AIRRACE-BACK TO THE START
AOR act Airrace was formed in 1982 by the then-teenager guitarist Laurie Mansworth. After playing with the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal band More for a time Mansworth decided he wanted to form a more melodic rock act. Now with that said to most people the London-based Airrace is mostly known for being the first act to feature the talents of drummer Jason Bonham. It's true that Airrace was Jason Bonham's first taste of success. Alongside Mansworth and Bonham a early line-up briefly featured former Girl singer Philip Lewis. He was replaced before too long with singer Keith Murrell. Bassist Jim Reid and keyboard player Tony Sadler filled out the rest of the band. Airrace’s ties to Zeppelin would prove more than helpful as the band was soon approached by legendary manager Peter Grant. Soon he had them signed to Atco Records, a subsidiary of the Atlantic Corporation. Working with producer Beau Hill (who had just done Ratt’s "Out Of The Cellar") the band's sound was toned down quite a bit. While Airrace's sound was melodic rock at least in the early days it had more bite. Mansworth had brought some of that heavy metal magic that he had learned while in More to the party, but it was Hill that pushed the band into a lighter direction. Despite losing some of their edge their debut album "Shaft Of Light" received rave reviews when released in October 1984. After hitting the road with acts like Queen, AC/DC, Meat Loaf, Ted Nugent and Krokus it seemed as if the band were close to stardom. Label problems though caused inner turmoil and after Jason Bonham left the band to join Roger Taylor's Virginia Wolf project Airrace folded. By 1985 the band was done. Fast forward 25 years and after the re-issue of "Shaft Of Light" Mansworth and Bonham joined up again with a new version of the band. After playing out though Bonham left and Mansworth put together a new line-up to record "Back To The Start". Joining Mansworth are vocalist Keith Murrell, drummer Simon Dawson, guitarist Dean Howard, bassist David Boyce and keyboardist Toby Sadler. Produced by Mansworth the first thing you notice about "Back To The Start" is the fact that it is somewhat heavier than "Shaft Of Light". I didn't need the bio to tell me that one. The whole album has more of an edge compared to their debut. Mind you this is still AOR we are talking about, but as a whole the album feels like it picked up more steam. Also vocalist Keith Murrell is still in top form even after all these years. There is a reason why he was recently named at #20 in Classic Rock Presents AOR magazine’s list of the Top 40 AOR Vocalists Of All Time. He can more than hold his own on these tracks. With age it seems as if he has only grown more confident and comfortable in his role leading Airrace. Mansworth also has improved with time as the album's cuts are better arranged. Sure this is still melodic hard rock and as such it has a limited market these days. But I have to admit I enjoyed this one and suspect it will do well in the adult-rock crowd. It isn't fancy and dosn't have lots of flash. And yet there is something to like about this one. It just hits the right notes and dosn't try to be anything other than what it is meant to be and that is quality AOR.