck

Someday (You’ll Come Running)

Everytime I think Of You

Burning My Heart Down

The Dream That Died

Obsession

Can You Hear Me Calling?

Does It Feel Like Love

Feels So Good

Digging Up The Dirt

Tough Love

Hollow

Dangerous

Hard Day In Hell

Wildside

Breathe Fire

Only The Strong Survive

Blood And Gasoline

I Ain’t The One

I Heard It Through The Grapevine

FM

Steve Overland – Lead vocals, guitar

Pete Jupp – Drums

Merv Goldsworthy – Bass guitar, backing vocals

Jim Kirkpatrick – Lead guitar, backing vocals

Jem Davis – Keyboards, harmonica, backing vocals

Best Albums of 2020

My Top albums of 2020. Considering the year its been, all bands deserve a massive pat on the back for getting their music out there!

Hi there dear reader, how’s it going? It’s been a bit of a shit year, well since March anyway. Covid, lockdown, mutated covid, more lockdown. Thankfully the new vaccinations will be rolled out before the mutated virus takes hold and we will be back to some form of normalcy, whatever the fuck that’s supped to be like? I just hope that gigs are a part of it because a musicians life is pretty fucked, not only because of Covid, but Brexit could put paid to overseas acts wanting to play the UK, especially as it look like no deal has been done for the performing arts, and its likely that any touring artistes to the UK will have to fork out a shit load of money before they set foot in Blighty. They will pay tax on all merch they bring in, even if they don’t sell much, and will no doubt require visas, jumping through hoops and whatever else the UK government throws at them. Only the most dedicated and higher profile bands might prevail. I just hope it doesn’t kill off the industry once and for all. We all need to support bands moving forward, through album and merch sales directly via the bands so that they see the money, and go and support live music like its never been supported before, like our lives depend on it. Even going to support bands we haven’t wanted to before because they and every band need the support. What I missed in gigs in 2020 I made up through album purchases, and I think waiting for albums to arrive at my door kept me from a downward spiral. I haven’t written much because I found it difficult, so I apologise to all the PR people who sent me stuff, I struggled to get my arse into gear and I promise you a lot more in 2021. 

If you brought out an album in 2020, well done. In the most trying of circumstances, you still did it. Far be it me to slag off an album, because you fucking rocked this year in getting your music out there. Well done guys.

All the albums below are purchases made in 2020. 

Enough of my opinion, let’s get down to what counts the most. Music. 

15. Jim Kirkpatrick – Ballad of a Prodigal Son

We all know Jim can sing, because FM have some of the best harmonies in the business, but the man’s got soul and blues in his voice! He even ropes in fellow villager Steve Overland so you know its in a good place. It’s for fans of Bad Company. Talking of BC, check out  ‘Ain’t Goin’ Down Alone’, its brilliant.

14. Room Experience – Another Time And Place

Solid work again from Firmo and the gang. They certainly like a power ballad and mix it up with some heavier numbers. Its this heavier numbers that whetted my appetite. Check out ‘A Thousand Lies’ and ‘Another Place and Time’

13. Perfect Plan – Time For A Miracle

Heavier than the debut, and its a cracking second album. They evoke bands like Foreigner, Giant and Bon Jovi and in Kent Hills they have one of the finest singers in the business. Check out ‘Nobody’s Fool’

12. The Spectre Beneath – The New Identity Of Sidney Stone

Sophomore album from these guys, who’s debut I loved last year. Paz has followed it up with some brutal riffs, and has unearthed a gem in Lockser. The killer track for me is ‘The Premature Burial’.

11. FM – Synchronized

Probably the second best album of FM Part 2 which started back in 2010 with Metropolis. FM are in a golden period, and are one of the finest British rock acts of this or any other generation. It saw a slightly different approach and showed that they are not resting on their Laurels. In ‘Change for the Better’ and ‘Pray’ the future of FM is there for all to see.

10. Pain Of Salvation – Panther

These guys never do anything by halves and live up to the meaning of ‘progressive’. Its not their most accessible, but after a few listens you truly appreciate the magnitude of the songs on offer. Highlights are ‘Wait’ and the epic ‘Icon’ and magnificent ‘Icon’.

