Released on November 18, 2022 (Frontiers)
There was a moment in the 1980s when Autograph’s future looked very promising. Backed by the single “Turn Up The Radio” — which achieved the 29th position on the US charts — the group’s debut LP Sign In Please (1984) surpassed the mark of 800,000 copies sold. But that was it — no other singles or albums released by the band even bordered the US Top 40. The classic line-up was gradually dismantled. Steve Plunkett, the vocalist, went on to dedicate himself to his career as a jingle singer. Steve Isham (keyboards) and Keni Richards (drums) passed away. The duo of guitarist Steve Lynch and bassist Randy Rand eventually reassembled the band with new members until the guitarist decided to dedicate himself to other projects — including writing an autobiography — leaving the bassist in charge of the activities.
Rand didn’t budge, and until his death in April, he kept Autograph in business. With the Brazilian Simon Daniels — formerly known as Danny Simon, from Jailhouse — on vocals, Jimi Bell (House of Lords) on guitar and Marc Wieland on drums, he left Beyond, the group’s new studio album and first for the Italian label Frontiers Records ready to go. And the result could not be more satisfying.
It should be noted that, stylistically, the Autograph of today bears little resemblance to that of nearly four decades ago. The sound is much more focused on classic rock and the absence of a keyboard player in the forefront gives greater prominence to the guitars. By the way, in this regard, Bell does not owe anything to his predecessor and, in some moments, even surpasses him in speed and in the volume of different techniques used per solo. Vocally, Daniels bears little resemblance to Plunkett, but lyrically, the two are on the same page; that is, little or no depth, a slightly limited lexicon, but perfection in the meter, accurate rhymes and verses of immediate assimilation. Rand and Wieland provide the basics, without trying to pull the spotlight on themselves, valuing the consistency that allows, especially Bell, to stand out.
“This Ain’t the Place I Wanna Be”, an ode to restlessness, opens the album with one of its best choruses. In the sequel, “Your Slave Tonight” and “Everything” follow an almost European hard rock pattern with regard to timbres; with the addition that the second features one of the best shreddings of Bell’s career. “Gotta Getcha” has the entire band contributing with vocals. “Take Me Higher” borrows too much from the verse structure of Def Leppard’s “Hysteria,” in the ballad moment that ends the album’s first half. More nods to modernity can be heard on “Run For Your Life”. Then “Beautiful Disaster”, with a much less elaborate construction, comes as a counterpoint and serves as a reminder that sometimes, less is more. “Love Is A Double Edge Sword” brings in with the title, the premise of love advice in the lyrics. Of all the songs, this and the next, “Heart of Stone,” are the most reminiscent of the old-time Autograph. Elton John and Thin Lizzy together? “Feels So Good” is a proof that yes, it is possible and, yes, it sounds amazing. Pardon the pun, “Flying High” keeps the mood flying high and passes the baton to the ultimate “To Be Together,” which Daniels seems to sing while trying to hold back tears, and which sounds like a tribute to his late friend and bandmate.
Much is to be said about the Autograph in the near future. By all appearances, Lynch is pulling strings to claim the rights to the name, which has been used by Daniels, Bell and Wieland since Rand’s passing. The three of them made it clear that they would carry on as a tribute, with the blessing of the bassist’s widow and a sizeable portion of the fans. To those who do not believe in the viability of this line-up, a piece of advice — listen to Beyond and realize that there is indeed potential and talent for building a new story.
01. This Ain’t The Place I Wanna Be
2. Your Slave Tonight
4. Gotta Getcha
5. Take Me Higher
6. Run For Your Life
7. Beautiful Disaster
8. Love Is A Double Edge Sword
9. Heart of Stone
10. Feels So Good
11. Flying High
12. To Be Together
Bonus digital track:
13. Mind of Fear
Simon Daniels – lead vocals, guitar
Randy Rand – bass
Marc Wieland – drums
Jimi Bell – lead guitar
Autograph‘s “This Ain’t The Place I Wanna Be” video:
Autograph‘s “To Be Together” lyric video:
Autograph‘s “Take Me Higher” lyric video: