Released By: earMusic
Release Date: February 12th, 2016
Luke Morley – Guitars
Danny Bowes – Lead Vocals
Harry James – Drums
Ben Matthews – Guitars&Keyboards
Chris Childs – Bass
Disc 1: Starter – Live at Rak Studio 1
The Thing I Want
When The Music Played
I Love The Weekend
Be Good To Yourself
Up Around The Bend
Disc 2: Main Course – Live At The Brooklyn Bowl
The Thing I Want
Low Life In High Places
Be Good To Yourself
The Devil Made Me Do It
Love Walked In
Up Around The Bend
Just Another Suicide
Disc 3: Dessert – Wonder Days The Film
Whenever I hear Thunder, I can’t help but think that they emerged 20 years too late. With their unmistakable brand of classic rock, and a knack for producing gripping ballads, these guys could have stood toe to toe with any of the heavyweights from the seventies or eighties. While their 1990 debut album Backstreet Symphony was a success, it was released at a time when a large portion of the rock world was slowly turning its backs on bands of this ilk, and fluttering its eyelashes at the humdrum misery of grunge. Although they did carve out a hugely successful career, despite a couple of splits along the way, I still think that Thunder’s clatter could have been much more resonating on a commercial level. But on the plus side, these guys are still with us and sounding are fresh as they did twenty five years ago. And hot on the heels this years brilliant Wonder Days album, the band have documented the story surrounding that album with a sumptuous three disc set entitled All You Can Eat.
Disc 1, titled Starter – Live At Rak Studio 1 is a 14 track collection, recorded live, of B sides and bonus tracks. But there’s a twist, this wasn’t recorded in the stop start traditional way, this was 14 tunes played straight out, warts and all – 110% live with not even a hint of nip and tuck.
With eight tracks lifted from the Better Days album, it’s the title track that kicks off the feast. There’s not many better at belting out a riff than Luke Morley, but when he’s doing it full on live, the man is a beast. And this track takes on a whole different personality in this format compared to the shiny studio version. That’s followed by The Thing I Want, which just chugs’ along with a ballsy swagger and sends out the unmistakable vibe of a band having serious craic. The blues rock laden Black Water is played with so much perfection it’s hard to believe that this was done in one take. Danny Bowes belts this out so effortlessly, you can nearly picture a massive grin spread across his face. He goes up a level on Resurrection Day, but on the full throttle, twelve bar boogie blitz of I Love The Weekend, the now 55 year old gives you a firm reminder that he is still one of the finest rock voices in the business today.
Chasing Shadows stomps along brilliantly with yet more Morley riff majesty, and the gang like backing vocals gives this track a real bar room rock feel, urging you to wave your pint precariously in the air. If there was any doubt in your mind that this collection wasn’t as genuine as described, Serpentine will squash your ill founded suspicion. From start to finish you can just sense that they’re just going for it, and couldn’t give a hoot what it sounds like, but it sounds bloody great.
At the mere chance that there were any shackles at the start of this set, they are well and truly off on the closing five tracks. With five covers including Stevie Wonders Superstition, The Beatles I’m Down, it’s their ball bruising versions of Thin Lizzy’s The Rocker and Free’s The Stealer that leave a welcome dent on you. Hands down, you will not find better live versions of these tracks anywhere. To say that they’re doing the originals justice is near insulting, they have completely raised the bar here as far as cover versions is concerned.
Disc 2, Main Course – Live At The Brooklyn Bowl was recorded twelve weeks before the release of Wonder Days. Thunder required no fee for the gig, instead fans scrambled for online tickets. All that was asked in return was that fans keep their phones in their pockets for the night, and as a result the gig was blistering success.
As concert openers go, Backstreet Symphony is up there with the best of them. Every time Ben Matthews belts out that famous riff, you can always envisage a crowd on the verge of going absolutely nuts. Bowes once again sounds in complete command with that effortless vocal strut, urging the crowd on in the chorus which is obeyed with obvious glee. It’s obvious the band would use a show like this test drive some new songs. Bowes reassures the faithful that the classics are on the way before unleashing The Thing I Want and Black Water, two tracks that sounded hot on Disc 1 but are virtually sizzling here. The crowds patience was awarded with 1992’s Low Life In High Places, a song that has matured with muscle over the years and delivers a firm punch here.
Although Wonder Days had yet to be dropped on the general public at this point, the way it sounds here you’d swear it was a set regular for many years. More fresh meat is served up with Resurrection Day, sounding a little ragged at times compared to the version on Disc 1, it has no doubt benefited from a few road miles under its belt. Another old gem, Stand Up, always takes the atmosphere up a level, and after 20 years it still gets the circulation pumping.
But there can be no denying the high point of the evening, there are not many songs that can literally stop you in your tracks, but I can safely say Love Walked In is one of them. A tune that every time you hear it, your mind and all its thoughts completely empty to purely focus on it’s beauty. It’s standing as one of the finest rock ballads ever written remains after this full blooded emotional performance. As well as another stonking version of Lizzy’s The Rocker, they belt out Creedence Clearwater Revival’s Up
Around The Bend like they wrote the bloody thing themselves. If you want to end a gig in real party style, Dirty Love will do just nicely thank you very much. With probably a little too much crowd teasing at the start, once that filthy riff kicks in, all bets are off. This track has always been the bands signature tune, and it gave this crowd a serious shot of classic party rock.
After all that, all you want to do is put your feet up and relax, and what better way than with Disc 3, Dessert – Wonder Days The Film. Directed by Tim Sidwell, this documents the making of the Wonder Days album and features some telling interviews from all the band members. It also features brilliant clips from the Live At Rak Studio 1 sessions as well as the Live At Brooklyn Bowl show. We are also treated to footage from their Loud Park show in Tokyo from 2014.
All You Can Eat is a perfect introduction to any Thunder novice, but for those like myself who have been salivating over this band for the past 25 years, this box set is a complete no brainer.
Rating: Brian Boyle