Ghosts Of Sunset – No Saints In The City Golden Robot Records Release Date: 14/09/2021 Running Time: 41:40 Review by Beth Jones 9/10
There’s something so comforting about familiarity, isn’t there? Familiar tastes and smells. A go-to song when you need a sonic hug. Your own bed when you arrive home after a trip. It’s a warm fuzzy feeling; nostalgia that puts you in your happy place and takes you back to good days and good times. Ghosts Of Sunset, our subject here today, basically epitomize that nostalgic familiarness, and wrap it up in a cosy bow for the listener. I had the pleasure of reviewing their EP “Headed West” earlier this year, and having the chance to trip down nostalgia lane again by reviewing “No Saints In The City”, their latest release, was something that I couldn’t let pass me by.
In case you didn’t read my EP review (tut tut. Don’t worry, there’s a link at the bottom of this review so you can rectify that) here’s a bit of history. Ghosts Of Sunset are an American 80’s Rock/Hair Metal project featuring singer-songwriter John Merchant, and drummer Todd Long. These two gents have been kicking it in the music business for a long time and were joined on the EP by some classic names. “No Saints In The City” has come about after the roaring success of that EP. And I’m very glad it has. While this isn’t as conceptual as the EP, each song tells a melancholic story of times gone by, but in a happy and upbeat way, that is 100% classic hard rock and hair metal, but that also draws inspiration from 70’s punk and rock ‘n’ roll.
This is an album that not only brings back the sound of the 80’s completely, but demonstrates some fine writing skills, both lyrically and musically. It’s got high octane numbers, and classic ballads. It’s got face melting guitar solos, catchy riffs and hooks, great vocal harmonies, punchy rhythms and gravelly, rocky lead vocals, that tell of long nights fuelled by rock ‘n’ roll! It is impossible not to tap your feet and nod your head along to the sounds, nothing is fussy or overcomplex, and nothing outstays its welcome.
One of my favourite tracks on the album is title track, ‘No Saints In The City’, which was actually the first single released from the album. It’s an up-tempo ballad about the quest for the protagonist to “make it” on the streets of New York City. It’s masterfully put together, and tells a great story, in such a familiar way that you will be singing along by the second line of the chorus. (The elephant in the room with this song, however, is the fade out at the end [*sighs and facepalms*]. Please don’t fade…please, please, please! It irritates the living hell out of me!)
This really is a great album that makes you smile. There’s one weird song opening that I can’t get my head around though – on, ‘Bastards Of The Bowery’. It sounds like an early 2000’s Nokia 3310 ringtone. And since connecting that thought with the opening of this track, I can’t unhear it!
But, if you’re looking for a nostalgia trip done brilliantly well, this album needs to be in your playlist.
‘No Saints In The City’ (Official Video)
TRACKLISTING: 01. Tonight 02. No Saints In The City 03. Look Me Up (If You Come Down) 04. If You’re Not Coming Back 05. Queen Of Used To Be 06. Love Ain’t Enough 07. Bastards Of The Bowery 08. Puzzled Heart 09. Tonight You’re OK 10. Us Against Them 11. Something To Believe
LINK TO BETH’S REVIEW OF THE “Headed West EP”
Disclaimer: This review is solely the property of Beth Jones and Ever Metal. It is strictly forbidden to copy any part of this review, unless you have the strict permission of both parties. Failure to adhere to this will be treated as plagiarism and will be reported to the relevant authorities.
Ghosts Of Sunset – Headed West EP Golden Robot Records Release Date: 05/02/2021 Running Time: 25:05 Review by Beth Jones 8/10
The 80’s was an interesting decade in a lot of ways. Fashion, the beginning of the tech boom, and some really crazy stuff going on around the world. I was only born 10 days before the 80’s started, so I don’t remember much of it happening at the time, but, thanks to historical archives, the dots can be joined up. One thing I do remember is 80s hair! And the eponymous sound of 80’s Rock and Hair Metal.
