November 25, 2020

Ah, glory days… it’s yesterday once more…

For those who still don’t know, Cats In Space are a UK retro six-piece pop-rock band. Their mission is to reproduce the best of the music they grew up with: a mixture of classic rock and glam pop, with loads of harmony guitars and lush layered vocals. But no covers band this – their music is all original and pays tribute to the past without compromising on sound or production quality; somehow managing to walk the line between tongue-in-cheek mischievousness and deadly serious musical values, always staying just the right side of kitsch. From this writer’s point of view, the best of it is that they are all about my age, so the music they are paying homage to clatters bells in my mind, brand new but somehow nostalgic. Yes, I admit it – I love the Cats and couldn’t wait to get my hands on this new platter, their fourth full studio offering.

Nevertheless, I admit to suffering a fit of dismay when ace vocalist Paul Manzi quit the band for veteran rockers Sweet, and I wondered who could possibly fill his shoes. The answer is stage singer Damien Edwards. I say ‘stage singer’ because unlike the rest of the band, he doesn’t have a lengthy CV of famous and nearly-famous band experiences – instead, he is best known for stage musicals, having covered Phil Lynott’s role as Parson Nathanael in Jeff Wayne’s War Of The Worlds for several years, as well as acting the title role in The Roy Orbison Story. That in itself should tell us as much about Edwards’ versatility as we need to know; what it doesn’t necessarily indicate is his huge vocal range, which is brought out in full force with some tweeter-frying high notes reminiscent of Boston’s Brad Delp in that band’s heyday. In fact, if you’re into Queen and/or Boston, then this album should definitely be on your list for Santa.

Let’s start at the beginning though, with album opener Spaceship Superstar – OK, not quite the opener, as there are a couple of minutes of on-board submarine sound effects to set up the Atlantis concept before this melodic metal masterpiece bursts from the speakers. Spaceship Superstar sounds like a glam rock title, and that’s what it is – melodic and catchy, but hard and heavy at the same time. Not, perhaps, as overtly flashy as Justin Hawkins in The Darkness, but that is the kind of area we’re looking at.

Second track Revolution goes heavier still, until the band’s traditional humorous social comment asserts itself with a mickey-taking mention of a “monkey in the White House” and lush Freddie Mercury-style harmony vocals. Sunday Best is a chugging 1970s glam number with more than a hint of Mr. Blue Sky about it, while Listen To The Radio goes full Boston with massed vocal harmonies that stretch to some impossibly high notes.

The foot comes off the accelerator somewhat for the album’s lead single I Fell Out Of Love With Rock’n’Roll next, a ballad with a sweet piano intro. There is still a good helping of Queen’s Sheer Heart Attack phase in there, in both the vocals and the guitars; a cross between She Makes Me and Tenement Funster amongst others, with a name-check for T-Rex. Marionettes starts off a bit stilted to these ears, until it suddenly lets rip with a big, heavy rock section before drifting off into Pink Floyd introspection, complete with musing slide guitar and soft chords – but then we are back to the rock for the excellent Queen Of the Neverland , with its Paradise City-inspired hard rock riff.

Magic Lovin’ Feelin’ is exactly what it sounds like; a melodic pop song strummed on an acoustic guitar, while Can’t Wait For Tomorrow goes even further in this direction, reminiscent of Van Morrison’s Moondance. The guitar sound is given a much rawer, raspier treatment in the penultimate number, Seasons Change, with overtones of Queen’s Hammer To Fall, but the closer and title track is perhaps the biggest showpiece on the album, with orchestration by septuagenarian composer Mike Moran. Remember him? His credits include soundtracks for some major films of the 1980s, plus a spell as keyboard player in the Ian Gillan band. But for people of a certain age, he will always be the guy who duetted with blonde bombshell Lynsey de Paul on the song Rock Bottom at the 1977 Eurovision Song Contest. It came second, but it should have won, right?

The final number fades into another set of sound effects, giving the album 47 minutes of run time in all; just slightly too long to record on to one side of a C-90 cassette. Unless you had one of those record decks where you could slightly speed up the rotation rate, as we did. Ah, glory days… it’s yesterday once more.