Tora Tora: ‘Unplugged’

Released in the summer of 2020 (Tora Tora)

After seeing Tora Tora frontman Anthony Corder deliver the best set out of the acoustic ones at the Rock N Skull festival back in October 2016, there was little doubt that I would snatch up Tora Tora‘s Unplugged CD, which consisted of songs from the band played acoustically to a live audience. I wasn’t fully enamoured with the length of the CD (only five songs) as well as the choice of songs since I only recognized the names of two of the five tracks (“Son of A Prodigal Son” from the band’s last studio album Bastards of Beale and the classic track “Phantom Rider” from the group’s debut album Surprise Attack).

Oddly enough, at the time that Tora Tora‘s Unplugged CD was available for pre-order in April 2020, it was not done through Frontiers Music Srl even though the Italian label had released Bastards of Beale only 14 months earlier. As it turns out, Tora Tora revealed in mid-February 2021 that the label and the band had mutually agreed to part ways. That seemed to explain why I had to order Unplugged through Right Rock Sportswear and not surprisingly given this distribution channel, I ended paying more for the Unplugged EP, which only had five songs, than I did for Bastards of Beale, which boasted 11 tracks.

As far as the songs go on Unplugged, they seem to get better and better as they go on and as my familiarity with them grows from track to track. Interestingly, the first three songs on Unplugged are what I would consider to be “deep cuts” from the band and even if they were not presented in an unplugged format. “Time And The Tide” and “The Candle And The Stone” originate from Tora Tora‘s long lost third album Revolution Day, which should have came out in 1994 but was only released via FnA Records in 2011. While I did snatch up Revolution Day when it was eventually released, I am infinitely more familiar with Tora Tora‘s first two albums — Surprise Attack (1989) and Wild America (1992) — than Revolution Day so obviously I would have preferred to hear unplugged versions of songs from those two albums. Unplugged also includes two tracks that were initially found on Bastards of Beale. The same rationale applies for those two songs although I am a bit more familiar with “Son of A Prodigal Son” since it is one of the better tunes off Bastards of Beale and Tora Tora released a video for it about three years ago. That being said, all four of the aforementioned songs from Revolution Day / Bastards of Beale are well executed in an unplugged format.

The highlight on Unplugged is clearly the closing track “Phantom Rider” for two reasons. It’s one of Tora Tora‘s best songs ever and I also looked forward to hearing it in a stripped down format. I wish that Tora Tora would have picked a few additional tracks off their first two albums to offer on Unplugged. It just feels like Unplugged is an incomplete album with only five tracks and only one real “hit” song from Tora Tora‘s arsenal. I know that Tora Tora were considering releasing a second part to Unplugged and there appears to have been a lot of other songs played that night at Lafayette’s Music Room in Memphis, Tennessee, USA on June 17, 2019 based on a YouTube video showing the band playing a snippet of “Shelter From The Rain.”

Overall, I would have preferred that Tora Tora release their entire unplugged show from June 17th on one album (I am assuming that more than the five songs released were played at that show) rather than select a few songs here and there for a five-song EP. I think that Tora Tora had the opportunity to have their version of Tesla‘s critical acclaimed album Five Man Acoustical Jam but they simply missed the mark with their five-song Unplugged EP.

Track List:
01. Time And The Tide
02. Lights Up The River
03. The Candle And the Stone
04. Son of A Prodigal Son
05. Phantom Rider

Band Members:
Anthony Corder – lead vocals, acoustic guitar
Keith Douglas – acoustic guitar
Patrick Francis – bass
John Patterson – drums

Recorded and engineered by Erik Flettrich
Produced by Tora Tora
Mixed by Keifer Douglas
Mastered by Kevin Nix

Band Websites:
Official Website

Reviewed by Olivier for Sleaze Roxx, February 2022

Tora Tora‘s “Time And The Tide” (acoustic version) track: