Way back in 1989, a UK band called Little Angels (fronted by a singer called Toby Jepson) wrote a song called “Kicking Up Dust” featuring the lyrics “Johnny never cared ‘bout nobody, cause no one cared about John, he’s crawled his way this far through life, he’s the original wayward son”. Now here we are in 2017 and singer Toby has formed a new band named after those lyrics called Wayward Sons. The song back then was a nod to “Carry On Wayward Son” by American rockers Kansas, reflecting the spirit of freedom, searching for a better life; an alternative to what is perhaps the norm. This album continues that theme and attitude.
Toby always had a great voice with a terrific range. However, for many more metal leaning folk (who maybe thought the Angels were a bit too pop rock, which was wrong of course), that was proved beyond doubt when he spent time touring with The Dio Disciples. Along with Ripper Owens, he was belting out with aplomb songs made famous by the magnificent Ronnie James Dio. Not an easy task to pull off.
This new band is heavier than the Angels, with hints of later era Deep Purple, Thin Lizzy and AC/DC amongst others. This is old school rock with a modern feel and sound. Simply put, it is 10 tracks or about 40 minutes of melody, guitar solos and a huge voice. There are a few moments where his previous band from the late 80’s and early 90’s comes through. This is especially noticeable on “Small Talk”, which is very British in its lyrics. This doesn’t mean it doesn’t translate, any more than Americanisms are not understood in other parts of the globe. It contains phrases and expressions that are natural to where the writer comes from. No “Turning American” to quote from The Wildhearts. It shows honesty and truth in what is said. The pub culture after work and the potential for trouble is part of the reality of Britain. From “met a girl on Tuesday in the chip shop on my way home” to the date being in the pub with his mates with the warning not to “mess around with us less you want to rearrange your face”, it is true to life (sadly, at times).
From the opening riff of “Alive”, the album comes out the blocks full force. The link to the past is there as he sings of being an individual, honest to yourself and letting no one stop you. It also reminds those who try and force their opinions or life on others that “before you think you’re special, no one gets out alive”. Jepson also remarks that “the ones that shout the loudest do the least”.
There are a couple of songs that have a political edge to them too, talking about fighting for the underdog against the system, hoping and wishing for a better life for those who they love. “Until The End” seems to be an attack on fracking (“digging holes in the ground for a crust”), where the authorities and companies do not care who they hurt in the effort to make money. Love the lyrics that ask to “forgive my faults, but I will always protect the ones I love” (in fact, “to the end”). The opening does make me think of a riff from an R.E.M track, but that is probably just a coincidence. The take down musically after half way is very nice indeed.
“Ghost” features the title of the album in the lyrics. It is quite a scathing view of attitudes today, worrying about “first world problems” whilst ignoring the third world, leaving those at the bottom of the pile to fend for themselves. Although not directly political, as it doesn’t specifically name political parties, organisations or countries, there are plenty of lines which tend to give clues to the worst culprits! What is so good on “Ghost” (as much of the album) is how pop it sounds whilst still rocking and packing a punch.
There are a couple of tracks that, if we had good radio stations and better media (less manufactured nonsense being promoted), could be hit singles. They would have been hits 20 or 30 years ago. The one which would have most likely been a hit, due to a strong melody, is “Crush”, which is about as infectious as the common cold. It is the sort of song that, once in your head, is difficult to remove. Not that you would want to in this case.
There are impressive guitar solos throughout by Sam Wood, a young guitarist from a band that Toby has helped produced called The Treason Kings, who has a good career ahead of him. The rhythm section is solid and drives the music along and even takes the lead at times. Both bassist Nic Wastell (ex-Chrome Molly) and drummer Phil Martini (ex-Tokyo Dragons) add to the mix, helping to create a great sound.
This is a really good first album from a new band which deserves folks’ attention. Classic rock in sound, but yet new and fresh. I love to hear a real singer, with a big range singing words that mean something, and this album has that. It has been a long time since the band I first saw and heard Toby in (Little Angels). It is terrific to have him back recording again. Let’s hope it is the start of a new era of music from him.