Like most self-respecting music fans, I have a real bee in my bonnet about so-called “celebrities” attempting to jump on the rawk ‘n’ roll bandwagon and establish their street creds by recording an album and playing a few gigs before returning to their various degrees of infamy and disappearing back up their own backsides… Over the years, they’ve all been at it – from Z-list wannabe has-been soap opera characters to professional sports stars: and, OK, it must be admitted that some of them have done it reasonably successfully – former WWE stars Amy ‘Lita’ Dumas and (especially) Chris Jericho undoubtedly have proven their credentials as serious contenders in the equally competitive world of rawk ‘n’f’n’ roll…
Former World Superbikes champion James Toseland, however, is a completely different proposition, as the Doncaster-born motorcyclist is also a fully qualified concert pianist: in fact, it was rumoured that his hands were insured for £! million each, should injury ever prevent him from playing again! Having retired from the sport in 2011 – ironically, because of a wrist injury – he has now returned full-time to his first love…
What also has to be admired about Toseland is, just like he clawed and scratched his way to the top of the motorcycling circuit, he is prepared to do the same with his music career, releasing his debut album independently (via his own 52 Music imprint – the label taking its name from his racing number), marketing it via his own website and promoting it by playing a mixture of tiny clubs and lower-order festival bills.
‘Renegade’ is a damn fine hard rock album. No, scrub that… it’s a fucking excellent hard rock album! In a way, the fact that Toseland has been able to come up with a collection of 11 great rock songs should come as no surprise, as the album is co-written by producer Toby Jepson, who once again proves that he is one of the most under-rated masters of the songwriting craft.
Toseland also possesses a great voice – a rich, throaty baritone with a superb range – which he uses to deliver each and every song with passion and an inner fire which bubbles to the surface at just the right moments. The delivery of this exemplary collection of songs is aided by the equally impressive performances of the band: the rhythm section of Ben Minal, Dave Hollingsworth and Rabea Massaad is rock solid, while lead guitarist Zurab Melua is just sublime, ripping up his fretboard with as much fury as his brother-in-law (Toseland is married to Katie Melua, trivia freaks) used to do racing tracks.
From the gloriously positive acclamation of opener ‘Life Is Beautiful’ through the two fingered salute of ‘Singer In A Band’, the acerbic ‘Crash Landing’, the poignant ‘Just No Way’ to the punchy ‘Comin To Get Ya’, the bump ‘n’ growl of ‘Good Eye Blind’ to the rambunctious, rousing closing title track, there is not a single sign of weakness in this
Life Is Beautiful / Gotta Be A Better Way / Singer In A Band / Crash Landing / Just No Way / Comin’ To Get Ya / Good Eye Blind / Kingdoms / Burning The System / Emergency / Renegade
Recommended listening: Good Eye Blind
Toseland play the Calling Festival tomorrow (Saturday June 28) and the Steelhouse Festival (with Black Star Riders, Europe, Sebastian Bach, The Answer and others) on Sunday July 20: https://www.facebook.com/events/636860772999351/