"Like a heavier Styx or a lighter Uriah Heep, but dressed like the Bee Gees": Angel by Angel - Album Of The Week Club review

Discovered by Gene Simmons and sold as a more wholesome alternative to Kiss, Angel's stage show was equally theatrical, but their music was a mix of pomp and prog

Angel - Angel cover art
(Image: © Casablanca)

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Kingdom Come - Kingdom Come

Angel - Angel cover art

(Image credit: Casablanca)

Long Time
Rock And Rollers
Broken Dreams
Sunday Morning
On & On
Angel (Theme)

Signed to Casablanca Records – also the home of KissAngel were hyped as rivals to the self-styled Hottest Band In The World. Angel’s flamboyant image was like Kiss in negative: five big-haired dudes all in gleaming white. 

Angel's stage show was equally theatrical. And if their music was puffed-up with proggy flourishes – an extravagance completely alien to Kiss – this pomposity was allied to a glam-rock sensibility that was pure Rock And Roll All Nite. There, however, the similarities ended. While Kiss achieved world domination, Angel never had even one top 20 hit. 

Angel’s self-titled debut, released in 1975, established a signature pomp-rock sound with epic tracks Tower and Long Time, on which keyboard virtuoso Gregg Giuffria and high-pitched singer Frank DiMino battled for the spotlight like a pair of old pantomime dames. Meanwhile, guitarist Punky Meadows' riffs are actually more brutal than bouffant, and the sound is very hard-rock-English, courtesy of Deep Purple producer Derek Lawrence and super-session guitarist Big Jim Sullivan.

"Looking at Angel today, they stand up as a bit gimmicky, but look who’s talking," Gene Simmons, who discovered the band, told Classic Rock. "Gimmicky is only
a negative if it didn’t work."

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Other albums released in October 1975

  • Frank Zappa & The Mothers of Invention with Captain Beefheart - Bongo Fury 
  • The Who - The Who Ny Numbers 
  • Mike Oldfield - Ommadawn 
  • Elton John - Rock Of The Westies 
  • John Lennon - Shaved Fish 
  • Roxy Music - Siren 
  • Rory Gallagher - Against The Grain 
  • Van de Graaf Generator - Godbluff
  • Sparks - Indiscreet 
  • Dr Feelgood - Malpractice 
  • Focus - Mother Focus 
  • Tom Waits - Nighthawks At The Diner 
  • Iron Butterfly - Sun And Steel
  • Deep Purple - Come Taste The Band


What they said...

"Angel's later releases were given over entirely to the sort of pomp and glam excess that made them a virtual spot-on blueprint for '80s hair metal, and their debut certainly has Queen-ish guitar and shrill hair-sprayed aggression in abundance on numbers like Rock & Rollers. But from the opening notes of Tower, there's a curious admixture of progressive rock, almost entirely due to Gregg Giuffria's contributions of harpsichords, piano, and Mellotrons." (AllMusic

"Angel is, in fact, one of the finest Mellotron albums to come out of the US in the '70s, or indeed, any decade. The album opens with the near-seven minutes of Tower; all swooping synths and roaring Hammond, this track lays out the band's (original) manifesto with a vengeance. Helium-fuelled vocals from Frank DiMino, Punky Meadows' ripping guitar (the infamous subject of Frank Zappa's Punky's Whips, named after, well, never mind) and, of course, the outrageously-bouffanted Gregg Giuffria epic keyboards. (Planet Mellotron)

"Angel leads off with a pair of 7 minute epics in the fantasy chronicle The Tower and plaintive Long Time, before kicking into the stage-stormin' Rock and Rollers. The heavy groove of Broken Dreams, dramatic ballad Mariner, king sized riffs of Sunday Morning and heroic On And On keep side two moving, and the band bids farewell with the brief instrumental, Angel (Theme). Not unlike Styx, a band who took the same formula to greater success, Angel deftly walk the tightrope bridging grandiosity and heaviosity throughout this stellar set." (Rate Your Music)


What you said...

John Davidson: I had read about Angel - but the idea of a Kiss-like band didn't really appeal to me. Then I bought Sinful from the bargain bin but after a couple of spins I set it aside, it was pretty limp stuff compared to the NWOBHM that I was into by then.

Had I picked up their first album (or their second) I might have had a better opinion of them. With the emphasis on keyboards as much as guitars they are more like Styx or Magnum - maybe even Uriah Heep than Kiss and it rocks hard enough to carry the keyboards along.

After one listen I'm really enjoying it. I've been listening to the whole Casablanca collection and while it drops off a bit after the first couple of albums, it's genuinely very listenable. Sure there are some second hand riffs and melodies tucked in there, but nothing as egregious as Kingdom Come.

Given I am contemplating buying the box set I'd say it merits at least a 7/10. Is it a lost classic? Maybe not, but it's well worth exploring.