Personally, I think some of the best rock and power ballads ever written came out of that era. And, it would seem that American 80’s Rock / Hair metal inspired project, Ghost Of Sunset, agree! The brainchild of singer-songwriter John Merchant, and singer, songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist Todd Long, their mission with this debut concept EP, “Headed West,” is to illustrate the story of the rise and fall of a fictional mid-western US rock band, getting lost in the changing music scene of 80’s L.A. They’ve enlisted a host of big names to help them bring this to life, as well, with musicians from the likes of L.A. Guns, RATT, Enuff Znuff, KIX, and Lita Ford, all involved with its creation.
I have to say, it’s a heck of a big story to fit into one 6 track EP! So, have they managed it? Well, let’s find out!
‘Headed West’, the opening, and title track, is an upbeat little number, perfect for a journey down a dusty highway, with the air of excitement and glorious wonderment buzzing along with you. It’s classic Rock ‘n’ Roll. And this theme continues through track 2, ‘Another Rock ‘n’ Roll Show’. This would be the perfect soundtrack to an upbeat advertisement for the ideals of 80’s young America. There’d be fast pans across crowded clubs, full of enough hairspray and back-combing to power the international space station for a good year. Everyone would be dancing, and smiling, and having a great time. Then you’d get the closeup cutaways of pretty girls laughing and pulling funny faces, and handsome guys, lighting up another Marlboro, and swigging from a cool Budweiser, while a killer rock band were giving a huge performance, in the background, on a stage the size of a postage stamp.
Then ‘3 Miles In-Between’ sweeps in. This takes things down a bit, and here we start to see the cracks forming, the yearning and longing for home, and the exhaustion of the punishing touring, and always having to put on your best face, that kept 80’s bands afloat. This is essentially one of those great ballads that I was talking about earlier, and it has a proper guitar solo towards the end of the track, completely in keeping with the soaring solos of the day!
This slowed down theme is continued in track 4, ‘Never Goodbye’. But here, we’re introduced to a new edge within the lyrics – bitterness and disillusionment – ‘You’ll tell them the truth, it’s all just a lie, just say goodnight, never goodbye’ being a perfect example of this. The plastic perfection of this era simply didn’t allow for open negativity.
Track 5, ‘It’s Not Over’, and the final track, ‘Try It For Love’, run through becoming resolute to their fate, with an almost ‘dead behind the eyes’ acceptance, and then finding peace in the realisation that it’s not all just about perceived success, but that, in fact, real success comes from within. It’s in the joy, and love, that just making music brings. Well, that’s how I see it, anyway.
Musically, this epic tale, neatly packaged into 25 minutes, is very pleasing. The songs are all expertly written, with nothing overstated, and skilfully executed by all the players (but then you’d expect this really, with the amount of talent and experience Ghosts Of Sunset has called upon). But for me the thing that makes this a great EP is it does exactly what it says on the tin. It’s everything that says great 80’s Rock / Hair Metal. There’s nothing new here, and there’s no flashy, all singing, all dancing, ‘shiny, shiny’. But there doesn’t need to be. If you’re looking for a new sound, this will not be for you (unless of course you’ve been living in a cave and have never heard any music before, ever!). But, if you, like me, are a sucker for some nostalgia, then this EP will make you smile, a lot!
TRACKLISTING: 01. Headed West 02. Another Rock ‘n’ Roll Show 03. 3 Miles In-Between 04. Never Goodbye 05. It’s Not Over 06. Try It For Love
LINE-UP: Todd Long – Songwriting, Guitar, Bass, Drums and Backing Vocals John Merchant – Songwriting, Vocals + many guests!
Disclaimer: This review is solely the property of Beth Jones and Ever Metal. It is strictly forbidden to copy any part of this review, unless you have the strict permission of said party. Failure to adhere to this will be treated as plagiarism and will be reported to the relevant authorities.
