James Byrd is a talented guitar player influenced by the European guitarists of the eighties like Uli Jon Roth (Scorpions, Electric Sun), Michael Schenker (UFO, Scorpions, MSG) and Ritchie Blackmore (Deep Purple, Rainbow), but also by the Canadian guitar hero Frank Marino (Mahogany Rush). The first time James Byrd popped up in my CD-collection was on the eponymous debut album (1986) of Fifth Angel. During the recordings of the second album, Byrd had already left the band to make his own career. Being a guitar addict, I tried to keep up with the music he recorded. Byrd released instrumental material under his own name, but he also recorded albums under the name of Byrd and James Byrd's Atlantis Rising for his European power metal style. To be honest, I lost track with all the different project names and I missed the latest albums he and his projects recorded.
Now James Byrd is back with a new album, or should I say with an old one, for the music hails from the time when he and vocalist Freddy Krumins were busy recording the debut album of James Byrd's Atlantis Rising. In fact the music on Beyond The Pillars was intentionally written for the second album of Fifth Angel. Early 2011 Krumins discovered the master tapes and after listening to these both he and Byrd agreed that the music was of a too high quality to gather dust on a shelf. So finally we can enjoy the results of these recordings that are a bit rawer and heavier than on the first production of the duo.
If you're familiar with the music of Fifth Angel, a song like Fallen Angel brings back memories for this piece would have suited perfectly on their second album. Remember Love, Stranger In The Night, Gotta Find You and Eye Of The Storm are other examples of songs that could or maybe should have made it on an album of Fifth Angel. Eye Of The Storm shows that Byrd was able to write a power ballad in the vein of Whitesnake, one of the mightiest heavy bands of the eighties. Concerning the sound quality, you can definitely hear that some parts are 25 years old. Therefore a clearer mix would have done more justice to the songs. Now some parts sound rather ehh... like in the eighties. The final song brings you back to the instrumental solo albums James Byrd used to make, showing his incredible talents.
I think the intention was to present the music straight, as it was performed in the days when the hair was longer and the bellies tighter. As a memory I think Byrd and Krumins succeeded, but as a current production I think this album can't keep pace with the state of the art productions. Hey, but let's stop nagging ...close your eyes and you're back in the eighties. Indeed this album should not be left in a dark closet, because the music is way too good and it certainly makes you feel young again!
***+ Pedro Bekkers (edited by Peter Willemsen)
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