Don Airey is a man who doesn’t have to be introduced, I think that everyone knows him as a keyboard-man playing in such famous bands as “Colosseum”, “Rainbow”, “Black Sabbath” and “Deep Purple”.
After fantastic “A Light in The Sky” I expected another masterpiece when I found out that he recorded new CD called “All Out”. Unfortunately it wasn’t so great as I wished. Don’t misunderstand me, it’s still a decent album full of mind-blowing organ play but somehow it’s flat compared with its predecessor. It seems that Don turned too much into headbanging hard rock tunes and slightly abandoned that specific, art-rock feel presented on “A Light in The Sky”. However I have to stress that you will find three totally superb compositions here: 2 highly energetic instrumentals and one mini-suite full of different ideas, believe me or not but they make “All Out” worth checking as fast as possible!
Let’s look into all 10 tracks prepared for us by this famous keyboardist:
1. “The Way I Feel Inside” – album kicks off with very fast-paced heavy metal track in the vain of “Deep Purple”. Not a bad start but could be much better. It’s too guitar-oriented for me as I expects more keyboards-driven stuff, it’s keyboardist’s CD after all… Airey seems to limit himself to simplistic organ riffs here and leaves lots of space for guitarist & vocalist.
2. “Estancia” – and here’s the point where “All Out” really begins for me! According to Internet sources “Estancia” is a first movement of Alberto Ginastera’s 1941 ballet. I never listened to that ballet, but Airey’s version is surely a very “unorthodox” version ‘cos it’s simply mad! Oh man, I haven’t heard such a monster-track from a long time, Airey’s Hammond organ is a true destroyer here, like a mammoth damaging your ears with an incredible power. As far as I’m concerned only Ray Vanderby from Australian band “Cosmic Nomads” loves such huge organ sound nowadays, but Don is much more technical player. One crazy composition filled with Hammond blasts, booming bass, crashing drum beat and one chilling Moog synthesizer solo. A winner!
3. “People In Your Head” – another metal song similar to album’s opener. This time Joe Bonamassa is guesting on electric guitar, but it doesn’t make much difference to me. It’s maybe a bit more AOR oriented than “The Way I Feel Inside” but in general it’s just a simple headbanger. No prog/art rock here. Airey stays in the background with his organ again. Sure letdown after fantastic “Estancia”.
4. “B’cos” – here we are with 2nd instrumental composition. Unfortunately it’s completely different than “Estancia”. In fact such tracks Don Airey used to place on “A Light in The Sky” as short, 1-minute interludes and it was OK than, but stretching it to 5 minutes wasn’t such a good idea. “B’cos” is just a slow-tempo electric guitar solo backed up by Don’s organ & poly-synths. More like a movie soundtrack or radio jingle to be honest. Not a total waste, but rather uninspiring.
5. “Running From The Shadows” – very mainstream sounding AOR song filled with repetitive melodies and pop-like singing. Seems to be inspired by 80s Rainbow stuff. From this point I started to seriously worry if I will come back to this album more often in the future…(BTW Bernie Marsden plays guitar here)
6. “Right Arm Overture” – …fortunately the very next track appeared to be breath taking instrumental which fully satisfied my needs. “Right Arm Overture” is a 7 minutes of pure pleasure for keyboard-prog maniacs. Airey masterfully switches between more complicated, jazz-rock parts and monumental symphonic fragments. I also love that middle-east inspired melody! Real orgy of memorable Hammond lines and crushing solos. In this place I can surely see inspiration taken directly from Keith Emerson, but to be honest Rick Van Der Linden (from “Ekseption” and “Trace”) seems to be even better comparison.
7. “Fire” – I’m not a fan of Jimi Hendrix’s original and I don’t like this cover even more. Simplistic & overlong track with rather annoying vocals. I just don’t like Carl Sentance’s wailing especially near the end of the song. However organ/guitar interludes in the middle are rather juicy, the rest is mediocre.
8. “Long Road” – almost a carbon copy of “B’cos”. Just another overlong guitar solo (this time played by Don’s brother – Keith Airey) placed on synth/organ sounds-capes. It’s not exactly the stuff I expected, that’s all I can say about it.
9. “Wrath Of Thor” – this one is much better! Stomping hard rocker with crunchy Hammond chops and heavy organ riffs. Surely it sounds very much like “Deep Purple” but I don’t blame Airey for this, DP is one of my favorite classic hard rock bands. I can also hear some similarities with American stoner rock band “Blood of The Sun”. Swirling organ solo is stunning here.
10. “Tobruk” – album finishes with a splendid epic recorded in a truly progressive rock style. In the beginning we can hear some strange wind-like sounds and mysterious Grand piano melody, but after a while Airey hits as with a pompous organ blast & Carl Sentance starts one of his best vocals performances on this CD. And what’s next? Everything you should expect from prog-rock suite: frequent tempo changes, furious Hammond and gentle piano solos, Moog flights & deep bass support. I don’t know why but when I listen to it I often think about such bands like “Refugee” and “Social Tension”, both of them used keyboards in equally elaborated fashion to create the best music out there.
Conclusion: while “All Out” includes more fillers than “A Light in The Sky” it’s still a worth having album especially if you’re a fan of keyboard-driven extravaganza and/or classic hard rock. Surely it’s not east to find such music in 2011! If you like such music I’d also recommend you Australian band “Cosmic Nomads” (yes, I mentioned them already), they also know how to mix heavy organ-based music with some more symphonic elements.
Best tracks: “Right Arm Overture”, “Estancia” & “Tobruk”
1. The Way I Feel Inside (04:23)
2. Estancia (05:37)
3. People in Your Head (05:00)
4. B’cos (04:54)
5. Running From the Shadows (03:41)
6. Right Arm Overture (07:12)
7. Fire (05:12)
8. Lon Road (04:34)
9. Wrath of Thor (04:25)
10. Tobruk (10:29)
* Don Airey / Keyboards, Synths
*Carl Sentance / Vocals
*Rob Harris / Guitar
*Laurence Cottle / Bass
*Darrin Mooney / Drums
*Keith Airey / Guitar
*Joe Bonamassa / Guitar
*Bernie Marsden / Guitar