Somewhere along the way during the commercial late-'80s hair metal era, that strand of hard rock music began to lose all connection to its roots rock-oriented, blues rock past. Much of this occurred as a result of dollar signs in the eyes of music producers and performers who simply wished to maximize their chances for airplay and music video exposure. The temptation to emphasize the era's glam metal image and its flashy, typically visual flourishes frequently got the best of so many of us back then that a number of fine, straight-ahead hard rock bands languished in obscurity for far too long. Some of them, sadly, never reached a wide audience and fizzled rather quickly just a couple of years into the '90s.
Philadelphia-based Tangier certainly stands tall among these "almost-were" bands of that saturated hard rock scene, and a quick evaluation of 1989's modest hit "On the Line" instantly reveals a genre treasure. Lead vocalist Bill Mattson and main songwriter Doug Gordon understood the lure of '70s hard rock enough to eschew the more garish trappings of mainstream rock circa 1989. Mattson in particular echoes the soulful, bluesy approach of a singer like Whitesnake's David Coverdale. However, the slow-burn nature of the band's arrangements more closely resembles Coverdale's work in the relatively unheard mid-'70s incarnation of Deep Purple than many of Tangier's contemporaries. This is undoubtedly a good thing, as I found myself listening this weekend to "Might Just Take Your Life" and wishing that more '80s bands had faithfully retained that passionate, gruff hard rock template. And while it doesn't pay to expect too much from music of this type (taking oneself too seriously is a cardinal sin too easily committed in rock and roll), Tangier delivers modern hard rock that requires little to no shame from appreciative listeners.
- Sample or download "On the Line" here.
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- Top Whitesnake Songs of the '80s
Album Cover Image Courtesy of Rhino Atlantic