Avenue of Allies reaches back to the early Nineties to resurrect the obscure 'could-have-been' band If Only. Formed from the classic UK band Moritz by Greg Hart with alumni Ian Edwards (b), Andy Stewart (k), and Andy Elphick (d), and Larraine Bennington on vocals, If Only's history, rise and fall, is both arduous and tortuous. Talent and compromising passion for AOR melodic rock brought great promise and attention.
The latter from Asia keyboard player Geoff Downes. He was so smitten by the band he demanded to produce what would be their one and only release No Bed of Roses. Additionally, the band gets support from guitarist Martin Chaisson (UFO, Waysted), Mike Moran (Queen, Gotthard), and Geoff Downes himself. Even Queen's Brian May was offered a place in the Freddie Mercury tribute Man Against the World, but timing and scheduling wouldn't allow it.
Bennington bailed, only to be replaced by ex-Girlschool vocalist Jackie Bodimead. (Several songs she coauthored appear here). Yet, in the seemingly never-ending process of recording this debut, Bodimead also bailed. Enter Londoner Tina Eagen, and re-recording begins. Promise nears reality, but grunge looms even closer. The album is released, with little support and no distribution in Europe. The end is nigh: the band dissolves.
Fundamentally, the question remains concerning If Only's No Bed of Roses: should we really care or have some interest in this work, a project, it seems, that was destined for failure?
Honestly, I'm ambivalent, though I do like what I hear on No Bed of Roses. There is little doubt that If Only had their finger on the pulse Eighties melodic hard rock, and checking the pictures they had the big fluffy hair to match. Allow them, in 1992, to travel back in time five years, then they would have challenged an American AOR band. If Love Could Last Forever is a noteworthy rock anthem/ballad. Easy Lay both rocks and challenges sexual mores. Rock and a Hard Place and Loaded Gun display If Only's hard rock credentials and Tina Egan's grit.
But, generally, the tracking is a blur, with some songs being simply too long when the point was already made. No Bed of Roses includes material recorded with second vocalist Jackie Bodimead. Not favoring her against Egan, I think the songs are better. But, alas, even that subjective observation seems trivial. The work closes with a live tune called Tight Jeans, with no mention of who the vocalist may be. But the vibe certainly suggests the aforementioned power and promise of this band.
If Only's No Bed of Roses allows a glimpse into the history of a promising AOR melodic rock band in the dangerous early Nineties. Yet, If Only still offers some amazing talent and good tunes.
If Only's No Bed of Roses allows a glimpse into the history of a promising AOR melodic rock band in the dangerous early Nineties. However, the turmoil of the times crippled this well-talented band.
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