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This is Not Where You Belong - 58%

Superchard, October 9th, 2018

For many a Tony Martin fan such as myself, many of us will just have to come to accept he really hasn't done much that was noteworthy outside his time with Black Sabbath. As early as 1987 upon the release of The Eternal Idol , Martin was stating in interviews that he had some material outside of Black Sabbath that he wanted to take care of. Martin wouldn't be able to take a crack at getting his material out there until 1992 with the release of his debut solo album Back Where I Belong. Just a year later he would pair up with Serbian guitarist Misha Calvin on 1993's Evolution. These two releases after his first stretch with Black Sabbath would be the last albums to feature his powerhouse voice and when 1994 rolled along with his return to Black Sabbath and the release of Cross Purposes everyone has been wondering just what the hell happened to Martin's vocals from that point of his career onward. 1992 was a pivotal year for Black Sabbath with Martin out of the band and being replaced with the reuniting of Ronnie James Dio for Dehumanizer. With competition like that, Back Where I Belong didn't stand a snowball's chance in hell of drawing any attention to itself regardless of Martin's association with the founding fathers of heavy metal.

That being said, it's a long way away from being a "metal" album in any sense of the word. More of a pop-rock album that sounds like it belongs in the 80's, which makes sense as he was hinting at this album very early on. It's likely the first drafts of much of the material here was construed while or perhaps even before his time in Black Sabbath. It has more in common with the soft pop rock of his 1988 album with Forcefield entitled Forcefield II: The Talisman, an inorganic synth-pop album that was like a weird mix of Michael Jackson and Peter Gabriel with songs like "Carrie". Neither that or this is really my cup of tea, so keep in mind my bias for the review when I say that Back Where I Belong isn't even that great of a pop rock album.

I grew up listening to his only other solo album to date, 2005's Scream, an album I managed to purchase easily online. It reminds me though of how just a decade ago, rare music like this was much harder to come by on the internet. I did come across his official website and they would put up songs from this album absolutely free. I managed to snag "India" and "Angel in the Bed", but it seems they'd stopped managing the page as I would check back every now and again to see that only those two songs were on there still. It left me wondering what this album was like overall, but in hindsight those two tracks pretty well summed it up. "Angel in the Bed" being the absolute worst the album has to offer, an uplifting, soft commercial rock song that didn't bode well on my ears for the rest of the album would have to offer. "India" was slightly better; however, but between these two tracks I pretty much came to the conclusion that Back Where I Belong was a radio friendly commercial rock album and as it would turn out my assessment was correct. The burning hot Little Richard style piano rocker has more fire and flare to it, but the melodic harmonizing vocals get really irritating toward the end of the song.

There was only one other song besides these two that wasn't a complete and total mystery to me, although I admittedly hadn't heard this version of it until much later. That being "Jerusalem". "Jerusalem" being a cover of the Black Sabbath song off of their 1990 album Tyr. It ended up being faithful to the original without sounding anywhere near as "full" as the Black Sabbath original production, with Martin not sounding anywhere near as grand and majestic as he did just a couple years ago. The only other real difference with this version being that there's an acoustic solo and a few electric guitar embellishments at the end of the song that weren't there before. All in all, it's a much more mellow take on the song.

I'd eventually be able to listen to the album in its entirety thanks to some kind souls on Youtube that took the liberty of sharing the music with the rest of us. Between this and Scream I'm sad to say that Tony Martin hasn't made a good album on his own yet that I can totally get behind, but I am impressed with his work ethic and discipline as a diverse musician as he wrote everything and played the majority of the instruments on both album, bringing in a number of guest musicians to help him fully realize both album. Neil Murray, Laurence Cottle (bassists on Headless Cross), Geoff Nicholls and Brian May are the only recognizable names on the roster here, with the rest being another whose who of musicians we've never heard of before or after the album. The first couple of songs aren't half bad, some really upbeat jazz fusion intertwined with Richard Cottle even supplying a saxophone solo on the album's opening track. "If it Ain't Worth Fighting For" comes out on top here with "It Ain't Good Enough" easily coming in second place.

After that Back Where I Belong takes a nosedive to power ballad mediocrity on "If There is a Heaven", "The Last Living Tree" and "Why Love". "Now You've Gone" isn't all that far off from being another power ballad either, but salvages itself somewhat with a Deep Purple Come Taste the Band era funk rock bridge and guitar solo, not to mention the timbre on the acoustic guitar here is to die for, but perhaps I'm digging a little too deep to find a good thing to say about the song by bringing this up. As for the other power ballads on the album, I'm sorry to say, but Whitesnake wouldn't wipe their ass with the conservational carbon footprint awareness song that is "The Last Living Tree" or the sappy soy boy melodrama of "If There is a Heaven". "Sweet Elyse" and the title track rise above the power ballads. Definitely not strong enough on their own to truly salvage the album, but a nice break from the rest of the album. The former being like an old school Deep Purple speed metal track.

It might sound like I'm not the biggest advocate for this album. I will say it is just a smidge better than Scream though. Even the worst that Back Where I Belong has to offer with "Angel in the Bed" isn't even half as bad as the rap metal song "Unbearable" from his 2005 album. Take it on those terms, and I'm thankful to hear a bluesy intro guitar solo over atmospheric keyboards on "Ceasefire". Sure it's a bit on the cliché side, but it's more interesting than the doom metal and pop punk that was on Scream. That being said, I believe if you're looking for Tony Martin material outside of Black Sabbath that's more on the commercial pop side, Forcefield II: The Talisman is a fair bit better than this, as is Misha Calvin's Evolution.

Superchard gets super hard for:
If it Ain't Worth Fighting For
It Ain't Good Enough
Sweet Elyse