Star-studded charity ‘Tower Of Strength’ cover

Wayne Hussey has brought in a bunch of his goth mates to record a new version of The Mission’s ‘Tower Of Strength,’ with proceeds going to COVID-19 related charities chosen by each contributor. It’ll be released digitally on August 28 and on CD and vinyl on October 2, but you can hear a little preview in the video above.

Credited to ReMission International, there will be various versions released including vinyl, CD and a digital bundle.

Collaborators include: Andy Rourke, Billy Duffy, Budgie, Evi Vine, Gary Numan, James Alexander Graham, Jay Aston, Julianne Regan, Kevin Haskins, Kirk Brandon, Lol Tolhurst, Martin Gore, Michael Aston, Michael Ciravolo (Beauty In Chaos, Schecter Guitars), Midge Ure, Miles Hunt, Rachel Goswell, Richard Fortus, Robin Finck, Steve Clarke, Tim Palmer and Trentemøller.

“When Covid-19 hit I started receiving messages asking ‘why don’t you re-issue Tower Of Strength for the front line workers?’,” Hussey says. “The song had apparently been adopted as an anthem by some NHS workers, and it got me thinking that I would like to contribute something to the greater cause at this unprecedented time and the only thing I could really contribute is music. So in conjunction with my good friend Michael Ciravolo, I came up with the idea of recording a new version of Tower Of Strength for charity by enlisting the help of musician friends and acquaintances. Tower Of Strength was first released by The Mission as single in 1988 and then again in 1994. It charted twice in the UK top 40 and has proved to be probably our biggest song and the one we generally close our shows with. It is anthemic. I wondered if recording a more well known song might have a greater reach but neither Michael or I could come up with any suggestions that seemed to fit lyrically without getting too corny. So Tower Of Strength it was then.”

“Usually I detest things that are done for charity that are also self-serving, but I came up with a plan that satisfied my conscience. I spoke with my fellow Mission band members who co-wrote the song – Craig Adams, Mick Brown and Simon Hinkler – and we agreed to give up any publishing income generated by the new version to nominated charities, including mechanical and performance royalties and 100% of any revenue raised by sales. TOS2020 has been renamed to divert funds from the original version, and the charities will all be personally nominated by the people involved in its recording and release. Because the musical contributions are global our idea is that the proceeds will be divided and distributed equally among all the beneficiaries.”

“Whilst all the versions will be available to listen to on all streaming platforms I’m gonna ask you to help the cause by buying at least the digital package which is priced at only £2.99. It’s not much, is it? For the price of a coffee you’ll receive all five versions. Come on, help us to help others.”

Pre-order here now: www.themissionukband.com
Digital release date 28th August
CD & 12” vinyl release date 2nd October
Merchandise available here: www.themissionukband.com

TOS2020 – ReMission International track-listing:

Vinyl Side A (cat no: SPV 243541 LP)
1. TOS2020 (Beholden To The Front Line Workers Of The World mix)
2. TOS2020 (single)

Vinyl Side B
TOS2020 (Trentemøller Remix)
TOS2020 (Albie Mischenzingerzen Remix)

CD (cat no: SPV 243542 CD-EP)
1. TOS2020 (Beholden To The Front Line Workers Of The World mix)
2. TOS2020 (Trentemøller Remix)
3. TOS2020 (Albie Mischenzingerzen Remix)
4. TOS2020 (single)

Digital Bundle (cat no: SPV 24354D)
1. TOS2020 (single)
2. TOS2020 (Beholden To The Front Line Workers Of The World mix)
3. TOS2020 (Trentemøller Remix)
4. TOS2020 (Albie Mischenzingerzen Remix)
5. Tower Of Strength (original – new remaster) – The Mission (free bonus track with bundle only)

Charities to benefit from the single include: NHS Charities UK,St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital Memphis, Music Venue Trust UK, Covenant House, New Orleans, Disasters Emergency Committee, MusiCares, Plan International, Direct Relief, Alzheimer’s Scotland, Liberty Hill Foundation, The Shrewsbury Ark, Memorial Sloan Kettering Center NYC, Prostate Cancer UK, The Teddy Bear Clinic, Red Rover, Help Musicians UK, Crew Nation, Venice Family Clinic, The Anthony Walker Foundation, Projeto Cáo Communitário and The City Of San Francisco COVID-19 Fund.

By the way, have you seen Wayne Hussey’s signature Schecter Corsair-12? Beautiful instrument with a unique pickup configuration.

