Released 1997 (Higher Source Records/Avispa)
02. Downtown Playground
04. Bullet To Gatwick
05. I Needed Someone
08. American Red, White And Blues
09. Beast Inside
10. Mona Lisa
11. Gimme Some Truth
Mark Mason – lead vocals, bass and acoustic guitar
Louren Molinare – guitar, acoustic guitar and vocals
Jason Carroll – guitar and vocals
Mike Kroeger – drums
Tom Mullaney – keyboards and vocals
Earl Slick – guitar (11)
Ron Young – backing vocals
Pam Cox – backing vocals
Jeff Conaway – backing vocals
Produced, engineered and mixed by Duane Baron and Jeff Klaven.
Not long ago I reviewed a late-80s album by a little-known band called Ampage, not knowing if anyone would remember them or not (or even care). However I enjoy spinning obscure 80s rock from time to time and to my surprise vocalist Mark Mason saw the review and informed me that he had recorded a couple more albums under the Ampage moniker.
Of course I was curious to hear the newer material, wondering how the band had changed in the ten plus years between the debut and 1997’s Iron Horse. With a new group of musicians, including former Little Caesar guitarist Louren Molinare, Mason managed to snag famed producer Duane Baron in an effort to reinvent himself. And reinvent himself he has done successfully, maturing from glam influenced hard rock to blues-based roots rock.
Mellow one moment and straight-ahead rock the next, Iron Horse gracefully slides from one sound to another – occasionally within a single song itself, like on “Downtown Play Ground”. “Bullet To Gatwick” and the W.A.S.P.-like “Beast Inside” are the tunes that have the most in common with the days gone by. But as a whole this sounds like an album by a musician who simply felt like experimenting, refusing to be pigeonholed within a single genre. For kicks try singing along to the tongue-twisting chorus of “Bamboozaler” (I finally gave up), or better yet try to stop yourself from singing along to the exceptional “Mona Lisa” which treads into Dogs D’amour territory.
As icing on the cake you have the mid-tempo “Heaven” (co-written by Tommy Shaw) and an appearance by Earl Slick on a great cover of John Lennon‘s “Gimme Some Truth”. If I had to choose one band to compare this Ampage album to I would lean towards the London Quireboys, it has that same sort of 70s roots feel.