So, why do have I to say in a few words why this god damn ‘music’ world sucks? Am I enforced to cry out this band should have been in the Melodic/Hard Rock ‘Hall Of Fame’ for many, many years now? Must I escape the trap of a ‘proper’ CD review for this compilation? Summing it up: we always had/do/will complain ’bout the Music Industry being a bloodthirsty beast with endless hunger for $$$ out of the artists’ creativity/reputation/history. We are the same ones that do ‘jump’ from band to band due to a simple ‘the next big thing’ A2 poster, four-page feature, 1,000/10 review or full page label’s ad.
Birmingham, UK is the birthplace of Hard Rock /Heavy Metal music. See for yourselves: Black Sabbath, Uriah Heep, Judas Priest, Magnum. Later on, in the NWOBHM (pre and post) ‘typhoon’, Birmingham supplied us with grand bands such as (in random order) Diamond Head, Quartz, Dark Star, Tobruk, Lion, Marshall Law and…Shy. Well, Shy would not be described as a typical NWOMHM act in their beginning – not to mention their later works, of course. Even if Britain has ‘produced’ enough melody-friendly (sic) outfits during the last twenty years – FM, Strangeways, Heavy Pettin’, Airrace, Lonheart, Dare (later) and Ten (lately, ten years ago!), to mention a few – these melodic Hard rockers (sorry for the rest!) have no doubt composed the most ‘classy’ melodic music ever to come out of this island. Numbers do not always tell the truth, when you talk about sales vs quality, but the preeminence of Shy is righteous and indubitable in the hearts/ears of fans who know.
Rising form the ashes of Trojan in 1980, the quintet (frontman Tony Mills, guitarist Steve Harris, keyboardist Paddy McKenna, bassist Mark Badrick and drummer Alan Kelly) tested their energy via Ebony’s Metal Warriors (1983) compilation album; the track Tonight was in there. A full length album contract was inked afterwards, to result in the Once Bitten…Twice Shy \[era tracks: 1-6 (CD1)] debut the same year. It was obvious – from that very first official release – that Shy’s capability was on top in the radio-friendly ‘approach’. The extremely powerful and emotional voice of Mills, supported by Harris’ venerated guitar playing & songwriting, McKenna’s intellectual ‘pomp’ work and Badrick’s/Kelly’s trustworthy rhythm section created a huge appetite for a major breakthrough in the (near) future. In spite of the poor production, fine melodies and great hooks were apparent allover. Ebony was too small to keep ’em in the family…
Ex-Trouble man Roy Davis joined the camp replacing Badrick, while (how weird?) the RCA label grabbed the band to work on their next release on a more professional basis. 1985’s follow-up Brave The Storm \[era tracks: 7-11 (CD1)] was produced by Tony Platt (Foreigner, Uriah Heep, AC/DC) and unfolded the band’s craving for marvelous AOR/Hard Rock tunes way. Just imagine Def Leppard in a more AOR-based Pyromania ‘look’. The album was ‘warmly’ approached by the Press – even the British Press – but it’s been said it did not make it to an adequate sales result. Hitting the stage with acts such as U.F.O., Magnum and Twisted Sister, everyone was now waiting for the next step.
And what a step! It’s 1987 and Shy move to CA, USA (label’s desire) to ‘inhale’ the radio-friendly smolder. At the peak of inspiration, Excess All Areas \[era tracks: 12-16 (CD1) & 1-4 (CD2) – nearly the whole album!] should now be considered one of the melodic Hard Rock highlights of all time. The finest cross between Journey, Def Leppard, (then style) Bon Jovi, Dokken and Pretty Maids, this album features all the elements a monumental album must have. Great, crystal clear production by none other than Neil Kernon (Dokken, Queensryche, FM), a set of all-amazing songs – Break Down The Walls was co-written by Don Dokken while Emergency was ‘donated’ by the Michael Bolton/Duane Hitching duo. The fact that 9 out of 10 songs of this album are included in this CD combo, plus the previously unreleased Don’t Wanna Lose Your Love outtake, sets things straight. The band toured with Gary Moore and Meat Loaf (seperately) to promote an album already ‘promoted’ by the fans (UK’s Charts, Top 75). A perfect ten!