REVIEW: Guns N’ Roses – Chinese Democracy

Before you can take an honest look at ‘Chinese Democracy,’ you have to address and then dismiss a few key facts: Yes, the only original member left is Axl Rose; yes, it’s 17years since ‘Use Your Illusion 1 & 2’; no, it’s probably not going to live up to the expectations created by that 17 year wait; and no, you can’t get your free Dr. Pepper unless you’re an American resident. It’s impossible to listen to this album without being aware of its history – starts, stops, hirings, firings, postponement after postponement. But ultimately this context has to be put aside if you have any chance of listening to the album for what it is: 14 songs by the guy who sang ‘Welcome To The Jungle.’

Opening with an atmospheric, chattering soundscape (courtesy of Eric Cardieaux, who has done a lot of work with Joe Satriani), followed by a heavily processed but very much rock-approved guitar riff, Axl suddenly breaks through the din with that famous scream, and the preceding 17 years are all but forgotten. The high notes are still there, and so is the attitude, and sure, the vocals could have been pieced together from studio sessions dating back to 2005, but Axl sounds happy to just be singing again. The sound is updated, semi-industrial, and very, very polished. It sounds like every dollar of the rumoured $14 million or so was used on the recording process rather than private jets and bike shorts.

Track 2, ‘Shackler’s Revenge’ continues, and in fact enhances, the industrial vibe with a pre-chorus straight out of the NIN songbook and a riff which would be at home on Max Cavalera’s Nailbomb side project. Track 3, ‘Better,’ is my frontrunner for song of the year. I can’t get this freaking thing out of my head, and that’s okay with me. Processed guitars and falsetto vocals set up the mood, and some on-the-off-beat guitar rhythms give the verses a sense of propulsion. Wild sweep-picked licks cap off the choruses, and Buckethead throws in a typically unpredictable ear-candy solo. Then NIN guitarist Robin Finck kicks in with a soulful, lyrical solo which reminds me of Ritchie Kotzen’s Telecaster tones and clean phrasing. Compared to the virtuosity of Buckethead and Ron ‘Thal’ Bumblefoot, Finck’s solo is reminiscent of the bluesier spirit Slash brought to the band.

Bumblefoot has a few cool guitar moments scattered throughout the album, as does Buckethead, and Finck can be relied upon for more tasty blues phrasing before the album is through, but for an act that’s so much a part of hard rock history (and with 6 guitarists listed in the credits if you count Axl), there’s less guitar here than you might expect. Around the middle of the album, things get very ‘November Rain.’ There are 4 midtempo piano songs in a row, coloured with varying degrees of drum loops and synth pads, at times sounding like the Bowie-and-electronica-influenced solo album of Queensryche’s Geoff Tate, and at other times recalling the ‘right up-to-date when it was released’ sounds of Sting’s ‘Brand New Day’ album – which would have been great news if Chinese Democracy was released in 2000, but which makes it sound a little dated today. The melodies are carefully crafted and the mood ranges from intimate to epic, and the overall pacing has a bit of a concert vibe (albeit compressed into just over an hour).

Piano time draws to a close and leads to the Zep-ish ‘Riad & The Bedouins,’ which has an almost prog vibe and some crushing guitar riffs, topped off with some classic 70s glam. The proggy vibe continues with ‘Sorry,’ which has a kind of 90s Black Sabbath vibe. Then ‘IRS’ brings in a bit of classic G’n’R rock mixed with more of that Tate-ish vibe. ‘Madagascar’ is another big epic, and one of a bunch of Chinese Democracy songs played on tour over the last few years. ‘This I Love’ is almost contemporary musical theatre with yet more piano and overblown arrangement, and finally ‘Prostitute’ caps off the album with some uptempo drums, soaring vocal melodies, and finally a quiet, peaceful orchestral finish.

‘Chinese Democracy’ may not be the greatest album of all time, but it’s surprisingly coherent despite its eclecticism, and while it comes close to collapsing under the weight of not only public anticipation but also its own overdubbed bloat, it seems to remain on track and provide a compelling listening experience. Sure, it’s not the album G’n’R would have made if Slash, Duff, Izzy, Gilby, Matt, or even Steven Alder were around, and it has its flaws, but if you treat it as an Axl solo album, you may be very pleasantly surprised. Just don’t expect a hard rock album.

CLICK HERE for my interview with Bumblefoot
CLICK HERE to buy Guns N’ Roses – Chinese Democracy from CDJapan.co.jp
CLICK HERE to buy the limited edition SHM-CD version from CDJapan.co.jp