REVIEWS – THE PROMISE
Frontiers UK, January 1995
This is the thirteenth release by Now & Then and let’s hope it doesn’t prove to be unlucky for The Promise as their debut is pretty impressive. My only criticism is that it’s too long at 70+ minutes. When we spoke to them in the last issue they planned to have ten songs on the CD and save the rest for an EP which would be released sometime next year. Obviously they’ve changed their plans and as a result all fifteen songs have been included. Which means that instead of having an album that leaves me wanting more, I’m left with the feeling of having had more than enough when the final track “Silver Lights” comes to an end. In their defence I can’t think of many bands who could hold my interest for that amount of time, and so I guess they’re in good company. Still, enough griping, let’s get on with the review as there’s still plenty to be positive about, not least of all the opening track “End Of The Game” which launches the album at a fair lick and highlights the real strength of the band which is their knack of writing a catchy tune with hooks in all the right places.My other favourite is “You Are The One” which has one of those feel good summer time, cruising with the top down riffs that is totally infectious and guaranteed to raise a smile on even the saddest face. Also worthy of mention is “Holding On” which you think is going to fade out as these things usually do but instead takes off on a wonderful instrumental passage where the interplay between the guitars and keyboards is a real highlight. It’s touches like this that elevate The Promise from all the other contenders I’ve heard this year. The guitar solo on “Play Dirty” is another example. In fact the guitar solos are exemplary throughout and really work with the songs, bringing to mind Michael Schenker at his melodic best. Now although I personally prefer the more up tempo numbers, it’s the three ballads that show a real cross-over appeal to a much wider audience. All of them should come with an obligatory box of Kleenex, they’re that syrupy. Get any one of these on the radio and I’m convinced they’ll attract the same people that kept Brian Adams and Wet Wet Wet at the top of the charts.
The best is saved for last though, with the closing pairing of “When It Rains” and “Silver Lights”. The former is another bruising rocker with a super riff and a knock-em dead hook, while the latter is quintessential AOR and an instant classic that’ll be to The Promise what “Freebird” is to Skynyrd and “Stairway…” is to Zeppelin.
Having said all that I can’t help feeling that this is a real missed opportunity as if they’d stuck to their original idea of ten songs and 45 minutes we’d have been looking at a real contender for album of the year. As it is they’ll have to be content with my vote for the best debut instead.
8/10 Mark Foster
Update to Frontiers Review, March 1995
After an incredibly long wait this should now be available in the shops. For a detailed review refer back to my review in Issue 3. The only new thing to report is that the finished version contains only 10 of the original 14 tracks and I can happily report that this trimming has made it a much stronger release with not even the whiff of a filler. Completists shouldn’t get too alarmed as the casualties are apparently being saved for an EP to be released at a later date.
8/10 Mark Foster
The Promise kickoff the first track on their debut album with what can only be described as a drum solo. A strange start for a band clearly influenced by AOR greats Journey and Styx, with a few prog rock touches here and there to make life interesting.That first track is in fact “The End of the Game”, a bright and sparkly opener, in spite of the intro. Undemanding and throwaway. Where it succeeds is in giving occasional glimpses of the quality AOR to follow. In other words, it does what all opening tracks should do – whet the appetite.
The Promise have a gift for infectious and naggingly familiar hooks. No better examples than ‘You Are The One’ and ‘Playing Dirty’, which immediately follows. The band uses simple dynamics to create mood and atmosphere, and this is the band’s real strength. That and Ian Benzie’s voice, which possesses just the right measures of fragility and conviction needed on an album which rarely tackles anything more weighty than the sentiment that there’s no place like home. “Sleeping Alone” – the obligatory ballad of love lost – is just outstanding. Benzie carries it off like a veteran.
But it’s the second half which really sees the band hitting their stride. With three absolute gems in a row – “Don’t Keep Me Waiting” (which if you’re a fan of the band’s influences will make your day), “Holding On” and “Restless”. Pure AOR heaven. Guitarists Gareth Davies and Nods Graham punch like heavyweights…… the solos explode from your speakers like cloudbursts in a storm, tempting even the most reluctant air-axe hero to drop to his knees and melt some fret. And Deanne Munro’s keyboards provide that glorious silky smooth support which doesn’t really register until the second or third play. But they leave the best till last! The ten minute epic “Silver Lights” has it all. Moody keyboard passages, a superb solo and a hook that most bands would give their singer for.
I’d read that the band needs time to develop. Don’t believe it. The Promise deliver.
8/10 Brian McGowan
Miscellaneous Quotes from other reviews of the first album
“Sometimes, indeed rarely, I receive a CD from a UK band that I have never heard of, that completely blows me away. That has happened with this one, the stunning debut from Scottish band The Promise”.
“Anyone who likes their music loud and proud, yet with tons of class and melody is definitely going to seek this one out”.
“The music is extremely melodic, laden with high quality lead and harmony vocals, with great musicianship from all concerned”.