This box set is one of those kind that brings together a number of a particular band’s album in a cheap and cheerful manner… In this case, the collection marks the latter stages of hugely under-rated German melodic hard rockers Fair Warning‘s career, from 1997’s patchy ‘Go!’ through to 2000’s ‘Four’, and the first stage of their rebirth, in the shape of 2006’s comeback opus ‘Brother’s Keeper’ and 2009’s ‘Aura’.
As with most collections of this nature, all of the albums have been unavailable (officially at least) for quite some time, and the cut price packaging therefore makes such re-issues an attractive offering for those seeking to populate their back catalogues with that long-lost or over-looked blast from the blast.
For those unfamiliar with Fair Warning, the band came together back in 1991, when former V2 vocalist Tommy Heart teamed up with bassist Ule Ritgen, who most recently had collaborated with Teutonic proggers Zeno and former Scorpions axemeister Uli Jon Roth. Their self-titled debut album went platinum in their native Germany, and was followed by three more studio offerings and a live platter (recorded in Japan and included here) before calling it a day, re-emerging from their hiatus in 2006, since which time they have released the two aforementioned studio albums, plus last year’s ‘Sundancer’, and another live platter (again recorded in Tokyo).
This collection picks up the FW story with their third album, ‘Go!’. As referenced above, it’s a patchy offering – it’s as if the band couldn’t decide if they wanted to remain fixated with 80s-era Scorpions (as on ‘I’ll Be There’ or ‘Follow My Heart’) or move forward into a more modern (for the 90s anyway) power metal direction, and got stuck somewhere in the middle. Nevertheless, it’s a valuable snapshot of the band’s development and an interesting snapshot of its particular moment in time.
Recorded on the subsequent tour, ‘Live And More’ is a decent example of its type, showcasing the band – and particularly Heart’s extremely powerful vocals – extremely well: the songs from the previous album definitely sound stronger and more passionate in the live arena, and the recording doesn’t sound in the slightest bit dated (which is surprising since, as far as I can tell, there was no remastering or any other ‘modernization’ done to either this or the accompanying four studio albums). The ‘…More’ refers to three studio songs – ‘Like A Rock’, ‘Meant To Be’ and ‘Out Of The Night’ appended to the end of the live recording, but for no real apparent purpose, either then or now…
‘Four’ – no prizes for guessing the significance of the title – brought the first stage of the band’s career to an end, and is another fairly standard melodic metal-edged hard rock, if somewhat more consistent in its overall approach, as well as benefitting from a much stronger production, which really draws out the depth of Heart’s vocal.
After the release of this fourth album and ensuing touring cycle, FW went on a five-year long hiatus, returning to live action in 2005 and the studio the following year. The result was ‘Brother’s Keeper’, which saw the band adopting a more contemporary approach while very much retaining their Eighties/Nineties roots, especially in the traditional song structures and Heart’s vocal delivery, which not for the first time holds more than a passing echo of countryman Klaus Meine. The follow up, ‘Aura’, an overall harder and edgier album in every department, from the biting guitars – which dominate even the ballads – to Heart’s deeper, darker vocal delivery, signalling the intent, perhaps, of the band to shrug off their Kraut-rock heritage and broaden their appeal.
All in all, this is a solid collection of solid melodic rock albums from a band who, outside Germany and Japan, have perhaps not received the degree of recognition they definitely deserve. For those who perhaps only came to the band via last year’s ‘Sundancer’ opus, this is a worthy exploration of the vast majority of their back catalogue: for long-standing fans, it’s a reminder of exactly where the band came from and how their sound has progressed (or not – because part of the essence of a Fair Warning album is that you know exactly what to expect!) over the past 20 years ago. Yes, it sounds a bit dated in places – but that’s the risk you take with such re-issues – and none of the albums are what you would describe as surefire classics, but nevertheless there can be a lot worse ways for a fan of melodic power rock to spend an afternoon than exploring this worthy collection…
Go! – Angels Of Heaven / Save Me / All On Your Own / I’ll Be There / Man On The Moon / Without You / Follow My Heart / Rivers Of Love / Somewhere / Eyes Of A Stranger / Sailing Home / The Way You Want It / The Love Song
Recommended listening: Save Me
Live And More – Angels Of Heaven / I’ll Be There / Man On The Moon / Don’t Give Up / Desert Song / We Used To Be Friends / Follow My Heart / Bach For More / Come On / Keyboard Solo / Save Me / Guitar Solo / Burning Heart / Get A Little Closer / Stars And The Moon / Like A Rock / Meant To Be / Out Of The Night
Recommended listening: Come On
Four – Heart On The Run / Through The Fire / Break Free / Forever / Tell Me I’m Wrong / Dream / I Fight / Time Will Tell / Eyes Of Love / Find My Way / Night Falls / Wait / For The Young
Recommended listening: I Fight
Brother’s Keeper – Don’t Keep Me Waiting / Generation Jedi / All Of My Love / Rainbow Eyes / Push Me On / Wasted Time / The Cry / The Way / Once Bitten, Twice Shy / Tell Me Lies / In The Dark / All I Wanna Do
Recommended listening: Rainbow Eyes
Aura – Fighting For Your Love / Here Comes The Heartache / Hey Girl / Don’t Count On Me / Falling / Holding On / Walking On Smiles / Someday / It Takes More / As Snow White Found Out / Station To Station / Falling Reprise
Recommended listening: Here Comes The Heartache
‘The Box’ is out now via Steamhammer/SPV.