Even if all evidence was in favor of the band, yet the follow-up, 1989’s Misspent Youth \[era tracks: 5-8 (CD2)], was everything else but the ‘normal’ move. Now under the MCA umbrella, this album featured a mediocre production by Roy Thomas Baker (Queen, Foreigner, The Cars). Even if many exciting tunes lurk inside this full-length, the final result was somehow disappointing for the wider area. The musical style remained – in general – in the same direction, but depicted a more ‘mainstream’ belief. On the road with – among others – the Hunter/Ronson Band, Badlands, Enuff Z’Nuff and Sleeze Beez, Shy did the best they could but – it seems – that was not enough. Bear in mind that in the late 80’s were the years of competition among dozens of such impressive bands to grab their slice of the pie. No mercy, be it…
Mills – for various reasons, drummer Allan Kelly being one of them I suppose (\[Metal-Temple.com] Alan Kelly (Interview)) – left the band in 1990 (released a couple of records with his own Siam), to be replaced by After Hours vocalist John Francis. The What Love Can Make You Do (demo version) \[era track: 9 (CD2)] cut is here, deriving from those sessions. Unfortunately, even if I enjoyed Francis’ ‘ala Thunder’ throat, the band did not record anything official with him. John Ward, who’d sung with Slash and Madam X, moved in and Welcome To The Madhouse \[era tracks: 10-11 (CD2)] resurfaced in 1994. ‘Handled again’ by Kernon, Welcome To The Madhouse became the ‘after-Excess…’ favorite album for many Shy fans. Even if in the middle of the Grunge revolt, a strange but fine mix of classic Shy music adjusted to the U.S. Rock requirements. I’d like to see more tunes from that album in this collection…Anyway, …Madhouse had no chance to turn up to become a great seller in the midst of all this Nirvana etc stuff, I guess. C’est la vie.
A year before the 21st century’s ‘dawn’ found Shy recruiting Mills behind the mic, now ‘omitting’ Kelly (Bob Richards of Asia – at some point – sat behind the drums). Regeneration (demos collection – no era tracks here), Let The Hammer Fall (studio album – no era tracks here) and Live In Europe (takes from the 1987 Tour – no era tracks here) marked the new beginning while 2001’s Breakaway EP \[2001, era track: 12 (CD2)] on Z Records and Unfinished Business \[2002, era tracks: 13-14 (CD2)] saw Shy still delivering great music, now leaning on a more ‘mature’ – a lot similar to Journey – side. But better things were yet to come.
2004’s latest Shy release, Sunset And Vine \[era tracks: 15-16 (CD2)], may be more Journey-ish than ever but who could say ‘No’ to excessive melodic tunes as the two featured here? Produced by Mills’ Siam partner Andy Faulkner (with fellow Siam bandmate Ian Richardson as guest on guitars), this album received raving reviews all over the Melodic Rock world. In addition, Shy participated in the 2005 Firefest II festival in the UK alongside – to mention a few – House Of Lords, Harem Scarem, Danger Danger and Bue Tears. Not bad, after 25 years of career for a band whose ‘blend’ is still visible to those who evaluate good will and imaginary music.
Shy is the mere example of a ‘classic’-destined band combining two stamps of equal significance. Unique musical temperament and lack of luck/good timing. It’s important these guys still Rock the block – even if I’d also like Kelly back on the kit – and this splendid 140+ min. double CD collection – with some unreleased material even for the diehard fans – is the living proof. Filled with luxurious ‘bio’ liner notes, various magazine clippings and a complete discography list, Reflections: The Anthology 1983-2005 is the living proof for 1,326 words written to ‘image’ countless emotions for such magical music.
Review by Grigoris Chronis, Metal Temple (www.metal-temple.com)