CD: CATS in SPACE ‘My Kind of Christmas’ (Harmony Factory)

Those CATS in SPACE have really pushed the boat out for the holiday season this year, with a specially-recorded Christmas single released on multiple formats. You could have had a 7-inch satsuma-coloured vinyl (very clever, CATS!), a 12-inch picture disc featuring the new artwork created for the season by the band’s regular artist Andrew Kitson, or a CD which contains the song plus additional new tracks with reworked versions of older songs. Alongside all of that fans could also buy a limited edition print of the cover artwork, or for the well-heeled CAT fan, a ‘Catmas Tin’ box set containing the CD, two 7-inch vinyl records, plus various CAT-branded items such as a Christmas decoration and even some candy (!) all presented in an aluminium tin with the now-familiar CATS in SPACE logo on the lid. If like me, you’re short on both house room and readies especially at this time of year, the best bet is that CD since it features a lot of material for your tenner, so that was what I plumped for. At the time of writing, there are still various formats available for the CAT completist to indulge themselves with however.

My Kind of Christmas cover art by Andrew Kitson

My Kind of Christmas cover (art by Andrew Kitson)

The band are also pushing for a Christmas chart hit with this single, having launched a campaign on their fan group. They’re up against strong competition as you might expect, but after having held off playing this disc until the calendar finally reached December, it’s time to give this seasonal offering an appraisal. Starting off with the Christmas song itself, as you’d expect by now there are numerous nods to their many influences. They’ve chucked the kitchen sink at the production; it’s all there – sleigh bells, lyrics touching on everything from ‘mini-skirts at the office party’ (are we hoping for a mild December, lads?) to ‘Eric and Ernie on the box’, vol-au-vents and ‘flat warm beer’. (They stopped doing Watney’s Red Barrel years ago, guys!). They have gone full Wizzard with a children’s choir on the last chorus too, although the over-arching message is to urge us all to have this mindset all year round (‘don’t wait for the snow to fall, to wish peace and love for all‘) set to a song which evokes memories of classic 1970s Christmas chart-toppers. The melody in the chorus did make your correspondent think of Petula Clark’s hit ‘Don’t Sleep In The Subway’ though, and I bet that was not entirely unintended!

Track 2 on the CD (‘This Is London’), written by ‘7th Cat’ Mick Wilson, is a paean to the capital city, praising London as ‘the jewel in the crown’, set to a melodic rock song not a million miles from the sort of thing Cutting Crew did in the 80s, all harmonised vocals and gently soothing guitar backing. Another new one from Wilson follows, ‘If I Were You’ is a mid-paced acoustic track showcasing new vocalist Mark Pascall’s voice as well as those trademark harmonies.

‘Hollywood’ is the last of the new material; bassist Jeff Brown picks up the writing credit  as well as taking lead vocal on this one, a not-quite-so complimentary view of Tinseltown (‘land of the greedy, home of the vain‘) where ‘the faces may change but the dreams stay the same‘. All these tracks are in a rather gentler style than perhaps we’ve come to expect from the albums; that’s not to suggest the new album will be all like this but it does offer further proof that the band aren’t all bombast, they can rock you gently as well as heavily.

The remainder of the tracks on the CD are reworkings; there’s a new, acoustic version of ‘Chasing Diamonds’ as well as the new version of ‘September Rain’ which they issued separately in, September! The trilogy of Pascall reworkings concludes with ‘Yesterday’s News’; this is flagged on the cover as the ‘audition tape’. All of these new versions of older songs are to establish Pascall as the CATS singer now, having taken over from Paul Manzi who sang on the first three albums he is now putting his own stamp on the back CATalogue. The last track on the CD closes with a karaoke (or ‘kataoke’ as they would have it’) version of ‘My Kind of Christmas’ for you to sing along to. (The lyric is provided in the CD booklet, helpfully!)

As is the case with everything CATS in SPACE do, a lot of thought, time and effort has gone into the production and presentation of this release. I’d have liked this CD to be a little more lively, maybe with a cover of a party classic just for fun, but as it is, it is another quality product. I do hope the next album has a little more dirt under the claws however!

The band have today (as of the time of this post) just issued a promo video for ‘My Kind of Christmas’ – at the time of writing it is only available on their own Facebook page. Directed by none other than Toby Jepson, they have themed the video on ‘A Christmas Carol’ interspersed with the band playing on a stage set just like you saw on ‘Top of the Pops’, complete with audience attempting to dance!

CATS in SPACE Facebook Page

4 - deserving

4 – Deserving

CATS in SPACE release reworked ‘September Rain’ with new vocalist

Earlier this year UK retro-rock band CATS in SPACE announced their new vocalist as Mark Pascall, who came in for original singer Paul Manzi. The new guy has performed some shows with the band and by all accounts has been welcomed by the ‘Cat Fans’, but they have decided to introduce him properly by re-recording an older song to feature his vocals. The single was released in limited quantities on CD but is also available on YouTube now.

‘September Rain’ was originally on the band’s second album ‘Scarecrow’, and this version has been completely remade. The arrangement is not much different however, so it serves the purpose of giving the fan base a taste of what Pascall will bring to the table. The song, a mid-temp pop rocker that you’ll find yourself singing for hours afterwards, is ideally suited for radio stations although whether it will actually get any airplay is another matter altogether!

It is a good move on the band’s part; giving their new frontman a small piece of the back catalogue to make his own of, especially since he has to go out there and sing songs that Paul Manzi put down on record. It helps bed in Pascall to the role, and he delivers a performance that is a little different, perhaps slicker than Manzi, but arguably just as good.

Those worried about the band’s direction with a new voice at the mic need worry no longer, the group are in good hands with Mark Pascall. Below is the new promo video for this version of ‘September Rain’:

5gtrs

5 – Delightful

CATS in SPACE Facebook Page

CATS in SPACE reveal their new frontman

UK rock revivalists CATS in SPACE have announced the name of their new lead singer this week, who takes over the role from Paul Manzi. They announced it in a short video clip posted to Facebook and YouTube, along with additional news that they are working on new studio material and that the tour in support of current album ‘Day Trip To Narnia’ will resume soon.

New vocalist Mark Pascall is a name unfamiliar to me, he is also lead singer in melodic rock band Departed who have toured in support of Inglorious. On the evidence of that band’s songs available to listen to online, he will be a good fit for the band. Possessing a powerful tenor voice, he will have big shoes to fill of course but certainly sounds up to the job of presenting the CATS songs live, alongside incumbent members Jeff Brown (bass), Andy Stewart (keyboards), Steevi Bacon (drums) as well as guitarists Greg Hart and Dean Howard. The band are known for their intricate vocal harmonies and so they have chosen well here.

Meanwhile, former frontman Paul Manzi has joined veteran glam rockers The Sweet; that band (still featuring original guitarist Andy Scott) will be playing dates of their own later in the year.

I look forward to seeing what Mark Pascall brings to the CAT universe, I intend to see the new incarnation as soon as they return to my part of the world.

Presented is ‘Are You Ready’ by Departed featuring vocalist Mark Pascall:

CATS in SPACE Facebook Page

Departed Facebook Page

The Sweet Facebook Page