Escape Music – 2011
I haven’t heard this romantic of a hard rock album in a very long time. I’d say I’d have to go back tens of years times two. British hard rockers Shy act as a “prince” (so to speak) of the genre to give us twelve songs performed heavily in melody.
New vocalist Lee Small steps in to take the microphone (left vacant by Tony Mills who departed for the band TNT) and the results are magnificent. I actually would say if you pinned me down to choose between the two vocalists, I think I like Lee Small’s voice more. His voice is a bit smooth (no intended disrespect to Mr. Mills).
This is clear right from the start of “Land of a Thousand Lies.” Small sings with range and passionate inflection. But to tell you the truth, what makes Shy really work is the brilliant guitar playing of the late Steve Harris (who passed away two months ago in October 2011). Think of what made Dokken standout? It was not Don Dokken but rather George Lynch.
Steve Harris plays a wicked heavy riff in the first tune and I really like the construction of his solo; he slows things down in the beginning then builds up speed and then teams with Joe Basketts’ keyboards to finish it off.
Harris plays a cool picking active rhythm guitar in “So Many Tears.” Lee Small gets more forceful in this second song. Harris’ lead work in this song is a blinding spiral of guitar. The stereo effect of the background voice bouncing from left to right and back, was very cool with headphones.
“Ran Out of Time” feels like a cross between the late Gary Moore and Bon Jovi’s heavier sound of the late 80s.
“Breathe” has a gorgeous mix of Lee’s voice, the keyboards and lyrics that should magnetize any female listener. Steve Harris goes into Neal Schon’s territory with his guitar crying out with an outpouring of emotion.
Harris and Ian Richardson’s guitars hit hard in “Blood on the Line.” Bob Richards drum breaks are cool especially right before Steve Harris blows the lid off the song with his expressive solo.
Joe Basketts’ keyboards are lively in “Pray” and bounce beautifully off the distorted guitars. In this song I couldn’t help but think of the album/band Phenomena, which makes sense because Lee Small sang on that.
I was caught in the web of Steve Harris’ rhythmic guitar in “Only For The Night.” What he plays is hypnotic and totally grooves.
Love the killer combination of the soft light keyboards and then the big heavy distorted guitars in “Live For Me.” Lee breezes through this tune with his expert vocal skill.
Harris picks out another gem in “Over You.” The band as a whole hits the jackpot of creating a rocking heart-tugging love song. This song is as good as any song the band Journey has ever recorded. That’s not a knock against the bay area hit-makers but a testament of how good this song and this band is,
Acoustic guitar and single bass drum sets the stage for Shy to rock harder in “Sanctuary.” Steve Harris plays another startling guitar solo that is just awesome to listen to.
The keyboard and Small’s voice highlights “Save Me” until the break for Steve Harris to rip another solo. I love how the lead section continues where most bands would have it end. It should be this way because Harris needs more time to express himself and the band benefits from this big time.
The guitars act as pillars in “Union Of Souls.” Lee Small shines again carrying the tune with ease. This song has a fun feel to it and gives off an energetic spark.
I feel real bad that Steve Harris never got the kind of notice he should have as an exceptionally gifted guitar player. I don’t know why but I feel a kinship to him and his playing. Unfortunately I never got the chance to meet him but I’ve been listening to the band since their 1985 album Brave The Storm. I’ve read that he loved horror films and I know we were born the same year. Maybe even there’s an unconscious link to my last name heritage, which comes from England. Guitar players have been a favorite of mine since I started listening to music. I’ve followed hundreds of them. There is little doubt in my mind that Steve Harris is in the upper echelon of people who have ever played the instrument.
This self-titled album proves Shy is one of the great melodic hard rock bands out there. I urge you to pick it up to discover what I’m talking about and enjoy the gift of music Steve Harris left behind.
I will for years to come.