Review: Cats in Space – Atlantis
Harmony Factory / Cargo Records UK (November 27th 2020)
Reviewer: David Pearce
Cards on the table here. I first saw Cats in Space at the Ramblin’ Man Festival in 2016 when they appeared on the Rising Stage. Not only did they blow away all the other acts on that stage, but they were also way better than at least one of the weekend headliners on the Main Stage. Since then I have been a huge fan of theirs and have enjoyed pretty much everything they’ve done.
The Cats started off as a group of like-minded musicians who had all been round the block, singing or playing with various acts including the later incarnations of Glam Rock legends like Sweet. What came across straight away was the sheer love they had for the music and the massive buzz they got from being on stage.
The five musicians that they had on the stage that day have remained ever presents over the space of four years and five albums. Greg Hart and Dean Howard on guitars, Jeff Brown on bass, Andy Stewart on keyboards and Steevi Bacon on drums are the talented quintet that give the singer an incredible base to launch from.
The first three albums saw Paul Manzi take lead vocals and his glam rock voice was the perfect vehicle for their clever and often very funny lyrics. Last year, Manzi moved to 70s legends The Sweet and was replaced by Mark Pascall for the album ‘My Kind of Christmas‘, which featured the best festive song in the last 20 years courtesy of the title track. Pascall brought a smoother and more understated touch to the vocals that worked very well with the songs on that album. For ‘Atlantis‘, the Cats have turned to Damien Edwards who is steeped in 70s music and toured with the War of the Worlds stage show. The stage was now set for the Cats to fully embrace a more expansive sound.
The first track on ‘Atlantis‘ is ‘Dive‘. Various sea bound noises such as sonar and a submarine alarm lead into a massive guitar riff that reminds me of All Night Long by Rainbow. It sets the scene for the big sound that the album is searching for.
The first full singing track is ‘Spaceship Superstar‘. Damien Edwards’ singing makes an immediate impression as he soars through the song which has echoes of Queen and ELO, but which is unmistakeably Cats in Space. With the new vocalist the writers seem to have decided to take the chance to make the sound fuller and rockier than before. At times during this song you almost swear that Brian May is making an uncredited cameo and I can’t give much higher praise than that.
‘Revolution‘ is a driving rock track that showcases a more laconic style of singing and hints at the range of styles Edwards can master. It then heads into Iron Maiden territory as the band let rip and show a heavier side than they have demonstrated in the past. ‘Sunday Best‘ is a singalong style piano track that is just joyful and makes you smile as you listen to the lyrics. It’s a blast!
‘Listen to the Radio‘ is another consummate rock track that sounds instantly familiar due to a marvellous guitar riff. Inside four songs the Cats have tapped into four different styles of music and carried them all off brilliantly whilst still keeping a signature sound. It’s no mean feat. The single from the album ‘I Fell out of Love with Rock ‘n’ Roll‘ is just fantastic as it gives a verbal kicking to grunge and similar styles of rock!
Whether you agree with the sentiments it can’t be denied that Cats in Space are bringing back the music of the 70s and 80s with real panache and affection. As with everything else on the album, Edwards just nails the song from the first note. This guy is so good it’s amazing!
‘Marionettes‘ is a Queen style rock ballad which has three separate sections in Innuendo style but it has an unusual subject matter. It reflects on the way that media these days tries to control and brainwash us. The lyrics definitely make some valid points along the way and the song finishes with the exhortation “Don’t forget. Don’t be a marionette“. ‘Queen of the Neverland‘ is possibly the heaviest track that Cats in Space have ever done as Edwards proves that he can stand comparison with frontmen like Bruce Dickinson. Typically, there is a subtler guitar riff just to make you sit up and take notice before it returns to Heavy Metal.
‘Magic Lovin Feelin‘ is bubblegum style pop with a tune that just puts a grin on your face as soon as you hear it. It’s got lovely lyrics and I couldn’t resist it. I may be on my own here, but it’s my favourite track on the album. ‘Can’t Wait Till Tomorrow‘ is reminiscent of Horse With No Name in its verses but the gorgeous chorus is pure early 70s ballad of the type that David Soul specialised in.
‘Seasons Change‘ even takes on the task of melding Abba style verses with a Queen style chorus without coming unstuck. Then there is a hint of Forever Autumn in the guitar solo, appropriately enough for a group whose singer has appeared in War of the Worlds. The final track is the title track. ‘Alantis‘, a reflective ballad, could not be a more perfect song to bring this album to the close as it really showcases the brilliance of Edwards who nails the ‘Freddieness’ of the song perfectly.
This is unquestionably Cats in Space best album so far and in Damien Edwards they have unearthed a vocalist capable of the most incredible and sustained vocal performances across a range of rock styles. As it’s November I am going to call it. This is the best rock album of the year, full stop!
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