BRIAR – Reach Out (January, 2018)

Briar Reach OutUK legends Briar are gearing up to issue their 1988 album Reach Out thanks to British label ProgAOR records. Briar‘s Facebook page posted this short teaser news:

“Unreleased 1988 album that was planned to be released by major label CBS (now Sony Music) sees finally its release after being archived for 30 years! This is BRIAR‘s finest hour, the band was at the top of their game with superb songwriting skills creating a collection of 9 songs that all Melodic Rock fans should have in their collection. If you like Crown of Thorns from 1987, you will love Reach Out! Released for the first time on CD, this will include a detailed band history, rare pictures of the era and the lyrics. Like if that wasn’t enough we also offer as bonus tracks the 1990 demo and 4 live tracks recorded in 1991 and 92″

Briar were formed in 1979, by school friends Kevin Griffiths (Vox/Guitar), Dean Cook (Drums), Dean Rogers (Guitar) & David Tattum (Bass), initially as a bit of fun to impress their mates, it is said the guys played many gigs for friends in drummer Dean‘s frontroom……actually miming to Black Sabbath records, the mates were apparently impressed until one day…..the vinyl record they were miming to started to jump and kinda blew the guy’s charade out of the water!

The band had used names such as Lucifer, Ark & Emerald in the early days….eventually settling with Briar when the they got pissed off changing names all the time! The band started proper when Dean & Kevin went to see a band at the Solihull YMCA the band were called Streetcruiser and were fronted by a cool dude vocalist, as soon as the chaps saw this event they were hooked………..drummer Dean later said, “it was like a wonderful dream, we watched the loudest band we had ever heard in our lives, they were like so loud, I couldn’t hear for about a week after! And they were fronted by this geezer who screamed as loud as possible over this noise, that kinda resembled music!……it was bloody awesome!”………………the two guys were hooked, they soon found out the vocalist in question George Bond only lived around the corner from them!

His life (sadly for him) would never be the same again. Briar needed a manager and Dean & Kev were determined he was their man.

Dean remembers George had this little Marshall Amp a little 30-watt combo, I think and we were round there every night asking to borrow it for our rehearsals at David Tattum‘s house”.George allowed the guys to use the amp but was apparently none too impressed when he found out, 3 guitars & 2 vocalists were all plugged into it. George remembers “I was invited to check the band out at the bassist’s house, they had turfed his mom & dad out for the night and set the gear up in the front room, the band started playing….it was the worst thing I had ever heard, I stopped them and said, have you tuned up, they nodded….and smiled, then I realised, they had, but not together, so you had 3 guitarists, tuned perfectly in completelly different keys…..they never sounded (quite) that bad again!”

The bands first gig under the Briar name was in 1980 at The Cameronian Club, Bromford, Birmingham to a huge crowd of friends.

George was eventually convinced that taking on the band was a wise move and soon the band were gigging all over The Midlands,. At this time a new bassist was recruited named John Smith, they quickly went from strength to strength, supporting the likes of Cryer, Bandanna, Shy & Trouble.

In 1982 the line up changed and Darren Underwood & Dave Fletcher were recruited for the departing Dean Rogers, soon after John Smith also left the band and Kevin Griffiths took up the bass guitar! The new lineup was Kevin Griffiths (Bass & Vox), Darren Underwood (Guitar & B.V’s), Dave Fletcher (Guitar & B.V’s) & Dean Cook (Drums & B.V’s).

In 1982 the first Briar 7″ single was released on (producer/writer Muff Murfin‘s) Worcester indie label Happy Face Records, the vinyl recieved brilliant press from the start, metal magazine Kerrang claiming “Another new band on their way to stardom!”

The first big break came when (then) top radio 1 DJ Peter Powell gave the band their first (of many!) BBC radio sessions plus he decided to put the band on their first live TV appearance on his top viewed program The Oxford Roadshow.

The appearances were a huge success for the band, who were now commonplace names at such top London venues as The Marquee (Wardour St), Dingwalls etc, the band then won a top Birmingham band competition called “The Hottest Band in Town” run by magazine Brum Beat, soon after that the band inked their first proper record deal with FM/HM Records and the first album Too Young (recorded at UB40‘s DEP Studio) was released again with great reviews from UK rock press.

The band then started playing to full houses at such bigger venues as The Hummingbird, The Powerhouse etc, in Birmingham plus playing support to (at the time) top bands such as Tygers Of Pan Tang, Statetrooper, Eddie & The Hot Rods and Angel Witch.

The band biggest break came in 1986 when they had put out a new longplayer titled Take On The World, a great album of powerchord 80’s pop metal! Still a favorite with many fans. Pop guru Jonathan King rung the band up and decided Briar were just what the UK rock scene needed, the band were signed to his management company JonJo and George Bond was installed as full-time personal manager to the band, with Jonathan and (his brother) Andy as business managers.

A new record deal with PRT was signed and a new single put out “Edge of a Broken Heart” was the band’s first hit, No 1 in the national rock charts, ahead of the likes of Def Leppard and Whitesnake, the song eventually reached only lower reaches of top 50 in the national singles chart, owing to Gallup (chart organiser) banning it because Jonathan King had plugged it 2 weeks running in his The Sun national newspaper column.

Things went one better when top USA metal band Stryper picked Briar for their only UK date at The Hammersmith Odeon, this was a huge success for Briar, one Metal Hammer (Magazine) reviewer wrote: “I turned up late and went home early, I only regret arriving late, because Briar took the roof off The Hammersmith he went on to slag Stryper off….Briar members weren’t too pleased though as they were huge Stryper fans!

Briar now were doing gigs everywhere to full houses and in 1988 a new worldwide record deal was signed with CBS/Columbia and a new album album was released titled Crown Of Thorns and a new single titled “Frankie”, in the UK thru JK’s label UK/Pinnacle and CBS the rest of the world, but altho things were one the up the band were becoming dissalusioned with things, the band had recorded a new album’s worth of material titled Reach Out which was never given an official release (much to their dissapointment!) and there were still influential people who felt with a major label release Take on the World would break the band worldwide.

This wasn’t to be and officially the band parted company with Jonathan King in 1990 after the band’s last major label 7″ release “One Monkey” on A&M Records.

At this point band manager George Bond set up his own label Shotgun Charlie Records and put out 7″ “Gimme All You Got”, this marked the return of Briar to their powerchord pop/metal roots, but years of struggle/success/struggle had taken its toll on the band and the first to leave the ranks was Dave Fletcher, then Darren Underwood, by 1992 the lineup had almost totally changed Kevin Billington (Vox), Kevin Griffiths (Bass & Vox), Dean Cook (Drums & B.V’s), Mark Carleton (Guitar) & Jez Prosser (Keyboards).

The band put out one more single “All She Wants” and an album Hard Times, the album being a neat keyboard/Bon Jovi-esque release, but alas by 1993 Briar was no more. The release of “Reach out” marks the first release by Briar since the reissue of “Hard times” in 2015 on Battle cry records.

BUY: Take on the World here / BUY: Hard Times here

Official Website / Facebook

ProgAOR records on the web  / Blood & Iron records/ProgAOR records on Facebook

 

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