1987 was to see Gun commence their meteoric rise in that business called music, going on to release their well-received debut Taking on The World in 1989, only to find themselves one of its casualties just 8 years later. These early years had seen the band from Glasgow create more than a name for themselves, playing with the likes of Bon Jovi and Iron Maiden, receiving an MTV Europe Music Award for best cover on their take of Cameo’s‘Word Up’ and most notably performing with The Rolling Stones, on their ‘Steel Wheels’/‘Urban Jungle’ tour. Capitalising on this raised profile, their songwriting prowess and with audiences growing, the band was to release a further 3 albums, Gallus, Swagger’and 0141 632 6326 during this period up to 1997, after which the band essentially fell apart. As the band’s guitarist and songwriter Giuliano (Jools) Gizzi explains “We just called it a day. Some things weren’t right within the band and also we were falling victim to record company politics”, so some “fresh air” was required. Jools and his brother Dante Gizzi (who had played bass on the band’s first album) opened a restaurant, successfully too!
Behind the scenes, the brothers were writing. So it proved that music hadn’t done with them just yet when in 2008 a new chapter began for the band. Toby Jepson stepped into the space left by original vocalist Mark Rankin until he too moved on to be replaced by Dante. This incarnation of the band was to record 3 albums, Break The Silence, Frantic and Favourite Pleasures, the difference was they released these albums on independent labels. So we come to 2022 and Cherry Red is the new road down which Gun is to travel, as a new collection, The Calton Songs’becomes available.
This 14-track collection comprises mainly acoustic versions of the band’s back catalogue, but also features one new track, that leads the album, Backstreet Brothers. The song’s content harks back to the brothers’ early life growing up in Glasgow. Particularly aware of just how powerful this band can be, having first seen them when they first visited Leicester in the late 80s, when they played the legendary Princess Charlotte. If anything Backstreet Brothers instils 35 years and more of experience, which speaks of who the band are and where they came from. Even though some faces might’ve changed, it’s the Gizzi brothers that bind this outfit’s hard-rocking sound. This new number could have been recorded by any of the West Coast bands hailing from the US in the 80s and 90s. Sunshine speaks from the guitar licks that pepper the number. The autobiographical slant to the lyric is lifted by Dante’s vocal delivery. A song filled with optimism is provided from the guitar breaks. The lyric is easily picked from the song, as Dante sings “…We were young at the time of our lives, we’d sit and drink a bucket of wine. Those days are gone, but still in our minds, when we would live without regrets. We close our eyes and play again, we dream those days until the end, we’ll never lose what we never had, we didn’t judge what was good or bad…” from here the chorus chimes in and is one that you will certainly take with you, so strong is its hook, the guitar lick adding to that a ray of sunshine. One note to comment on, when this number fades, its close is fairly clumsy. Perhaps it’s just the pre-release, as I can’t see this being considered the final version.
Acoustic versions of the band’s back catalogue follow, on an album named in honour of the district, in the city of Glasgow, where the band grew up. These new versions have been recorded with a 5 piece lineup, consisting of Dante on (lead vocals), Jools (guitar), Paul McManus (drums), Andy Carr (bass) and Tommy Gentry (guitar). Given that vocal duties have been taken on by Dante, vocal similarities between previous vocalists Toby Jepson (Little Angels) and in particular original member Mark Rankin, are stunning, Dante’s grave presentation being just the ticket. Second track on the album is the band’s 1989 debut, ‘Better Days’ and lead track on Taking On The World. A song whose tempo and pace have been reduced from the onset, leaving space around the song, until the point where the band is introduced, although the tempo remains the same. Having first heard this song in 1989, it really strikes me at how current it still sounds and its subject matter is a given. It seems that this process is in keeping with something Jools remarked on when talking about how they work, “There’s always been a diversity in what we do. I don’t want to listen to, or perform, the same record over and over again. One of my favourite acts is Queen, look at what they did, never the same thing. The beauty of music is taking a different approach sometimes and coming up with something amazing”.
This seems to have been where the band started when recording this collection. It could so easily have been called a ‘Greatest Hits’, but the band has already released one of these. This differs though, in how it has been compiled and subsequently recorded. From the fact, the tempo appears to have been adjusted through numbers that once ripped along, to the acoustic instrumentation employed. This has provided the songs with that ’…new approach…’ that Jools has referred to. In songs where tempo appears to have been unaffected, re-recording has brought a new life to these numbers. For example 2015’s ‘Frantic’, appears to have been given a larger room in which to breathe, the sound is more expansive. 1989s ‘Taking On The World’ has been given a whole new look, timing reduced and a more mature sound given to a number now in its 30s. Gray streaks showing at its temples and those crow’s feet starting to appear, but the guitar solo is still red hot. Any Gun retrospective would not be complete without their homage to Cameo’s Larry Blackmon and his red-cod piece. Sitting at the very end of this collection is just that number, less splashy than their original and with far more reserve. This shows just how it should be done and the approach of rediscovering the beauty in a song is on fire. To close this chapter, we are ensured that “it is not the end of the story for these Backstreet Brothers”.
The Calton Songs is released on 14th October through Cherry Red.
God is in the TV is an online music and culture fanzine founded in Cardiff by the editor Bill Cummings in 2003. GIITTV Bill has developed the site with the aid of a team of sub-editors and writers from across Britain, covering a wide range of music from unsigned and independent artists to major releases.
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