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Glasgow: Zero Four One

Around these parts (Scotland), Glasgow are a near mythical story of what nearly was. An AOR/melodic rock band that formed from the ashes of Wildcat and Heaven, they combined a keyboard heavy approach with something more pompous and grand. Comparisons to Grand Prix, Journey and maybe even Magnum equally valid, while never quite nailing exactly what this outfit were all about. That said, that Glasgow were a British AOR act could never be in doubt as their sound was afflicted/boosted (delete as per your own taste) by possessing that slightly less polished sound that all UK acts of this era and style seemed to be lumbered/blessed with.

Ostensibly a four piece of Michael Boyle (vocals), Archie Dickson (guitar), Neil Russell (bass) and Joe Kilna (drums), by the time the quartet got as far as this one and only full length album they already had a single (released on Neat Records) and EP (Clyde Records) under their belts, and as such it found a quietly confident band heading into the studio for these sessions. With producer Kenny Denton (The Who/Status Quo) masterminding proceedings, he managed to coax keyboard legend Don Airey onboard for the recordings, with Grant Povey (Shakin’ Stevens) also adding some keyboard magic here and there. Factor in backing vocals from Manfed Mann Band man Chris Thompson on the cover of his very own “Secrets In The Dark” and there was also a certain star quality incorporated (and Ben Matthews, soon to be of Thunder, engineered the sessions!).

Having turned down an album deal with Neat (probably not the best move the band made), Zero Four One (named after the Glasgow telephone dialling code from the time) saw the light of day in 1987 through Sonet Records. With hindsight, the band’s mainman Archie Dickson now looks back on it proudly, but with a few reservations about the production - and great things were expected. In all honesty, I have to admit that I’m actually quite well acquainted with the album, with copies of copies having been passed round the Scottish scene for many a year and even with an excellent remastering job from AOR Heaven, the latest label to give this release (a limited to 500 copies) reissue (other very recent editions have come and gone adding extra material not featured here), the mix of cracking song writing and sonic problems continue to frustrate.

The main stumbling block, for me anyway, is singer Michael Boyle, who while possessing a serious low register explosion, seems to have been expected to operate at a much higher end of his abilities, and as such his Steve Perry meets Robin McAuley like exploits feel as though they’re almost constantly bouncing off a glass ceiling he can’t quite break through. It’s a real shame, because had he been treated more sympathetically, the results could have been astounding. As it is, the surprisingly straight ahead NWOBHM of “We Will Rock” opens the album’s account in fine style, before the then lead single “Secrets In The Dark” reveals the subsequent modus operandi, a smooth, slick, slightly pompous melodic rock sound becoming this band’s speciality. With hindsight, it really was a great choice of single, the catchy chorus and sharp guitar lines playing perfectly off clattering 80s styled drums and anchoring keyboards quite perfectly, while Boyle belts things out well within his comfort zone.

From there, however, “Back On The Run” illustrates the unavoidable vocal issues, a slow building rocker losing momentum, although the mid-paced burner, “Meet Me Halfway”, does a much better job of capturing the imagination. With “Breakout” sitting in a similar position tempo wise, things can become a little bogged down, but here the sharp little riffs ensure that everything locks in place, while “Under The Lights” injects a serious bout of energetic oomph.

Adding bonus cut “Will You Be Mine”, which sounds much more like keyboard driven pomp, and clearly comes from a different session sonically - what is clear from this reissue, is that Glasgow were so near and yet still a little too far from truly hitting the big time. They could write a chorus, for sure, and inject their songs with a believable energy through some excellent musicianship. However, what’s really lacking was a more in-tune production that highlighted the strengths of the band - and especially those of Boyle - and, in truth, a killer song with real hit single potential.

Still, coming with excellent liner notes from legendary rock words-man Dave Reynolds, this really is a welcome reissue from AOR Heaven. In the end, Zero Four One may be a little more ‘what could have been’, than ‘what should have been’, but it’s undoubtedly an interesting and hugely entertaining trip down UK melodic rock memory lane.

Track Listing
1. We Will Rock
2. Secrets In The Dark
3. Back On The Run
4. My Heart Is Running With The Night
5. Meet Me Halfway
6. Under The Lights
7. No More Lonely Nights
8. Breakout
9. Will You Be Mine

Added: March 5th 2021
Reviewer: Steven Reid
Related Link: Glasgow @ AOR Heaven
Hits: 192
Language: english

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