In the darkest days of the mid-nineties it really looked as if our beloved musical style was finished, until a few chinks of light emerged in the underground. One of these was a German specialist melodic rock label, MTM – with former international footballer Thomas Häßler was one of the partners – starting to release some quality albums, one of the first and best being TOWER CITY.
I remember my amazement at hearing classic melodic rock of the type grunge was supposed to have swept away, even more so given the cropped hairstyles on the CD booklet of the band members, a trio of guitarist/vocalist Larry Saltis, brother Heath on drums and Tim Weiner on bass. What I didn’t know was that it was an album that had been recorded early in the decade and they had deals with major labels but it never saw the light of day.
‘Talking to Sarah’ is an intriguing start to the album with a darker theme befitting the subject matter of child abuse, yet nothing less than melodic, brilliantly constructed and keyboard fills supporting a big chorus. The rest of the album is slightly more conventional with the title track screaming DEF LEPPARD, from its song structure, to the gang-like backing vocals and processed guitar.
There is an impressive variety in the songs – ‘Ain’t Nobody To Love’ sounds like Brian Howe- era BAD COMPANY, ‘I’ll Sleep Tonight’ is a class ballad and the commercial hooks of the Rick Springfield-esque ‘Closer to the Heart’ contrast with the likes of ‘When It All Comes Down’ with its impressively layered sound.
However, the true greatness is to be found in the middle of the album – ‘Surrender’ combines the feel of DEF LEPPARD and NELSON, while ‘Closer to the Heart’, with a great blend of guitar and keyboards, and the huge chorus of ‘Stop Runnin’ even boast production and, in the latter instance a writing credit, from the great Mike Slamer.
Larry Saltis is one of the few people equally adept as a lead vocalist and a guitarist and my only complaint is that the quality tails off a little on the last two or three songs where the DEF-like choruses start to become a bit repetitive.
MTM rushed out a follow-up All or Nothing with equally good songs but a demo style production, and though they pursued a parallel (non-AOR) project with COLORVINE, TOWER CITY faded from view. Excitingly, they were actually announced for the final Firefest festival in 2014, but realising they could not do the songs justice after so many years of inactivity, they withdrew. It was an honourable move, but one which deprived us of the chance to ever hear these great songs.