Grand Slam Week / Striking Gold Again With Wheel Of Fortune

Proving that lightning does strike twice, Grand Slam have again hit the jackpot with Wheel Of Fortune, their sophomore studio album. With the pandemic hauling on the brakes of their rise following the release of their debut, Hit The Ground, it was a frustrating time for the band. But, like all good and seasoned troopers, they ploughed on, continuing writing and recording to get ready for a relaunch.

Grand Slam – Wheel Of Fortune (Silver Lining Music)

Release Date: Out Now

Words: Paul Monkhouse

Whilst the first album was a mix of newer numbers with ones penned by Laurence Archer and Phil Lynott, this new opus is entirely fresh material penned by the guitarist alongside vocalist Mike Dyer.

There was always going to be something of a Celtic feel to some numbers, tying them back to the origins of the band. But here, they have stepped up their own imprint and brought something familiar yet fresh into the mix.

Grand Slam - Photo Frank Noon
Grand Slam – It is the mix of talent that adds the magic. Photo: Frank Noon

As with all great bands, it is the mix of talent that adds the magic. Along with the very individual abilities of Archer and Dyer, they have a secret weapon in the two members of their rhythm section.

On drums, Benjy Reid brings carefully crafted elements of classical music into his playing, and whilst the percussion may be hard-hitting, it is also multi-layered. The busyness eschews the sometimes unnecessary flash of prog rock or Jazz and leans more into the florid yet precise groove of a symphony.

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Bass player Rocky Newton is no slouch either, having made his name playing in numerous bands through the years. He is famously renowned for his perfectly pitched backing vocals, which made many albums, including Hysteria and Shimmer.

With the quicksilver and stylish fretwork of Archer and the mighty, soulful grit of Dyer’s vocals, the quartet bring the songs to life and you can imagine Lynott smiling broadly with appreciation at what Grand Slam have become.

Full of that Celtic, Thin Lizzy feel but with a sly wink and big bounce, opener There Goes My Heart is full of a feelgood joie de vivre, the huge hook and chorus made for singing with friends, beer in hand.

There’s a real class here, and the big-sounding commercial rock of Starcrossed Lovers and I Wanna Know! ring with a feel of rock radio. The driving rush of Spitfire is equally thrilling as it roars with an old-school hard rock rambunctiousness.

Whilst this is certainly a new chapter for the band, the roots of its inception are never too far away and the swaggering balls of Come Together In Harlem brings some more fruit to life of the Lynott/Archer partnership.
 
Grand Slam may not be reinventing the wheel here, but why should they? With added colours like the ZZ Top meets Lizzy boogie of Trail Of Tears and the touches of Iron Maiden-style Metal grandeur of Afterlife, there is enough here to keep even the most jaded listener piqued.

The guitar playing is impressive throughout, and the solo on the epic Pirate Song shows Archer at his finest, illustrating exactly why UFO chose him to fill their vacant six-stringer post at the time.

There is plenty of light and shade here, too, and when the band turns to more pensive fare like the emotional Feeling Is Strong (Jo’s Song), they show their ability to deliver something devoid of bluster but equally powerful.

With a souped-up and rerecorded edition of the debut issued as a double pack, there is a lot to enjoy here. Hopefully, this all points to album number three and Grand Slam being acknowledged as a damn fine rock band.

Wheel of Fortune is well worth giving a spin.

Grand Slam, Wheel Of Fortune, is out now via Silver Lining Music. For more details, visit https://lnk.to/GrandSlamWheelOfFortune.

To read more about of our Grand Slam feature, click here.

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