album reviews‎ > ‎

Big Life - Big Life

posted 5 Sep 2011, 16:01 by Paul Woodward
(AOR Heaven)

Review by Woody

Big Life are a band put together by long time friends Mark Thompson Smith (Vocals) and  Steve Newman (Guitars & Keyboards) and on disc they are joined by Rob McEwen on Drums. The album was recorded, mixed and mastered at Newman’s home studio “The Blue Room” – unfortunately it’s called that cause it really is blue not for any cheeky grin inducing reasons. This debut album has been a long time coming with songs been written in-between 2005-2010!

Vocalist Mark Thompson-Smith has sort of been in self imposed exile since his stint with Praying Mantis in the early 90’s, and judging by his stellar vocals we’ve really missed out having such a strong British vocalist involved in the melodic rock scene. Hopefully this album is just the beginning of even more music involving his voice and song writing! Mark has proved on this album he is a great lyricist to even rival Newman, one of the main reasons I have taken to this album is the lyric’s many of which I find it very easy to connect with.

I’m a massive fan of Steve Newman so I was really looking forward to this album – especially after Steve let me hear a preview of “Better Man” prior to the album’s release which had me chomping at the bit to hear the full album. I wasn’t disappointed in the slightest either! It’s not a Newman album with a guest vocalist, whilst you can tell Steve’s involved, it is different enough for the band to have its own identity and allow Steve to play and write in less expected styles.

This isn’t an album for kids and I don’t mean that in bad way, lyrically and musically this is a really deep and mature collection of songs. You’re not going to find throw away party songs on here! This is an album which will definitely stick with you and you will return to it year after year, Full of relatable and powerful lyric’s and melodies that will haunt you. Thompson-Smith’s vocals are strong throughout and on many of the songs extremely expressive and passionate giving many of the lyrics more impact! Newman does what he does best, memorable guitar riffs and licks in abundance, and this album see’s Steve in a more atmospheric, laidback and soulful mood – oh and Steve’s keyboard work no matter how subtle brings out the best in many of the songs.

The album opens with mid-tempo rocker “Dying Day” which contains a killer riff and memorable guitar licks from Steve. An insistent memorable chorus makes this a good choice to start the album. I heard “Close To You” on the radio prior to hearing the album and I have to admit it left me cold, but since having the album the song has really grown on me. There is some wonderful guitar and keyboard work on this song but the keys on the chorus are a particular standout! The song which should be the natural choice for single is “Better Man” a song that is instantly enjoyable, pure ear candy! A very powerful and emotive song and Mark’s passionate vocals deliver the fantastic lyrics powerfully. You’ll also hear some haunting keyboard work on this track; it’s definitely a song I will return to again and again.

“Calling” has an eastern flavoured musical intro before kicking in and this highlights probably Rob McEwen’s best drum performance on the album and his playing gives the song some real fire. It has a driving hook filled chorus which will imbed itself in your head after a few spins. Also check out the awesome keyboards in the guitar solo, also the melodic guitar solo is pretty kick ass too! Ballad “I’ll Still Be Here” has a light and airy chorus which reminds me of bands like REO Speedwagon. This song has real depth and power with great lyrics. “Feel Alive” has an old school Newman type guitar riff, a strong song in many ways but the odd feeling chorus loses me a little.

The ballad “Deep Water” is atmospheric and powerful with some emotive and stirring vocals from Mark. Steve delivers some wonderful guitar licks which enhance the musically melancholic flow of this song – a truly memorable song. “At The End Of The Rainbow” made me instantly think of prog heroes It Bites. I think Mark’s vocals on this are very strong and I totally adore Steve’s guitar solo.

“Taking Me Down” has a hard rocking riff; actually it’s probably the hardest track on the album but also has some of the best and most instant melodies on the album. The melodies on the pre-chorus are killer and the fist pumping sing along chorus will stick with you, a definite stand out track which should go down a treat live also – “Cause I’m A Lover Not A Fighter”. “Nothing Without You” is a stripped bare ballad which is intensely powerful and features tremendously emotive vocals. Most bands would kill to write a song that could have this impact! After my first spin this was the first song I returned to and it feature’s one of Mark’s finest vocal performances.

It’s AOR for grown up’s and it’s an album that will never collect dust on your shelf, unlike many instant gratification party rock albums which die a quick death after a short time, in comparison with its depth and power Big Life will continue to return to your CD player year after year.

Track Listing: Dying Day / Close To You / Better Man / Calling / I’ll Still Be Here / Feel Alive / Deep Water / At The End Of My Rainbow / Leaves / Stop In Time / Takin’ Me Down / Nothing Without You

Album Rating: 8/10

Woody’s Essential Track: Stop In Time

Big Life is out now and available from all good retailers and