Hi everyone! Welcome to our new EMQ’s interview with USA based Hard Rockers Ghosts Of Sunset. Huge thanks to vocalist/guitarist/songwriter John Merchant for taking part.
What is your name, what do you play, and can you tell us a little bit about the history of the band?
My name is John Merchant, I’m the singer, guitarist and co-songwriter for the rock n roll band Ghosts of Sunset. Ghosts of Sunset was formed by myself and Todd Long. Todd and I have been making music together for 30+ years and formed Ghosts of Sunset to create music that celebrates our mutual love for rock n roll music of all kinds, but specifically the 1980’s hard rock scene.
How did you come up with your band name?
A lot of the music we grew up on sprung up from the Sunset Strip in Los Angeles California. The “Ghosts” of Sunset have nothing to with the music being passé’, but is more a homage to everything from the 50’s and 60’s Sunset scene of Dean, Sammy, and Frank, to the Doors, Buffalo Springfield, and the Byrds, up to Ratt, Quiet Riot, Mötley Crüe, Faster Pussycat, LA Guns, and more. It was a magical place and it shaped the musicians we were to become.
What country are you from and what is the metal scene like there?
We are based in the United States. The country as a whole has always had vibrant music scenes in various locations. We’ve been lucky that a lot of international influence has found its way to our country and we’ve synthesized those influences and returned them back to the world. The young metal scene here owes a lot to the Big Four of Metallica, Megadeth, Slayer, and Anthrax, but those artists harken back to NWOBHM (New Wave of British Heavy Metal) and forefathers like Sabbath, Zeppelin, Deep Purple, Motorhead and others.
What is your latest release? (Album, EP, Single, Video)
Our current single is ‘Miles In-Between’ on Golden Robot Records. An official “quarantine” style video has accompanied it and a second single is due in October. Following that, the full EP should see release in November of 2020.
‘Miles In-Between’ (Lyric Video)
Who have been your greatest influences?
Too many to list. Todd and I both bow down to the song. Great songs transcend genre. For us that can mean Elvis, Chuck Berry, the Stones, the Beatles, to early country music, 70’s pop, 80’s hair metal, punk, etc… Our job as musicians is to take all those influences and reform them into something that’s uniquely Ghosts of Sunset but also sounds familiar to fans of this style of music.
What first got you into music?
For me it was the Beatles, but I honestly don’t remember a time when I wanted to do anything else. I often liken it to being called to the ministry. It was as if my DNA had this imprint and my entire like would be spent trying to absorb as much as possible while creating my own music.
If you could collaborate with a current band or musician who would it be?
Within the rock genre, I think Butch Walker would be amazing to make a record with. We share management with Donnie Vie (Enuff Znuff) who is a world-class songwriter, so maybe someday we could collaborate with him. We’ve been lucky because we’ve had various musicians contribute to our EP (Tracii Guns from LA Guns, Adam Hamilton, Brian Forsythe from KIX, Stacey Blades (LA Guns, Roxx Gang), PJ Farley (Trixter), Johnny Monaco (Enuff Znuff/LA Guns). We love and respect these musicians work so it’s been an honour to have them participate in music that they inadvertently influenced. It belongs to them as much as it does us. We are really paying homage to work they’ve done in various forms.
If you could play any festival in the world, which would you choose and why?
We’ve definitely talked about the M3 festival in the US (which features many top artists from the 1980s “hair metal” explosion) but there’s worldwide festivals like Download, Wacken, and others that would be a great fit for us. We want to go wherever people share the same love for this style of music that we have.
What’s the weirdest gift you have ever received from a fan?
Lots of cool stuff over the years. Hats, bracelets, shirts, records, etc. nothing ever too weird. Usually it’s just people who share our passion for music and want to share something special with us.
If you had one message for your fans, what would it be?
