One of rock’s good guys, former Little Angels singer Toby Jepson has done several things since that band went their separate ways in the mid-90s. He toured under his own name in the early 2000s, which attracted some fans of his old band but was almost totally ignored by the rock papers, then obsessed with all things nu-metal. Following that, he had a brief spell as lead singer for reformed Scots rockers Gun, before handing over the mic to their bassist Dante Gizzi. In amongst all of that he was becoming known as a producer, working with some notable bands including Saxon and The Answer, as well as linking up with (motorcycle racer-turned singer) James Toseland for writing and production work on his band’s first album.
Now he has decided to return to the fray with a completely new band. Wayward Sons were formed in 2016, the singer recruited a line-up of experienced but not necessarily well-known players for this band. Joining him are bassist Nic Wastell, guitarist Sam Wood, drummer Phil Martini (the only name which rang a bell with me, he played for a while with Luke Morley’s post-Thunder band The Union and also with Joe Elliott’s Down ‘n’ Outz), and keyboardist Dave Kemp. Lead-off single ‘Until The End’ came out in the summer, a taster for the album. A short and snappy, hard-hitting hard rocker with a powerful vocal delivery, it got a lot of play on Planet Rock, the UK’s sole hard rock radio station (that isn’t broadcast only over the web!) Those hoping that ‘Until The End’ was representative of the band’s sound will be pleased to find that the rest of this album is very much in that style; guitar riffs right there in your face, big pounding drums, vocal pyrotechnics from Jepson (he really pushes himself on opening track ‘Alive’ to such an extent that he comes close to Glenn Hughes territory) and – enough hooks there to have you singing this stuff back after the album finishes.
There’s also some welcome variety in the lyrical content – the music is recognisably old-school hard rock, but it isn’t set to lyrics about boozing, birds and brawling. For example ‘Ghost’ is a dig at modern life and how it’s all paid for on tick (‘buy yourself a happy life, with your plastic friend’) while ‘Alive’ is similar in sentiment to Thunder’s ‘No-One Gets Out Alive’ (‘what if I said, that wealth don’t mean a thing?’)
If you’re looking for long, progressive epics on this record, look elsewhere – all the songs here are short and to the point. The longest is album closer ‘Something Wrong’, and all the other songs bar ‘Don’t Wanna Go’ clock in at under four minutes. The overall sound is almost punky, with that guitar right up in the mix and the songs played with verve, with energy, the sort of thing that is designed to get a crowd up and bouncing from the first powerchord. It is a short album then, at around 37 minutes, but with plenty of punch in those 37 minutes to leave you in need of a cuppa (or something stronger!) after the CD comes to a standstill.
At the time of this post Wayward Sons are coming to the end of a run of UK dates supporting fellow Brit rockers Inglorious. With Jepson’s vast experience in the business both on stage and off, there could be the possibility of him working with the younger band on their third album. If they’ve had that conversation then the third album from Nathan James and company will be one to look out for. (I am of course speculating!) Wayward Sons themselves can look forward to a bright 2018, as they embark on headline dates in the early part of next year. All in all, a welcome ‘return’ for Toby Jepson as he hasn’t really gone away, but this is the band which will restore him to prominence on the British rock scene.