Chris McGlyn: Ah, Angel. The band of musicians who became pop stars. The first two Angel albums are classic pomp rock. Tower remains one of the band's best songs and is still in the live set today. Perhaps overshadowed by their extravagant live shows, the band's popularity in the US drove them in a more commercial direction from On Earth As It Is In Heaven but most fans of the band love both eras.

The reformed Angel still has Punky Meadows and Frank Dimino in the line up and they play great live shows. Also have put out two new albums worthy of the Angel name. But this debut is worth the time of any fan of US rock.

Keith Jenkin: Certainly the best album from a band who became less to my taste with each successive release. Apart from being discovered by Gene Simmons and then signed to Cassablanca, I never quite got the Kiss comparisons. From the days when Sounds magazine were promoting the term Pomp Rock, there are in my opinion very few better examples that sum up that style of music

Martin White: I was enthusiastic to listen to this week's choice, as it not often a band comes up that I have never heard of. There are many that are suggested that I have not listened to much or at all, but Angel were completely new to me.

Sadly, I was left underwhelmed and won't be listening to them again. I found it to be very 70s prog rock, which I am not a fan of. I'm sure if you are into that genre they are great, but not for me.

Peter Barron: The album as a whole is decent, but Tower is absolutely immense and the synth solo at the end is one of the best of the decade. Apart from that only the Theme really does it for me, but one timeless epic is more than most bands ever manage, a solid 7.

Dan Holmes: Just awful. Saw 'em with Molly Hatchet, believe it or not.

Greg Schwepe: I laughed to myself when I saw this week’s Club selection of Angel’s debut album as I instantly realised I would get to somehow use the term “Musical Peer Pressure” in yet another review! You see, a classmate back in high school (I’ll just call him “Don” to protect his identity) was really into Angel. Like, his favourite band. Had all the albums, and a bunch of Angel t-shirts he’d wear all the time. The only person at our high school that liked Angel (and the only person I've ever known that liked Angel!). And yes, Don got a little abused for it. “Don, Angel sucks!” This was good natured ribbing, but because he was a super nice guy and also liked the bands everyone else liked too, he got let off the hook for the most part.

See, Don actually listened to Angel. Unlike the rest of us who simply saw the Angel persona when at the record store; five guys on an album cover with perfectly coiffed waist length hair dressed in white silky, satiny stage costumes. “What? Hard pass on this band…” And imagine my surprise being a Rush fan and finally getting 2112 and seeing the band adorned in their very similar white kimonos on the album back cover. “Hey, what are three guys from Angel doing on this alb----oh, it’s Geddy, Alex, and Neil. What the hell?”

So, fast forward many years and now I have a streaming service and can go back and listen to every band and album from high school and/or college that I saw in the record store but never heard. Angel was one of those bands I stumbled onto. “Oh, that band that Don was into.” And what do you know, Don may have been onto something after all.

Listening again today to review this debut, I realised that it’s just a big, amped up mix of stuff not that far off from the Styx, Kansas, Boston, Kiss, and Starz stuff I was listening to back then. But with the cheese factor turned up a little.

Very keyboard heavy for the prog rock vibe, but lots of guitar to balance it out. Tower pops in with spiky synthesizers. Rock & Rollers has the standard rock vibe with a little piano thrown in. On & On see them getting their Heep on. I like the heavy keyboard stuff.

To be fair, this is similar to other proggy, pomp rock stuff I like, but just not at the same level of the bands I really liked. 7 out of 10 for me on this one.

Mike Canoe: The band Angel may hold the record for the time it took from when I first became fascinated by them to when I actually heard their music - almost 35 years.

I remember flipping through their albums in the department store and thinking they looked cool, the sphinx design looked cool, and their ambigram (vocabulary word!) logo was the coolest of all. But they were never played on the radio and this was before MTV, so what was a teen too young for an income stream to do? Save up my money for a sure thing and move on.

Over the years, Angel would come and go in my periphery. I knew guitarist Punky Meadows was a target of Frank Zappa. Not that I'd heard Punky's Whips but if Zappa didn't think Punky was cool, then he couldn't be cool, right? (This was long before I realized Zappa's penchant for picking easy targets).

Somewhere along the way I picked up a CD called Metal Age: The Roots of Metal that had Angel's Cast the First Stone. But since the CD also had songs like Wishbone Ash's Queen of Torture or Hawkwind's Silver Machine, Angel didn't register until years later.

Then in 2013, professional metal enthusiast Eddie Trunk released his book, Eddie Trunk's Essential Hard Rock and Heavy Metal Volume II, and it had a profile on Angel. More importantly, it had a 10-song playlist suggested by Trunk himself. Book in hand, I proceeded to YouTube and the results were... disappointing. The only songs that really sparked with me were Tower and The Winter Song (rocker or not, I'm a sucker for a good Christmas song).

I would try to listen to Angel a few times again over the years but, still, they wouldn't make much of an impression. Until this week...

