TYGERS OF PAN TANG - The MCA Years
September 20, 2017, a month ago
Damn fine to see MCA stepping up with a well-deserved box set for one of the most important bands of the NWOBHM movement from the early eighties. The package includes the first four albums in full, along with assorted extra tracks/singles appended to each, along with a fifth disc including no less than 19 live tracks stemming from three separate BBC appearances during this period. All discs come in single sleeves with original artwork, pulled together in a mini-box, with a lengthy essay from none other than Malcolm Dome.
Wild Cat (1980)
The legendary debut is a must-have for all self-respecting heavy metal fans. Damned if the first side (remember those?) isn't the best side of the whole NWOBHM, period. So good in fact that I have to name all of the tracks; “Euthanasia”, “Slave To Freedom”, “Don't Touch Me There”, “Money” and “Killers”. Sheesh - classic. Side two ain't no slouch either including the mighty “Wild Catz” and “Fireclown”. The energy and naiveté literally jump off the grooves, perfectly capturing the excitement of the new musical form that was beginning to blossom in Jolly 'Ol. Jess Cox' so-terrible-it's-perfect off-pitch ramblings suit the punky metal ramblings like a glove. All of this is gloriously captured in a sturdy mix by Chris Tsangarides (who subsequently worked with Priest, Lizzy and Anvil amongst many others). Four additional tracks are included from this period, including a cover of ZZ Top's “Tush”, all of which are worthy of being appended to such a classic release. Rating: 10
Out is Cox and in at the mic is the more professional sounding Jon Deverill, a graduate of the Robert Plant school of frontmen. Also in at second guitar slot is John 'James' Sykes (later of Thin Lizzy and Whitesnake fame). Looks good on paper, but things are slightly off on this sophomore release. The Tygers are going for a more polished approach, but Tsangarides' mix this time is kind of flat and there are mixed results when the band reach outside their comfort zone (they stumble slightly with the rock ballad “Mirror”, but the catchy “The Story So Far” works). Regardless, fans of the lads are still left with six tracks of classic Tygers melodic aggression, including the classic “Gangland” and “Silver An Gold”. Bonus material includes three tracks from the same recording session (including a cover of Small Faces' “All Or Nothing”) again all of which fit nicely with the album proper. Rating: 8
Crazy Nights (1981)
The band was rushed back into the studio later in 1981 after slightly disappointing sales for the sophomore release. The liner notes state that band leader Robb Weir was less than pleased with the final results, but to these ears Crazy Nights represents the Tygers' second best album ever. Consistently pleasing from top to bottom, this is a continuation of the more polished and professional approach taken the previous release, but this time with a red hot mix provided by Dennis MacKay. Throbbing with bottom end and searing guitar riffage, Crazy Nights is another triumph for the then youthful outfit. Highlights include the rampaging “Running Out Of Time”, rollicking “Raised On Rock” and the stealthy “Love Don't Stay”. Three additional tracks are appended, one of which could easily fit onto the album (“Slip Away”), a standard rock 'n' roller (“Paradise Drive”) and a final track (“The Stormlands”) which signals the upcoming change in direction. Rating: 9
The Cage (1982)
In yet another sad occurrence of record company manipulation, the Tygers shift to a more AOR/pop metal stance complete with a preponderance of outside writer involvement on this their fourth release. While the core fans who were along for the ride from the beginning (including myself) jumped ship but quick upon hearing the change in direction, many more were happy to imbibe (making this the band's bestselling release, inexplicably peaking at #13 on UK charts). Peter Collins (gag) was brought in to bring the commerciality to the fore with such drivel as “Paris By Air”, “Danger In Paradise” and “Love Potion No. 9” (hee hee). Think Def Leppard sized transformation and insert finger down throat. The bonus material is of similar ilk except for one lone rocker (“Life Of Crime”). Utter tripe. Rating: 0
Live At The BBC (1980-1982)
Recorded over three separate sessions with the BBC, the first two are of superior sound quality utilizing small studios as part of the BBC In Concert and BBC Friday Rock Show programs. Cool that the first one captures the original band (including Cox on vox), while the second set represents the Mach 2 version of the band in top flight on the Crazy Nights tour. The third set finds the band in front of a much larger audience (Reading Festival 1982) pushing the then new The Cage material. The value of this bonus CD depends on how one feels about live releases. Rating: 6-8
While not all encompassing (there are some singles during the period that aren't included), this is a no-brainer given the discounted pricing compared to buying the first three albums individually, along with the preponderance of high quality bonus material. Well done MCA.