Back in the ’80s, before a little thing called the World Wide Web came along, we got our metal news from magazines like Circus and Hit Parader. In a pathetic attempt to be hip and now amongst my fellow teenage metalhead pals, I was always on the lookout for any obscure band that got a decent review in those rags. One such band in 1985 was a British act called Shy. I’ll be honest: Brave the Storm was probably the worst album I bought based on these old reviews. The songs were bad, it was dated and sounded old a week after I bought it, and the vocals — by one Tony Mills — were screechingly awful. Think the worst performances of Geoff Tate. I quickly archived the album (threw it in the back of my closet), and from then on I paid no attention to the band nor its members.
Okay, the history lesson is over. Fast forward 32 years, and what do I see in my email but a promo blurb for Tony Mills. Apparently, he’s still knocking out records decades after Brave the Storm and has sung on tons of records in a backing capacity over the years. In fact, this album, Streets of Chance, is his fifth solo release since 2000. Full disclosure: I didn’t know this and haven’t heard any of those albums. This review is based purely on the merits of Streets of Chance on its own – and especially on whether or not I can get through an entire album of Mills singing.
The good news is that time has been very kind to Tony Mills. His vocals are light years better than they were in the Shy days. The man sounds like a seasoned pro now, hitting high notes that are much more palatable and turning in a genuinely solid hard rock performance. What helps, even more, is the crack band Mills has assembled. Pretty much everyone on Streets of Chance has played for bands we’ve all heard of. The most obvious of these names include the guitarists: Joel Hoekstra did time with both Whitesnake and Night Ranger, Tommy Denander played with Alice Cooper and Paul Stanley, and Robby Roebel played with 90s German act Frontline. All these guys, as well as the rest of the band, are accomplished studio cats and it shows, with slick, professional work throughout.
Yes, everyone on Streets of Chance is a pro, and everyone nails their performances. But those performances can only take bland material so far, and that’s the crux of the issue here. None of these songs take any chances whatsoever, with feel and style ranging from the sappy radio-friendly hard rock on “When the Lights Go Down” and “Legacy” to the barely edgy bubble gum metal of “Seventh Wonder.” The songs sound great, especially the guitar work, and Mills nails his vocals, but ultimately the songs have no replay value. They wind up being very professional-sounding background noise. The band here, and even Mills, after looking through his bio, have spent a lot of time as backing musicians, and it shows in the songwriting, with everything totally by the numbers.
I don’t give Streets of Chance much of a grade here, but I came away impressed with Mills’ work as well as the chops of the ace musicians he brought along for the ride. But the album is full of by-the-numbers songs that take no chances and press no buttons. It’s odd to say, but a close listen to the record yields no major issues in production or performance, but without a single song standing out from a crowd of vanilla hard rock, it’s impossible to reward Streets of Chance, and it’s too bad, because Tony Mills has gotten miles better with age.