Vocalist Sue Willetts-Manford formed the band in September 1989 and it is around her that the band is built. Willetts-Manford has the most amazing voice which has the power to both break down walls but to also break hearts; it is truly stunning.
Having said that, the remaining members of Dante Fox are no shoddy performers. Tim Manford fires out quality solos throughout, the rhythm section of Andy Perfect (great name) on drums and Alan Mills on bass keep things together with a beautiful 1980’s feel and Eric Ragno on keyboards provides depth and drive without being overpowering.
Breathless, out on AOR Heaven, gives variety in many forms while still maintaining the thread of classic rock with spine-tingling vocals.
Take the first song, “Young Hearts”, for example. It would not be out of place on one of Pat Benatar’s finest of the 80’s. Power pop at it’s best; pacey and driven. What a cracking start with two solos giving us a taste of what is to come.
“All Eyes On You” follows, driven by keyboards and is once again in the 1980’s rock style, but who’s complaining? Certainly not me! Great pace, superb vocals, and a nifty solo to finish. Quality.
A raw riff opens up the title track, “Breathless”, and then drifts into almost folk rock, reminiscent of the UK band All About Eve, if anybody remembers them. I must say, though, that All About Eve vocalist Julianne Regan would have to take some pretty strong stuff to sound as powerful as Sue Willetts-Manford. Anyway, less of my rambling, this is not my favorite track but it’s all relative as this is still a very strong song.
It’s back to classic rock for “Break These Chains” which starts with a neat keyboard intro leading to some heartfelt Willetts-Manford vocals which never let up. The solo also matches the vocals for emotion and there’s great drumming to the fore here too. Something for everybody there.
The standout track for me comes in the shape of “Broken Hearted Man” which I suppose could be called a power ballad. Back in the 80’s the video would have lots of rain and wet people looking all forlorn. A lovely acoustic and piano intro builds up beautifully into a well-crafted killer of a song. When you hear it I defy you not to sing “toooniiiight!!” at the top of your voice. The solo, while short, is tear-inducing. Like I said, killer.
Pat Benatar would once again be proud of “I Can’t Stop Tonight” with its choppy riff and vocals with sparse backing in the verse. Whilst it may appear unremarkable the vocals once again lift it to another plane.
Breathless continues with “Dynamite (Your Love Is Like)”, which is a nice catchy singalong tune with atmospheric keyboards to glue the song together nicely.
“A Love Affair” is a beautiful ballad in which Sue Willetts-Manford shows her full range of talents. She moves from emotional fragility to ultimate power as smoothly as you like. Tim Manford pulls out a screamer of a solo before things build up to the big finish. Goosebumps all over the place with Eric Ragno adding to the pomp with his keyboards.
A bit of diversity now for “How Will you Know (Where To Find Me)”. The band definitely go into Evanescence territory here but without the hysterics. A nicely constructed song with plenty of drama and a lovely piece of guitar work backed up with some great Andy Perfect drumming.
A nice acoustic interlude with “Creeps Into My Mind” gives us time to get our breath back after so much power and emotion. Two minutes is all it lasts but two minutes is all that is needed; a lovely song.
To finish we have the bonus of all bonuses, an acoustic version of “Broken Hearted Man”. It is certainly up there with the main event in its stripped down format but to be honest the full electric version is hard to beat, by anything.
Whilst the highlight of Breathless by Dante Fox is clearly Sue Willetts-Manford’s vocals, they are clearly a superbly talented band who write great songs and perform to the highest standard.
I’ve heard and reviewed some top albums recently but I must say this is a real highlight and I’m at a loss as to why they aren’t much, much bigger.