Don Airey • All Out CD
DON AIREY – All Out
Music Theories : 2011
Although I picked up on the cricketing reference in the title of Don Airey’s latest solo album, ‘All Out’ apparently has three meanings, according to the keyboard maestro’s biography. “The first is a cricketing one, namely the awful feeling you get when your team’s innings comes to an end and you’re all out; the second to the sound you get from a Hammond organ when you pull all the drawbars out, driving the Leslie speakers flat out; the third the general philosophy of how the songs were recorded – full on, all out!”
It’s the cricketing reference that’s the most apparent though, not only through the instrumental ‘Right Arm Overture’ but also because the album is, I’m afraid to say, rather dull. Never a keyboard player to wear a flashy cape, throw his Hammond around or stick knives between the keys, Airey is more David Gower than Ian Botham: very nice, highly professional but just not very exciting nor particularly flashy. As such, there are no sixes here: ‘All Out’ is an album of mainly singles with just the occasional four.
The album’s ten cuts are made up of an over’s worth of songs once again delivered by ex-Persian Risk singer Carl Sentence, and four instrumentals, with guest guitarists Bernie Marsden, Joe Bonamassa and Airey’s bro Keith aiding and abetting the band of Rob Harris of Jamiroquai (guitar), renowned session player Laurence Cottle (bass) and Darrin Mooney of Primal Scream (drums).
Of the instrumentals, ‘Estancia’ is the first movement of Alberto Ginastera’s 1941 ballet (Ginastera’s work was popularised by Emerson Lake and Palmer via ‘Toccata’ on ‘Brain Salad Surgery’), and is an exciting little romp which allows Airey to stretch out and have some fun with his organ. Unfortunately, the laid-back guitar-driven ‘B’Cos’, the aforementioned jazz-fusion ‘Right Arm Overture’ and the bluesy ‘Long Road’ don’t really summon up the same degree of excitement.
On the vocal side of things, album opener ‘The Way I Feel Inside’ has some latter-day Purple passion running through its verse (as well as Mr Marsden on guitar), and ‘People In Your Head’ (with Joe Bonamassa) could be an early throwaway Glenn Hughes B-side, redeemed only really by the guitar solos and Sentance’s vocal delivery. ‘Running From The Shadows’ is a commercial piece of uninteresting AOR fluff, the cover of Jimi Hendrix’s ‘Fire’ manages to turn an incendiary into a sparkler, and ‘Wrath Of Thor’ is almost a slice of Seventies’ heavy rock, reminiscent in some ways of Ritchie Blackmore’s riff-driven workouts; the time-change and keyboard solo make things a bit more interesting, but the over-emphasis on the singer’s whopping and hollering detract for the song’s atmosphere and do it no favours at all.
‘All Out’’s set piece is album closer ‘Tobruk’, a five-part mini-rock-opera which starts off with the greatest of intentions but which ten minutes later runs out of steam having failed to live up to its grandiose expectations; its highlights are overwhelmed by its disjointed and unwieldy structure – too heavy on the opera and too light on the rock – and some less than ‘A’ Level lyrics.
A bit like watching a five-day Test dragging its way to an inevitable draw, ‘All Out’’s flashes of brilliance are eclipsed by an overall lack of focus and exhilaration. Too many wides, not enough boundaries…
A new solo album from current Deep Purple and former Rainbow man, Don
Airey, this sees him largely eschewing the neo-classical approach of
many keyboard players in favour of a more song based album.
Granted, there are a few instrumental numbers, but he’s put together a
core band that features former Persian Risk vocalist Carl Sentance,
along with drummer Darrin Mooney who has played with Gary Moore
amongst others, guitarist Rob Harris and jazz bass whizz Laurence
Cottle. There’s no doubt that it’s a top notch band at play.
However, one thing Don Airey is not renowned for is his songwriting.
Scan down the hundreds of albums that he’s played on, and you won’t
find many writing credits. And, to be brutal, you can tell why. You
see the songs are serviceable, as they find a groove into between
prog, power metal and soundtrack. It flirts with the world of Mr.
Blackmores’ Rainbow in places while on numbers like the instrumental
Estancia, things actually go all early seventies Deep Purple. Which
is very enjoyable, no question about it.
It’s actually the instrumentals that come out best on the record, and
I’d have been happy to hear more of them, but I’m sure that’s a hard
sell to a record company. Hence the vocal tracks. Of these, it’s the hard rocking ‘People In Your Head’ and the Bernie Marsden enhanced ‘Running From The Shadows’ that come out best. Worst by far is the sole cover of ‘Fire’, the Jimi Hendrix tune that was rubbish the first time around.
Now don’t get me wrong. I enjoyed this album, but once it was finished, I was hard pressed to remember any of the songs. It might be
a grower, and it’s certainly in the repeat play pile, but it struggled
to grab me where it counts.
Stuart A Hamilton