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Tokyo Blade: Knights Of The Blade

The coming together of half of White Diamond and half of Genghis Khan, Tokyo Blade formed in 1982, delivering three albums and a host of singles and EPs in their first three years of being. Knights Of The Blade is a beautifully presented clam shell boxset featuring those three full length efforts, with a fourth disc, helpfully titled 'Singles & EPs', gathering together a host of interesting non-album releases. 


Finally settling on the name Tokyo Blade after working their way through the monikers Killer and Genghis Khan (again), the band released their self titled debut (which kind of saw the light of day in the US as Midnight Rendezvous) in 1983. The line-up by then comprising Alan Marsh (vocals), Andy Boulton (guitars), John Wiggins (guitar), Andy Robbins (bass) and Steve Pierce (drums). Unsurprisingly, given the times, it's very much a NWOBHM effort, the less punkish side of Dianno era Maiden combined to the more refined cut of Diamond Head. In truth however, the results weren't as breathtaking as one, or as dazzling as the other. But with a slightly naive charm "If Heaven Is Hell" powers along nicely, while "Break The Chains" has a similar feel to Saxon dancing cheek to cheek with early Dokken, TB always seemingly having an eye on the more glitzy US take on metal. A decidedly lumpen production certainly blunts the attack of "Killer City" and the chanting chug-along of "Tonight" and yet, look past this hurdle and it's easy to see why Tokyo Blade were tipped for big things.

The Night Of The Blade album arrived a year later, Andy Wrighton having replaced Robbins (who would go on to perform with Taste, Jagged Edge and Skin), while Marsh had also left the band. In the refreshingly candid liner notes from John Tucker (where TB's so-so reviews from the time receive as much focus as the glowing accolades), Boulton admits Marsh's departure was more down to record label pressures than the unfair accusations of 'nerves' the band cast their ex-singer's way. Whatever the reason it left The Blade in a pre-tour pickle, the singer-less band ready to head to Europe for some live dates. An audition tape arrived at the eleventh hour, and with Tokyo Blade having few options, Vicki James Wright found himself digging out his passport. Initially The Blade said Vic's appointment was temporary, but with the dates going well he was behind the mic for the band's 1984 release. With a higher pitched vocal delivery and a slicker overall sound, album number two proved a more commercial affair, although through "Rock Me To The Limit", "Warrior Of The Rising Sun" and "Lightning Strikes", it still packed a punch. Even if it was a little more stars and stripes aimed than before. However with a stronger overall sonic-pulse, there's no denying NOTB has an unexpected AOR charm.

A path that the band would head further down in 1985 with Blackhearts & Jaded Spades, a reasonably obvious fixation with the US melodic rock scene leaving Tokyo Blade neither one thing or the other. The Boulton/Wiggins twin guitar assault was still set for stun as echoing vocals and a naff little spoken section conflict on "Dirty Face Angel", while "Lovin' You Is An Easy Thing To Do" would love to tip its hat at Aerosmith, if only it could catch their glance. "Tough Guys Tumble" suggests early Mötley Crüe jamming with UK AORsters Tobruk, while "Monkey's Blood" decides to eschew the new-ish found direction and head straight back into NWOBHM territory. It's just a shame no one told Vic, who screeches and howls like he's the offspring of Stephen Pearcy and Vince Neal – most odd… Yet, as with Night Of The Blade, hindsight reveals an interesting, if flawed album, leaving it easy to see why for every derisory review this band received, others were lining up to sing their praises.

Disc four is a 19 track romp through the band's singles and EPs and while all of these cuts were previously issued on the band's various reissues, it's good to have them housed together on a separate disc, allowing the full albums to remain as they were intended. Interestingly this disc's selections ably illustrate the musical evolution Tokyo Blade underwent; from the fast and frantic 1983 "Powerplay" single (backed by the equally uncompromising "Death On Mainstreet"), right through to the slicker Undercover Honeymoon outing, which takes in the title track, "Playroom Of Poison Dreams", "Stealing The Thief" and rather odd keyboard driven and funky bass strewn "Bottom End", which sounds like a Level 42 outtake… In between you get the Lightning Strikes single, Madame Guillotine and Midnight Rendezvous EPs and The Cave Sessions, which between them make for an interesting, entertaining, if somewhat disjointed journey.

In truth that's a good summation of Tokyo Blade, a band who never quite delivered on their early NWOBHM promise, or the melodic rock later albums tried to master. However, give or take some less than steady vocal performances (from both singers), Tokyo Blade had a huge amount going for them that their recorded output never quite nailed down. This boxset certainly highlights those issues but equally it provides a welcome opportunity to reappraise a long misunderstood band who continue on to this day. Arguably their finest moments are to be found here in this excellent set where the booklet contains a plethora of vintage photos and reviews, and each CD comes beautifully housed in its own replica sleeve.


Track Listing
DISC ONE: TOKYO BLADE
1. POWERGAME
2. BREAK THE CHAINS
3. IF HEAVEN IS HELL
4. ON THROUGH THE NIGHT
5. KILLER CITY
6. LIAR
7. TONIGHT       
8. SUNRISE IN TOKYO
9. BLUE RIDGE MOUNTAINS OF VIRGINIA


DISC TWO: NIGHT OF THE BLADE
1. SOMEONE TO LOVE
2. NIGHT OF THE BLADE
3. ROCK ME TO THE LIMIT
4. WARRIOR OF THE RISING SUN
5. UNLEASH THE BEAST
6. LOVESTRUCK
7. DEAD OF THE NIGHT
8. LIGHTNING STRIKES (STRAIGHT THROUGH THE HEART)


DISC THREE: BLACKHEARTS AND JADED SPADES   
1. DIRTY FACED ANGELS
2. MAKE IT THOUGHT THE NIGHT
3. ALWAYS
4. LOVING YOU IS AN EASY THING TO DO
5. UNDERCOVER HONEYMOON
6. YOU ARE THE HEART
7. BLACKHEARTS AND JADED SPADES
8. TOUGH GUYS TUMBLE
9. DANCING IN BLUE MOONLIGHT
10. PLAYROOM OF POISON DREAMS
11. MONKEYS BLOOD


DISC FOUR: SINGLES & EPS      
1. POWERGAME
2. DEATH ON MAINSTREET
3. FEVER
4. ATTACK ATTACK
5. MADAME GUILLOTINE
6. BREAKOUT
7. LOVESTRUCK
8. MIDNIGHT RENDEZVOUS
9. MEAN STREAK
10. IF HEAVEN IS HELL
11. HIGHWAY PASSION
12. SHADOWS OF INSANITY
13. SCHOOL HOUSE IS BURNING
14. JEZZABEL
15. MONKEY'S BLOOD
16. UNDERCOVER HONEYMOON
17. PLAYROOM OF POISON DREAMS
18. STEALING THE THIEF
19. BOTTOM END  

Added: March 5th 2017
Reviewer: Steven Reid
Score:
Related Link: Knights Of The Blade at Cherry Red
Hits: 551
Language: english

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