Tuesday 18 May 2021

Robin McAuley - Standing on the Edge (2021)

Country: Ireland
Style: Melodic Rock
Rating: 8/10
Release Date: 7 May 2021
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Robin McAuley may always be remembered for becoming the new M in MSG, when it shifted from the Michael Schenker Group to the McAuley Schenker Group for three albums as the eighties turned into the nineties. He contributed to both the Michael Schenker albums I've reviewed, Revelation and Immortal, so there's likely to remain a connection there. However, I first heard his voice before that, singing for Far Corporation and then, catching up on even earlier work, for Grand Prix. He's hardly the most prolific vocalist out there, but he's been doing good work for four decades now.

Oddly, this is only his second solo album, following 1999's Business as Usual, though his 2020 album as Black Swan was really a solo album with a band's name. Like this one, that was released on Frontiers, which is a great home for him, given that he's a born melodic rock vocalist, even if he's best known for his hard rock and heavy metal and this does venture into hard rock, especially on the title track, which closes out the album in a flurry of guitars and energy. Certainly it starts out in melodic rock territory with the excellent Thy Will Be Done and it stays there for most of the album.

There are no duff tracks here but some certainly stand out. Late December was the first of those for me, the sort of song that would surely have been all over American radio had it only been released in the mid eighties. It's really accessible but it doesn't have to go soft to achieve that, just like the best songs from Jimmy Barnes. Like a Ghost fits that description too and brings the same comparison. I'd not seen the two as similar until this point, perhaps because they usually play in different genres.

Say Goodbye has a similar effect too but with a little harder riff. Everything on this album lives or dies on its melodies but there are still decent riffs behind them, like those in Do You Remember or Chosen Few, which kicks in so reminiscent of AC/DC that I actually wondered if the first vocalisation was Brian Johnson. I should add that Say Goodbye has a really nice ending too, but on bass rather than guitar. It isn't anything fancy, just a subtle little touch that's icing on an already tasty cake.

What surprised me here is that I usually go for the harder edged songs and, while I liked Chosen Few and especially Running Out of Time, which hearkens back to those days in MSG, it's actually the softer ones that got me on this album. Run Away, in particular, is a peach of a soft rock song with a gem of a chorus. I'd suggest that it's almost guaranteed to be staking out space in my head for the next week, but there a few others that seem to want to battle it for that honour, Wanna Take a Ride for a start.

Surprisingly, the musicians behind McAuley don't seem to be particularly well known, though Howard Leese is the guitarist in Bad Company nowadays. The only other name I recognised is Alessandro del Vecchio, because I think he plays on every album released on Frontiers. Guitarist Andrea Seveso looks like a Frontiers regular too but as a studio engineer rather than a musician. Nicholas Papapicco does fine on drums but seems to be earning his first credit here.

But, however reliable all these folk are, it's the voice that will sell this album and McAuley definitely seems to be having fun, even if the songs don't allow him to belt the way he does on the title track. I'd expect that the point was always to showcase what he can do with his voice, on soft songs and harder ones, and I think it does a grand job on that front. This was always going to be good because it's Robin McAuley but it's better than I expected and it definitely goes on my highly recommended list.

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