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Harnell; Tony & The Mercury Train: Round Trip

Whilst he hasn't been involved with the band since 2006, Tony Harnell is still undoubtedly best known as the front man of Norwegian melodic rockers TNT. Since his departure from that band Tony has spread his wings musically with projects as diverse as the beefed up melodic rock of Westworld, the more organic nod to the sixties and seventies in Morning Wood and the altogether heavier beast that is Starbreaker. However even with that broad musical spectrum being covered in a little under four years (although some of these projects were underway while Tony was also still in TNT), Harnell seems unable to escape the spectre of his first band. So in an attempt to both honour and distance himself from what has come before, Tony Harnell & The Mercury Train have seen fit to rework a selection of Harnell's best work in a stripped back acoustic setting. While the acoustic route may well be seen as a quite "fashionable" at the moment, there are obviously two opposite directions that an artist can take with them. Either you can just unplug and play the songs as they were written (this was the idea that was first floated to Frontiers to gain their backing for the project), or as has in the main happened here you can rearrange the songs from scratch and provide a completely new slant on them altogether.

Leaning, not too surprisingly, strongly on Tony's time with TNT, The Mercury Train have changed the time signatures, instrumentation and genre specific approach that these songs are known for and presented them as laid back acoustic work outs that allow Harnell's amazingly impressive voice to stretch out and dominate, without ever hitting the stratosphere as he did with these songs originally and the effect is quite wonderful. I have to admit as to being a sucker for early TNT, so I immediately gravitated towards "Intuition", "Northern Lights" and "10K Lovers" and in a way those three numbers give an excellent insight to what Round Trip has to offer. The first of the three is a bright, straight forward acoustic rendition of an already wonderful song and if you've heard any of Danny Vaughn's (Tyketto) acoustic work, then this fits nicely into the same bracket. "Northern Lights" on the other hand is only really recognisable through Tony's lyrics and vocals, with a sparse arrangement adding an aching melancholy to an already heart tugger of a songs and while I love the original, I have to say I would happily listen to this version over and over. On the other end of the spectrum is the grooving bassline that glides through "10K Lovers" and if "Northern Lights" was unrecognisable, then this track is basically a different song. A lazy acoustic strum is backed with hand shakers and claps, Tony's wonderful croon and a swirling guitar solo. It is a beautiful song, even if it is a little hard to digest first time round. In fact it wouldn't be out of place on a Kip Winger solo disc. As with most songs here, the more time you spend with them, the more rewards you have bestowed upon you. Other feels and approaches can also be found with the Westworld track "Uninvited" coming on like a dramatic piece from a msical that you can almost hear Dennis DeYoung belting. "Shame", another Westworld number, sees Tony dueting with Sandi Saraya, from the band Saraya, to great effect as the pair revel in trying to outdo each other's performance in a manner that ends up being twice as strong as they egg each other on. There's also a wonderful traditional acapella harmony intro to "Down To The River To Pray" before a marvellous piece of ukulele carries the rhythm and lifts another stunning vocal arrangement.

The other musicians that make up the Mercury Train (Jason Hagen acoustic guitar and ukulele, Chris Foley electric guitar, Brandon Wilde bass, Brad Gunyon drums & percussion and Amy Anderson-Harnell vocals & recorder) are not known for their "rock" credentials and supposedly Tony gave them almost a free reign to work out the basic tracks, before he added his magic to them and that faith Harnell showed in his band mates has paid of big time. Tony views Round Trip as an opportunity to respectfully close the door on the music from his past, before moving onto pastures new and with this set of songs he has chosen a most unusual, but remarkably strong manner in which to do so. Give me this over a traditional "Best Of" any day.

Track Listing
01. Somebody Told You
02. Intuition
03. Month Of Sundays
04. Lonely Nights
05. Shame
06. Northern Lights
07. Down To The River To Pray
08. Satellite
09. 10K Lovers
10. Uninvited
11. Ready To Fly
12. When I'm Away
13. Song For Dianne
14. Anywhere But Here

Added: July 22nd 2010
Reviewer: Steven Reid
Related Link: Tony Harnell's MySpace
Hits: 2371
Language: english

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