Laurie Mansworth had already seen action with NWOBHM act More when in 1982 he decided on a more transatlantic musical approach for his next musical venture. The result was Airrace and a deal was quickly inked with Atco/Atlantic records for their debut album ‘Shaft Of Light’ produced by Beau Hill (Ratt, Streets, Kix). The 1984 release of the album was well received by press and fans alike, although the majority of the reviews did focus on teenage drummer Jason Bonham (Foreigner, Black Country Communion) for obvious reasons. This did the band a disservice as ‘Shaft Of Light’ had some fine tunes, a terrific singer in Keith Murrell (Mama’s Boys, Cliff Richard), Toby Sadler’s (GTS, Samson) tasteful keys and Mansworth’s punchy guitar contributions. The band toured with heavyweight acts such as Queen, Meat Loaf and AC/DC but by 1985 Airrace was over and the band members went their separate ways. In 2011 Mansworth, Murrell and bassist Jim Reid reformed as Airrace and signed a deal with Frontiers which resulted in ‘Back To The Start’ and a busy touring schedule before things again went a little quiet. Fast forward to 2018 and Airrace are back again with ‘Untold Stories’ as classy a piece of 70’s influenced AOR as you’ll hear this year.
This is very much a new start as Mansworth has put together a totally new Airrace and the third time is definitely the charm. Linda Kelsey Foster’s keys combine with Mansworth’s melodic guitar lines to usher in ‘Running Out Of Time’ and it’s immediately obvious this is the Airrace we remember. The really big winner here is the listener as the song is beautifully constructed and full of light and shade while new singer Adam Payne makes an instant impression with a fine vocal. A trick they repeat on ‘Innocent’ as Mansworth’s insistent guitar gives way to a beautifully performed breakdown before ‘Eyes Of Fire’ changes tact a little with Foster’s synths adding a little darkness to proceedings. ‘Different But The Same’ is up next and Payne and Mansworth both seem to be having fun with their Led Zeppelin influences on show for all to see. Drummer Dhani Mansworth and veteran bassist Rocky Newton (McAuley Schenker Group/Lionheart) lock together well here and I’m guessing Dhani will be pretty busy on the upcoming tour as he’ll be pulling double duty with his other band The Treatment on the bill.
The catchy ‘New Skin’ utilizes a guitar/organ combination that brings to mind ‘Ready and Willing’ era Whitesnake before the band take a real left turn with ‘Lost’ a big piano ballad awash with backing vocals that would make Jeff Lynne proud. Unexpected but very cool. The 70’s influence continues on ‘Love Is Love’ which sounds like Supertramp with added punch, the vocal chorus melody here is just wonderful (fans of Cats In Space will absolutely love this) and Mansworth’s guitar playing is perfect for the tune. The big riffs are back for the Deep Purplesque ‘Men From The Boys’ and again Adam Payne is comfortable with anything the band throws at him. Recent single ‘Summer Rain’ should have been the hit of the summer, if we’d actually had any rain…If I was a TV talent show winner or in a boy band I’d be snapping this up immediately as ‘Summer Rain’ is as soulful a slab of pop rock as I’ve heard in years. The album concludes with the one-two punch of ‘Come With Us’ and ‘Here It Comes’ which sound like a cross between Thunder and Little Angels, not bands I was ever particularly enthralled by but ‘Here It Comes’ is especially catchy and will go down well live.
‘Untold Stories’ features some really great tunes in a wide variety of styles without losing continuity and Adam Payne is a real find. I’m pleased to report Airrace in 2018 are alive and well which makes the world a slightly better place.
Upcoming Airrace tour dates. Please note all dates are subject to change: