IAN TOOMEY – Ascension (independent release)
After three solo singles over the past few years Bitches Sin guitarist and founder member Ian Toomey has taken the plunge and come up with his first solo album, and extremely good it is, too. Backed by what is the modern-day Bitches Sin line-up anyway – and even featuring his ’Sin co-founder and co-guitarist brother Pete as well – the album could at one stage have appeared as the follow-up to Bitches Sin’s 2011 offering ‘The Rapture’; but as Toomey notes in the CD booklet, having been unable to choose which way to go “I decided to wait until recording commenced to see how things unfolded.” As any Bitches Sin fan will tell you, Toomey’s preferred way of working is to have everything written and fully rehearsed before the recording light goes on, and then hammer the songs out as quickly and spontaneously as possible. This time though he decided to write in the studio, something he’d done successfully before with his second single ‘Never Alone’ (which is included on ‘Ascension’). “As they songs evolved,” he notes, “it became evident that while there was a thread ’Sin in some of them there was none at all in the others,” and with a clutch of deeply introspective and personal lyrics already in his head the decision to put out the recordings under his own name was pretty easy to make.
Just because the lyrics are deeply personal though doesn’t mean Toomey has stopped talking with his hands. ‘Ascension’ is full of delicious riffs and licks, and the guitar work which flows over and above the melody line of ‘Superman’, for example, is close to divine (while the short early break and main solo are straight out of the Bitches Sin songbook). Toomey has lost none of his edge, although here the songs frame the solos, whereas in the ‘day job’ often the reverse is correct.
Nothing is fully ‘solo’ unless you play the whole kit ‘n’ caboodle yourself, though, and the rest of the band have never really received the accolades they deserve. Bassist Dan McNamee and drummer Steve Turton combined are a rock-solid backbone, Turton in particular making his presence well known without ever overplaying, and David A. Mills is a great singer full-stop: his performance in ‘Very Soon Everyone’s Leaving’ – Toomey’s first solo single which puts in an appearance in the album’s middle order –is little short of spellbinding. And weaving his magic as well as adding guitars and keyboards is Toomey’s long-term collaborator and friend and producer extraordinaire Chris Tsangarides.
Highlights? Well, there are eight of them on this eight-track collection, but I’m a sucker for the aforementioned ‘Superman’ as well as the groove that underpins ‘Never Alone’. And last but by no means least, the album’s set closer and title track is a powerful tour de force, driven by Mills’ husky, evocative vocals, a repetitive refrain that’s impossible to shake from your head and an understated guitar solo that Ritchie Blackmore in his glory days would have been proud of. At six-and-a-half minutes the song truly dominates the album anyway, but it’s one of those tracks that you wish would just go on for ever.
There is nothing not to like here. Trust me on this. For more information go to www.iantoomey.com
© John Tucker June 2015