BIG LIFE (UK) – Big Life (2011)
BIG LIFE is a new project featuring the immense talents of the UK’s melodic rock gurus, Steve Newman (Newman) and ex-Praying Mantis frontman, Mark Thompson-Smith.
Steve Newman’s reputation in the Melodic Rock circuit is impressive – with eight immense Newman albums released in the last decade, the latest being the highly acclaimed ‘The Art Of Balance’.
Add to this his work on other albums with artists such as Atlantic, Steve Overland, Eden, AOR Project, Frozen Rain, Far Cry, Grand Illusion and Phenomena.
Mark Thompson-Smith re-emerges from the shadows after a lengthy period out of the limelight to more than demonstrate that time has not dulled his impressive vocal powers.
Best known as the singer with Praying Mantis in the early 90’s and as guest vocalist in The Sweet in 2005, he has also featured as frontman for various 80’s UK bands such as Idol Rich featuring Nick Burr (Lionsheart), Touche featuring Mark and Steve Owers (After Hours, Lionsheart) and Flight 19, with former Praying Mantis producer and keyboardist Gary Flounders, featured on the Metal For Muthas II compilation.
When he was part of Praying Mantis, Mark met Steve and although a proposed link up band wise did not materialize with Mark ‘retiring from the music business’ to pursue a different career, they became firm friends with Mark lending an ear to Steve’s songs and helping with the occasional backing vocals on the constant stream of excellent Newman albums.
In 2005, after a successful tour of Sweden with The Sweet, Mark renewed his passion for singing further and so he sought out Steve to embark on a brand new musical adventure… BIG LIFE.
The guys are joined by Rob McEwen, the outstanding drumming talent on the last 3 Newman albums, and all recordings have taken place at Steve’s own studio ‘The Blue Room’ in England where he also produced and engineered the album.
After listening through a couple of times it became quickly apparent to me that this is one the best things Steve’s ever done as a producer and musician.
The album does have elements from his own band, but with more classic ’80s elements, and the contribution of Thompson-Smith (and his vocal arrangements) enhances this album to the top.
Opener “Dying Day” is a full on rocker, with a massive guitar riff and some thunderous bass and drums, giving the song a great melodic rock swagger. It opens the album with a bang.
There are some extremely effective use of keyboards on “Close To You” – another big riff rocker with an instant fist pumping rocking chorus. There is a great build up in the verses which gives the chorus even more punch. Great song.
“Better Man” is another winner. Full of hooks, melodies to kill for and a huge sing-a-long chorus with big pomp keyboards and clever lyrics.
“Calling” is a fantastic epic sounding rocker with some eastern elements, with a huge chorus and a killer guitar solo. This track has also a terrific rhythm section. Mark Thompson-Smith shines here, what a great singer. Where have you been?
Mid-tempo ballad “I’ll Still Be Here” is an instant hit. It has an extremely smooth commercial AOR sound, great lyrics again and an infectiously instant melody on the chorus which makes this one of the stand out tracks on the album.
On at “At The End Of My Rainbow” the band explores a more modern territory, but the chorus is classy and infectious.
“Leaves” is a bit of moody number, a stripped song with some bluesy vibe and acoustic guitars. A very interesting song that adds diversity to the album.
“Takin’ Me Down” has a great song structure which again makes the chorus that more instant, and after you’ve finished singing along to the chorus you can enjoy another top draw guitar solo.
Final track is the intimate ballad “Nothing Without You”. Just guitars, vocals and occasional drums makes this tune one of the more original songs of the CD.
Bonus track “Special Relationship” is a melodic rocker with a catchy riff with a real old school Newman vibe.
With BIG LIFE Steve Newman has definitely honed his craft to create one of the best works of his prolific career.
The chemistry with Mark Thompson-Smith is evident on each track, blending their talents into classy material, but with their own approach and a fresh modern sound.
This is British Melodic Rock at its finest, full of hooks, huge melodies and killer musicianship, perfectly produced and arranged.
One of the highlights of the year without a doubt.
01 – Dying Day
02 – Close To You
03 – Better Man
04 – Calling
05 – I’ll Still Be Here
06 – Feel Alive
07 – Deep Water
08 – At The End Of My Rainbow
09 – Leaves
10 – Stop In Time
11 – Takin’ Me Down
12 – Nothing Without You
13 – Special Relationship (bonus track)
Steve Newman – Vocals, Guitar, Bass, Keyboards
Mark Thompson-Smith – Vocals
Rob McEwen – Drums
IF YOU LIKE IT, BUY IT!