Back in 1995, British rock singer / songwriter Gary Hughes was preparing material for what was to be his third solo album. Having amassed twenty eight new songs it was decided to make two records and split the material into a “heavy” album and a “ballad” album.
Ex-Dare guitarist Vinny Burns was enlisted to work on the albums, and the project developed into a band situation which was christened Ten. Burns remained a member of the band until after the release of sixth album “Far Beyond The World” in 2001.
Returning to the beginning, the band’s debut album “X” was released in 1996. Then, starting with the band’s second album release of 1996 “The Name Of The Rose”, which saw the introduction of rhythm guitarist Johnny Halliwell, and continuing up until 2007 when the band was put on hiatus, a changing band line-up had produced a further seven studio albums.
In addition Hughes himself had released four more solo albums as well as contributing all the material for, and producing, three solo albums for Magnum’s frontman Bob Catley.
The band returned in late 2010 and released “Stormwarning” the following year. The band included Hughes, Burns, Halliwell and bassist Steve McKenna. McKenna’s first studio appearance had been on 1999’s “Spellbound”.
Keyboardist Darrel Treece-Birch and drummer Max Yates were on board by album number ten, “Heresy And Creed”, which appeared in 2012.
Last year new lead guitarists Dann Rosingana and Steve Grocott appeared on the excellent and well received “Albion”. It is the line-up of Hughes, Halliwell, McKenna, Treece-Birch, Yates, Rosingana and Grocott that have produced the follow-up, “Isla De Muerta”, released in May 2015 – just six months after the release of “Albion”.
The album starts with an instrumental, “Buccaneers”, which leads directly into “Dead Men Tell No Tales”. Instantly the music and lyrics conjure up images of pirates and the sea, which is fitting as the album’s title is a reference to the island of the dead from pirate folklore.
As usual, all music and lyrics are penned by Hughes – and fit within his overall style perfectly. The man doesn’t do mediocre or average – his songs are always very good and generally have a catchy melodic chorus regardless of how heavy the guitar riffs may be – or may not be, let’s not overlook Hughes’ love of a good old-fashioned ballad, here represented by “This Love”.
Overall, though, this is a heavy melodic rock album, full of great hard rock guitar solos to compliment all the harmony and melodies.
My personal highlights at this stage are “Karnak” / “The Valley Of The Kings”, “The Last Pretender”, “The Dragon And Saint George” and “Acquiesce”, but that will probably change as I listen to the record more over time.
“Albion” was a truly excellent melodic hard rock album, and one of Ten’s best. I have to say that it also sports one of my favourite Ten album covers, but in musical terms – both the songs and the individual performances captured – “Isla De Muerta” may have just topped it…
“Isla De Muerta” tracklist:
1. Buccaneers / Dead Men Tell No Tales / 2. Tell Me What To Do / 3. Acquiesce / 4. This Love / 5. The Dragon And Saint George / 6. Intensify / 7. Karnak / The Valley Of The Kings / 8. Revolution / 9. Angel Of Darkness / 10. The Last Pretender / 11. We Can Be As One