There are many who have graced the stages across the years with their own take on a vast and expanding rock scene, there aren’t too many who can boast sharing those bills with the likes of Bon Jovi, Meatloaf, Twisted Sister and Ozzy Osbourne. Having fronted Shy, TNT and SIAM, Tony Mills was a staple vocalist of that eighties rock that paved its way across various levels of the genre. His falsetto vocal and power enabled him to command a stage to his adoring fans but also amass thirty-three albums in the studio.
His solo career gave us six albums showcasing his writing and his passions along the way, his final album ‘Beyond The Law’ was released three months prior to his untimely passing at 57. Having been co-written with by Tommy Denander (Alice Cooper), Peter Newdeck (Midnight City), and Patrick McKenna (Shy), at only 44 minutes in total across ten tracks, we are reminded that the eighties were a simpler time when you could hit home your product within a few minutes for fans.
It is a nod to the eighties in every way and whilst maybe not as heavy as prior albums, we are taken through a record that is drenched in riffs, heavy basslines and the vocal pitch that we are accustomed to with the legend that is Tony Mills.
Amongst the album sits catchy tracks like ‘The Westside’, with its bassline flowing through an almost musical number. It’s a strong start to the album for Tony’s vocals, prompting us to remember that he didn’t faulter like some other front men of the eighties. Tony’s vocals remain strong not only on this number but across the whole album.
We are gifted with tracks that want to make you sing along to like ‘F. B.I.’ with its fast beating chug riff and solid drums from Pete Newdeck. The title track ‘Beyond The Law’ is a full-blown synth rock number, as a sledging eighties guitar riff plays over the keys, both played by Tommy Denander on the album.
‘Running Guns’ is a stellar soundtrack number, everything about it screams the era that it was born, from the intro on piano that feels like it fell from Labyrinth or Never-Ending Story to the guitar riff that follows, Tony’s vocals again surpassing his legacy. ‘Black Sedan’ has an intro guitar that is reminiscent of a Prince single with its echoing crisp lines, this rolls into a funky, rock track that will be a firm favourite of any Tony Mills fan. ‘We Sold Your City’ and ‘Crackin’ Foxy’ are memorable numbers filled with edging guitar riffs and solos. There is something for any fan within these two.
A love note decorates the album in ‘Bonnie’s Farewell’, the keys and saxophone speaks volumes in how a classic rock ballad of the era should sound. The production and musicianship through are remarkable and show Tony’s vocals and emotive connection to the song. One element the period gave us was harmonies and ‘Bonnies Farewell’ demonstrates how well the artists could sing and harmonise together.
‘Code of Silence’ is a track I wasn’t expecting but I’m impressed it is on the album, it’s that old style southern rock blues that you don’t tend to find in Tony’s home town of Solihull, Birmingham. It’s a refreshing southern rock ballad within an album drenched in synth and rock, I do wish there had been more like this on the album as Tony’s vocal fit perfectly and his fun within the song is apparent in the tone and energy of his voice.
The finale is a track to the bpm of a Tommy Gun coming at you. ‘Gunfire’ has fun hooks, it’s a catchy fast rock track. Taking a tempo change during the chorus to slow down so that Tony’s lines are emphasized, it then kicks back into a propelling track. The vocal choir aches of Bruce Dickinson in those stadium and festival moments. The track is a quality finish to an album that fans will love and one that will leave a lasting legacy for a man who has amassed a stellar career.
Thank you for the music.
Tony Mills, the man, the legend.
Beyond the Law The West Side Running Guns We Sold Your City Black Sedan F.B.I. Crackin’ Foxy Code of Silence Bonnie’s Farewell Gunfire
Album review conducted for The Rockpit, Australia 28 September 2020