9. Deep Purple – Whoosh

Who would have though that two of the best albums of 2020 are by bands that were founded many, many decades ago! First up from the oldies is Purple with probably their best album since Perfect Strangers. Ian Gillan still sounds great, Morse is superb, and when you have Airey, Glover and the master (Paice) making up the band, they can play anything. Now in their SEVENTH decade, long may they continue. Check out ‘No Need To Shout’ 

8. Stryper – Even The Devil Believes

Since the last decade began Stryper have been on a metal journey, with every one of their albums being ‘more metal’ than the previous one and I for one am loving it. I just wonder what kind of band they would be had they taken this current path some forty odd years ago. They still remain a novelty band to some, but to me they are one of the finest metal bands on the planet. Thats metal, not Christian. Check out ‘For God and Rock ’n’ Roll’ and ‘Make Love Great Again’ and ‘This I Pray’

7. Cryptex – Once Upon A Time

Think Queen crossed with Meatloaf, Jethro Tull, Tim Burton and the Brothers Grimm and you might have an idea of their music. Its all the brain child Simon Moskon, but they are one of the best 3 pieces this side of a DFS sale. ‘Once Upon A Time’ and ‘Bloodmoon’ are fantastic

6. H.E.A.T. – II

Heat have been good with Gronwall, bordering on great. They have tried to grab the audience kicking and screaming by the lapels to listen to their very infectious brand of music. They have had the tunes, the personality and the determination to succeed, but ut hasn’t quite happened. Gronwall recently bailed and original singer Lekremo is back in the fold. The next album needs to be a belter. Check out ‘One by One’ and ‘Rock Your Body’

5. Lionheart – The Reality Of Miracles

Another veteran band to make the list. Their last album was my fave of the year back in 2017. As soon as Lee Smalls sings ‘Rock and roll is gonna save ya!’ You know the stall is well and truly set out. Great harmonies, great songs. Only Vega in the melodic rock genre did it better this year. Check out the title track ‘The Reality of Miracles’ and ‘High Plains Drifter’

4. Larkin Poe – Self Made Man

I was introduced to these two gems by my son. They have been building their reputation in the UK with each album, and ‘SMM’ is no exception. Probably the best Blues outfit you haven’t heard yet! Check out ‘She’s A Self Made Man’ and ‘Back Down South’. Wonderful!

3. Vega – Grit Your Teeth

Vega went big with “GYT’ with a capital B.I.G! And it worked. Easily their best album to date. Huge anthems, harmonies to die for and Workman is in top form. These guys should be big by now and I don’t know why. Im hoping that 2021 will be their year. Check out ‘Blind’ and ‘Grit Your Teeth’

2. Ayreon – Transitus

Mr Lucassen never lets me down. He came back with a cast of old and new and ripped up the rule book for symphonic, bombastic storytelling. He even roped in the fourth Doctor, Tom Baker! Check out ‘Listen To My Story’ and ‘Talk Of The Town’. Deserves to be made into a Broadway show!

1. AC/DC – Power Up

I’ve never been a massive DC fan and have dipped in and out over the years, mainly because amongst all the truly great stuff, there has been some bog standard stuff along the way. I’ve got to the point in my life where a 65 year old in a school uniform just looks fucking freaky! A couple of years back I thought they would slip away gracefully especially after losing lynchpin Malcolm Young, and then seemed to kick Johnson into the Shady Acres Metal Singers Retirement Home. I had no desire to listen to an Axl fronted DC, so when the PR started appearing everywhere across the web, I was intrigued to see if they could still cut it without Malcolm Young, and boy did they deliver. Obviously there is nothing new here, but that’s AC/DC in a nutshell. But when they get it right, they are brilliant. Check out ‘Shot In The Dark’, ‘Demon Fire’ and ‘Realize’.

FM – ‘Synchronized’ Album Review

FM – Synchronized

In what currently seems like a pre-cursor to an impeding real-life zombie apocalypse where a strain jumps from animals to humans and mutates to kill 98% of the worlds pollution, its a bloody good job I can rely on certain things to comfort me – such as a new release from my all time faves, FM!