Love what you love unabashedly. Never be tied to a specific style or genre. It’s ok to love King Diamond AND Taylor Swift. What makes some of your favourite artists so great is they have the ability to be open to a wide range of musical styles. So, you may be listening to the heaviest metal of all time, but that thing that hooks you could be the result of the writer having an affinity for Ella Fitzgerald or Cab Calloway or Buck Owens.
If you could bring one rock star back from the dead, who would it be?
All the greats of course. Janis, Jimi, Jim. For me, I’d love to see what John Lennon would’ve grown into or Gram Parsons would’ve done. I’d love to bring Jani Lane (from Warrant) back, get him some help, and have him write songs for other artists. He wrote amazing songs but Cherry Pie laid so heavy on his heart it ultimately killed him. He died because he wrote a hit song. That seems absurd until you realize he could never be allowed to celebrate his other work.
What do you enjoy the most about being a musician? And what do you hate?
The music, the people, the sharing with like-minded people. The post show conversations when a stranger turns you onto a good record, or killer book, or something that’s changed their life. Hate? I guess I hate how small-minded and single of vision some artists can be. Hating something doesn’t make your love of something else any more valid.
If you could change one thing about the music industry, what would it be?
I’d like to see true artists celebrated no matter what genre they work in. It would also be nice if the industry found a way to allow artists to make a comfortable living within the newly digital world of music. I’d like to see artists developed and nurtured. Now days, we let 3-4 famous people vote on what’s going to succeed or not. Often, they’re looking at dance moves, haircuts, and marketability rather than songs, statements, and purpose.
Name one of your all-time favourite albums?
“Exile on Mainstreet” by the Rolling Stones.
What’s best? Vinyl, Cassettes, CD’s or Downloads?
Pristine vinyl on the right system is like wrapping up in a warm blanket, cassettes were amazing because they were so mobile that we ultimately ended up being able to carry our music with us in a Sony Walkman. CD’s promised fidelity we hadn’t had before but with that came a cold-ness that came from accentuating frequencies we weren’t used to hearing. Downloads have made it possible to explore a wider range of music in a nearly instantaneous fashion. If you can think about it, you can almost find it. That means you can explore a style you might not want to commit $15 to, but might find something that you commit the rest of your listening life to.
What’s the best gig that you have played to date?
Gigs are like pizza or sex. When they’re good, they’re really, really good, when they’re bad, they’re still pretty good.
If you weren’t a musician, what else would you be doing?
Listening to music, enjoying music, maybe writing about music or developing artists. It’s the only thing that’s ever truly mattered outside of family and friends.
Which five people would you invite to a dinner party
Jesus Christ, John Lennon, Keith Richards, Gram Parsons, and Waylon Jennings. I have specific questions for each of them.
What’s next for the band?
Continue promoting the singles in preparation for the full EP release. We’re writing new material now and getting things in place for live shows when the industry resumes post-Covid 19. We’re hoping to have a long, fruitful relationship with Golden Robot Records, and our management at Samurai Artist Management has a game plan in place to assure we keep making music that is high passion and high quality.
What Social Media/Website links do you use to get your music out to people?
Being a Yank, I had to Google them. In the US I think we call them cookies but I’m sure in the international world that would be sadly frowned on. In the states, a biscuit means something totally different, so I’m going to say a cake, since that’s the American equivalent they seem closest to.
Thank you for your time. Is there anything else that you would like to add?
Just how much we appreciate your time. Being life-long lovers of music, we are so excited to share these songs with the world. We’re just huge fans who have written songs for other fans to enjoy. Even if I had no part of these songs, I’d want people to hear them because I enjoy them. It’s no different than me rolling up to your flat with an arm full of records. It’s about sharing.
Disclaimer: This interview is solely the property of Ever Metal. It is strictly forbidden to copy any part of this interview, unless you have the strict permission of said party. Failure to adhere to this will be treated as plagiarism and will be reported to the relevant authorities.