Album Review: GUN - The Calton Songs
Reviewed by Paul Hutchings
A bit of a guilty pleasure in our household, the Glaswegians are a band who never fail to please. Over their 30 plus year career, which started in 1989 with debut album ‘Taking on the World’, Gun have pleased thousands of fans with their brand of melodic hard rock. It’s been a while since a new Gun album appeared, 2017’s ‘Favourite Pleasures’ to be precise, and whilst ‘Calton Songs’ only contains one new song in ‘Backstreet Brothers’, it is at least a new album in most senses.
14 songs celebrate the band’s career, with acoustic interpretations of their best loved songs. ‘Backstreet Brothers’ opens the album, a typically catchy rocker, full of hook and melody, with Dante Gizzi’s vocals on form. It’s short, snappy, and sure to become a fan favourite. After this it’s anthem after anthem as the Scots reimagine some of the band’s favourite tracks. ‘Better Days benefits’ from female backing vocals which provides extra soul to the song.
It's impossible not to sing along to ‘Steal Your Fire’, one of the most anthemic songs the band has ever written. This version soars high, a new breath of life into an already vibrant tune. Gun state that this isn’t a retrospective but a celebration of their career so far. Guitarist Jools Gizzi explains. “When the pandemic hit, we realised that it was the perfect time to try and counteract the bleakness that was all around. It felt like we couldn’t write anything, or of course tour. Out of that darkness came a desire to completely rework these songs that we know the fans love, and bring a different, stripped-down vibe. ‘Better Days’ was the first one to get the treatment, and that really brought all our enthusiasm back and relit the creative fires”.
Turning negatives into positives seems to be something of a gift to Gun, for all the songs featured here have been given a new lease of life. The gentle ‘Taking on the World’ is uplifting with a superb lead solo giving it a harder edge. ‘Crazy You’ verges on pop, its Beatles sensibilities making it a fun song to listen to. There is of course, time for a ballad or two, and ‘Don’t Say it’s Over’ is prime for lighters aloft. Gun give it a neat overhaul, retaining the emotion and passion whilst providing a fresh take. It works well.
The album is rounded off with the poignant ‘Watch the World Go By’. ‘Calton Songs’ may not be the album that many of us were hoping for, but it does provide a timely reminder that there is plenty to come from these rock n roll travellers. Dante adds a final sentence. “It’s ironic that those feelings of negativity led to something so positive, a celebration of our career up to now. It turned into something great, and ‘Backstreet Brothers’ really sums up that unalloyed enthusiasm that has been brought back into the heart of the band”.