Its been a good 12-13 years since they returned for a headline gig at 2007s Firefest, and after the second-life release of ‘Metropolis’ in 2010 its been steady ahead and a consistent team for those onboard HMS FM. In fact, the output has been more prolific than it was and they are probably more in control of their destiny that at an other point since 1984, and has seen them grace stages they probably never thought was possible (Donington, Sweden Rock, and a long awaited debut in the US), and tours with luminaries such as Foreigner, Heart and Lizzy. Its a good time to be a fan!

For FM Part II, ‘Synchronized’ is this lines ups seventh studio release, their twelfth in total. It’s some going. If you’re a fan already then there’s a lot to like. ‘Synchronized’ is rightly the first song to be picked as a single, as its in the same vein as a ‘Blood and Gasoline’, ‘Tough Love’, ‘Tough it Out’ and fires along at a strong pace, led by Kirkpartick’s guitar and Davis’ keyboard. All of which is enveloped in Overlands vocals and the ‘gang of fives’ harmonies. It’s a cert for addition for the live shows. ‘Superstar’ is almost a departure for FM, its a mellow, pop-fuelled number that is certain of coverage on Radio 2 I suspect. I found it a bit too bland at first, but after a few spins it’s a definite grower, and more ‘one for the ladies’? I can already visage the video – filmed in Arizona (Blackpool) with a sweeping shot, (drone, not helicopter), followed by a top down Jag racing across Route 66 (A6). ‘Best Of Times’ follows on from ‘Superstar,’ and has a bit more vim and vigour, and without Overland singing his arse off, it would be average in any other hands. ‘Ghosts Of You And I’ is the first ballad, and its still very un-FM like. It’s not a bad thing, Im just taken a bit aback by the first few numbers being a shift from the norm. ‘Broken’ is upbeat and akin to what hit the Billboard charts mid-80s, and is ear candy of the highest order.

‘Change For The Better’ is a classy number and definitely channels Don Henley’s ‘Boys Of Summer’. ‘End Of Days’ goes for a ‘BIG’ sound from the off, with a nice ‘choppy’ guitar sound running through the whole song. ‘Pray’ sees Overland channeling his inner Sam Cooke and has all the hallmarks of a soulful/Blues STAX record from the 60s with a modern twist. It’s only missing a horns section and Steve ‘The Colonel’ Cropper, and it is a firm favourite for me. I.Loved. It. ‘Walk Through The Fire’ is bound to bring comparisons to Mr. Misters ‘Broken Wings’ thanks to Jem Davis’ ivory tinkling. It’s as 80s as a pair of Coverdale’s leg warmers and its all about the bridge and chorus, thus proving that the second half of ‘Synchronized’ is definitely on a roll.

‘Hell Or High Water’ is one of the heavier songs (in FMs world), it is built around the infectious chorus. ‘Angels Cried’ has a slide opening riff before settling into a bluesy, almost gospel ballad, with a side of Bon Jovi thrown in. Only, when BJ was good! Finally we are on to ‘Ready For Me’ is like FM of old, when every album or single had a B side like a Bad Company cover or BC inspired dong, and RFM is no exception and it finished the album on a positive.

Basically I take away my comment at the top of this review. Yes its a comfort for a new FM album, but it’s very different to anything they have put out before. That has thrown me a bit, which is both good, and also slightly puzzling to me. That in itself I think is a good thing, and that deserves a round of applause. It’s definitely a stronger period for me in the second half, as a few of the first half made me question if there was a pattern or new sound they were going after. It’s almost akin to when I heard SO for the first time. However, I’m positive that after many more listens, it will be a big hit with me. One thing is certain, Steve Overland never sounded so good.

No doubt Dave Ling will wank himself into a frenzy.

8/10

Tracklisting
Synchronised
Superstar
Best Of Times
Ghosts Of You And I
Broken
Change For The Better
End Of Days
Pray
Walk Through The Fire
Hell Or High Water
Angels Cried
Ready For Me