Album Review: Alan Lancaster’s Bombers – LIVE! (2019)

alan-lancasters-bombers-live-cdMore than 30 years ago now, Sydney hard rock band The Bombers were on the cusp of success. On paper, they had all the makings for success. With a line-up that boasted Alan Lancaster and John Coghlan from Status Quo, John Brewster of The Angels, a powerhouse vocalist in Ty Coates and a legit blues player Steve Crofts (RIP) on Stratocaster guitar. Domination of the rock world seemed to be only a matter of time. The band inked a deal with US label A&M records with a huge advance, released a terrific debut album in ‘Aim High’ had a couple of supports with international artists including Alice Cooper and Skid Row, had some media support and played the circuit constantly ….. yet as history has shown, they didn’t break wide open, and the success never came. The band were relegated to playing the pubs and clubs, and by the early 90’s, it was all over, and what should have been, didn’t eventuate.

My brother and I were fortunate to have cottoned on to the Bombers from the time of their formation, and saw many of the band’s early shows with the Coghlan – Lancaster – Brewster – Crofts –Coates line-up, and as this just released live album from the archive shows – we were witnessing something special, lightning in a bottle, a genuine supergroup playing the pubs, and in spite of previous rock n roll triumphs with their aforementioned profile bands – it shows the Bombers were a band hungry for success.

After a few live outings, the Bombers did two nights supporting Cheap Trick at Coogee Bay Hotel in November 88. This was the first incarnation of the Bombers and it included Angelo Salter on guitar. By the time the band commenced the residency at Crows Nest Hotel (on Sydney’s north, where this live album was recorded), Salter and his tinny metal licks were gone, to be replaced by Crofts, whose guitar sound was much more solid, being a guy who cut his teeth on the blues.

This live album is pulled from one of the band’s shows they performed at Feathers (Crows Nest Hotel) during that residency. The band held this residency for several weeks in early to mid-1989. Every Tuesday night. Two sets. For free. Hold that thought for a moment. A Tuesday night in a suburban Sydney pub. One half of the classic Quo line up are belting out ‘Roll Over Lay Down’ and ‘Roadhouse Blues’. For free….. Unbelievable. You really think that type of thing would happen nowadays? Not likely.

While working up their chops and becoming match fit – week in week out, the audience were treated to a killer set that consisted of Quo and Angels classics, from Down Down to Marseilles, Small Talk to City Out Of Control. Lancaster and Brewster were fresh from their stint with The Party Boys, so a couple of Party Boys numbers were also included in the set (Is This The Way To Say Goodbye, She’s A Mystery, Rising Star). There was also a ton of original songs, many of which made the ‘Aim High’ album, and many of which are included on this official live album,

I for one am glad that this album has seen the light of day. For it captures a band at the height of their powers in all their denim clad sonic glory. It also showcases what an astounding live band the Bombers were. Highlights are many – from the amazing vocal prowess of Coates and his incredible range, to the rupturing guitar work of Steve Crofts – yet underneath it all are some incredibly durable rock n roll songs, songs that still sound great 30 years down the line. That’s testament to the quality of the material. It goes without saying that this album serves as a fitting tribute to the memory of Steve Crofts.

Let’s take a look at some of the tunes. ‘City Out Of Control’ is an absolute monster. Punishingly brutal. Whenever I saw Doc (bless him) sing this with the Angels it paled in comparison to the Bombers version for sheer power. Coates’s vocals being the clincher here. “Is This The Way To Say Goodbye” is super melodic. It’s beyond me how this wasn’t a worldwide radio hit. The bands’ first single, ‘Running In The Shadows’ is also here, and it still kicks ass, as does ‘Crime Investigator’, another solid rocker that grooves with intent and is highlighted by Coates’ tasty sax licks. The brooding ‘No Danger’ gets another green tick, as does the foot to the floor romp of ‘Running In The Shadows’, which was the band’s first single release.

In my mind I can still see Croft’s running his fingers up the fret board during ‘Aim High’ or sliding his battered Strat across the mic stand during ‘City Out of Control”. I can see John Brewster wailing away on harmonica, Alan Lancaster belting out ‘Roadhouse Blues’ and John Coghlan keeping time behind the drums with his expressionless gaze – in the zone they call it. I can feel the energy of the room, the buzz building for the band week by week, the audience numbers increasing as word spread about this white hot blues/boogie hard rock combo playing out for free on a Tuesday night. To see the band encore with ‘Have A Drink On Me’ just one more time. If only.

The John Coghlan line-up of the band was only together a few months with Coghlan soon to depart back to Blighty, and to be replaced by ex-Boss drummer Peter Heckenberg. This live album is also an important musical document of a time, a place, and a period of Oz rock that no longer exists.

Cherished memories……if you weren’t there, this live album is the next best thing. Alan Lancaster’s Bombers – LIVE is out now on Barrel And Squidger Records in limited edition vinyl, CD and digital download. Get up and get it on. 10 out of 10.

Buy the album here

Here is a great article about the Lancaster / Coghlan line up and the early period of The Bombers

Interview with Tyrone Coates about the Bombers

Interview with John Brewster about the Bombers

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