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American Tears – Free Angel Express

American Tears
Free Angel Express
by Dave "That Metal Guy" Campbell at 30 October 2020, 6:54 AM

AMERICAN TEARS is an American keyboard trio that released its first record, “Branded Bad,” on Columbia Records in 1974, it's second, “Tear Gas,” in 1975, and its final for Columbia, “Powerhouse” in 1977 before reforming in 2018. Due to the very well received 2018 release of its fourth record "Hard Core", the band recorded "White Flags", released to great critical acclaim in 2019, which kicked it all up a notch. Formed in the fertile musical environment of Long Island, New York, the band was initially made up of Gary Sonny, on bass, Tommy Gunn on drums and Mark Mangold on keys and vocals. “Free Angel Express” is their latest release, and contains fourteen new tracks.

“Sledgehammer” leads off the album. It features heavy electronica and vocal harmonies. I am all for keyboards, and consider them an essential instrument in today’s music. But without guitars, it lacks that punch that I am used to hearing. “Free Angel Express” is a ten-minute beast. The keyboards come at you in pleasing layers here. Some in the background, and other carrying the melody. The mood is light and the sound positive. At one point, the sound shifts a bit to some shouting in unison. It slows and then another sound comes altogether…a soulful sultry strut.

“Not for Nothing” features a slower groove with plenty of emotions in the vocals. So far, the three tracks I have listened to have had some great variation but haven’t done a whole lot for me. “Everything you Take” features a faster moving song with some really great keyboard playing. It’s sort of bluesy in a way, but also done with a lot of soul, especially the slower passage at the end. “Roll the Stone” moves forward with a charming keyboard melody, and strong vocal performance. Again, it’s unlike anything else on the album. One thing the band does well is present diverse tracks. “Can’t get Satisfied” opens with old-school keys, heavy with vibrato. The vocals are sung with soul. The chorus is emotional and the overall sound is very bluesy.

“Shadows Aching Karma” has a nice little piano/key melody in the opening sequence. It still feels a bit thin without the guitar but the band more than makes up for it with thick, vocal harmonies and a real presence from the frontman. It also has a fantastic keyboard solo. “So Glow” is close to seven-minutes in length. It’s a slower moving song with plenty of spirit. At the half-way mark, the keys lift off the page and come to life. It’s amazing that one instrument can produce so many different sounds. “Rise to the Light” opens with softer key notes and a very charming melody. The vocals are poignant and this song really moves me. It’s so tender and was just what I need at the time…I never want it to end.

“Tusk (Blood on the Ivory)” closes the album. It’s a bit heavier, with drum strikes and keys playing in free-form style, using a lot of minor notes. It takes you to another dimension in the time-space continuum completely. I have to say, I was pleasantly surprised that this band from the early 1970’s still had some fuel in the engines to put out a 14-track album with this much diversity. Each song had its own story to tell, and was stylistically different from one another. Although somewhat hard to classify, I think any fans of music in general will find something to their liking here. The vocal and key work is outstanding. Welcome back, men!

Songwriting: 8
Musicianship: 9
Memorability: 7
Production: 9

4 Star Rating

1. Sledgehammer
2. Set it on Fire
3. Free Angel Express
4. Not for Nothing
5. Glass
6. Everything you Take
7. Roll the Stone
8. Blue Rondo
9. Can’t Get Satisfied
10. Woke
11. Shadows Aching Karma
12. So Glow
13. Rise to the Light
14. Tusk (Blood on the Ivory)
Mark Mangold – Keyboards, Vocals
Record Label: Deko Entertainment


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