Ironically, I still don't like Angel (the album) much. Tower is still good, as are Rock & Rollers and Broken Dreams but most of it is a sappy mid-tempo murk. However, I went back to Trunk's playlist and like most of the songs on there now. Go figure.

Angel (the band) must have been a confusing proposition for anyone who didn't have a chance to see them live - including me. Marketed like Kiss, built like Deep Purple with a stellar keyboard/guitar axis, sounded more like a heavier Styx or a lighter Uriah Heep, and dressed like the Bee Gees. As the kids say, there's a lot to unpack there - and most rockers didn't bother to try.

Gary Claydon: Angel's debut has always struck me as an 'if only' album, a 'not quite' album. If only the rest of the album matched the undoubted quality of the stonking opener Tower, a prime slice of heavyweight pomposity which shows Angel at their very best, with some excellent Gregg Giuffria keyboard work. 

On and On is the album's other highlight while Rock & Rollers could have been a decent - if straightforward- rocker, if only the production wasn't a bit too thin, something which afflicts the whole album and, particularly, does Frank DiMino's vocals no favours. The rest is all a bit forgettable. Edwin Lionel 'Punky' Meadows' guitar compliments Giuffria's keys nicely but also suffers due to the production.

Musically, I never got the Kiss-konnection. Angel are more akin to the likes of Styx, Kansas, maybe Starcastle, with some shades of early Rush. Image-wise, the whole dressing up bit was pretty old hat by the time Angel was released, the likes of Sweet, Slade, Roxy Music, Bowie etc. having done it much earlier and much better. It doesn't help that Angel's particular efforts remind me primarily of a couple of ABBA album covers.

Angel is almost a good album. Almost, but not quite. Like the Xmas tree decorations that prompted me to suggest this album, Angel are a band to dust off once a year at most, although, like quite a few other outfits, you can make a darn good 'best of' collection from their back catalogue. 6/10

Alex Hayes: I'm struggling this week. I can't think of any fresh insight to give to Angel's debut album that hasn't already been well documented by others.

I'd never heard the album prior to this week, so have no personal connection with it. It's alright. I get the same Styx/Kansas/a slightly watered down Uriah Heep vibe from the material that others have already commented on. I also agree that the album peaks early with Tower, certainly the best track on offer here. 

Overall, although Angel are a better band than recent Club nominees Anvil, I can kind of understand why they similarly never achieved substantial commercial success. This music often comes across as workmanlike and a little lacking in inspiration. It's alright though. Straight down the middle here, 5/10.

Dale Munday: Wasn't expecting much, because of all the Kiss references. Regardless, I really quite liked it. Can't help thinking that they unfortunately got the timing wrong, dressing like something that had fallen from the top of the Xmas tree.

Evan Sanders: I saw Angel live on the late 1970's as an opener for Styx. I remember them dressed all in white, with the lead singer sporting a Boston Bruins jersey, as the concert was in the old Boston Garden. And that's pretty much my view of the band, good enough to open for a classic rocker, and always waiting for a chance to headline. The guitar and keyboard heavy sound on the first album reminds me of Spinal Tap's Stonehenge. If only they had waited until MTV and had come up with a catchy hair metal anthem.

Neil Wilson: It's a good debut, sadly way ahead of its time, as the Americans were all over the west coast sound à la Eagles and weren't into anything remotely 'glam' until the 80s except for Alice Cooper, Kiss, Aerosmith and maybe Van Halen!

Mark Herrington: This was an interesting choice for review as it was a band I’d not heard of. I like Pomp Rock generally, when its done well like Styx, early Queen and Kansas.

The album starts off well with the enjoyable Tower, but that was the high point for me. The ingredients are all there, but they don’t quite nail it overall.

I listened to Pieces of Eight by Styx straight afterwards to compare, and that just reinforced my view of Angel. The mix seems to bury the rhythm and bass guitar, and the songs generally lack decent hooks. I prefer Frank DiMino the vocalist when in his lower register, and not when he starts to belt it out and become less listenable. He reminds of a mix of Jon Anderson and Josh Kizska of Greta Van Fleet. In fact GVF seem to have emulated some of the style of this band, and I could hear similarities. 

On balance, I wouldn’t listen to it again - a middling score for me.

Mike Bruce: I love this album. It sums up what Pomp Rock was/is. The dextrous musical flourishes of Prog fused with more concise, hook laden songs. If Prog was for a seated audience dropping the odd tab, you could say this is a type of Prog for a beer soaked, spliff smoking crowd who really wanted to "get down". In the case of Angel, this was all delivered with the oomph and bombast of Zeppelin or Purple.

If the keyboard intro to Tower doesn't hook you, this probably isn't the album for you. But for those who do buy in though , this is one of those rarities in the CD age, an album that's too short.

Peter Thomas Webb: I had heard of Angel, mainly through their associations with Kiss, but this was my first time listening to their music with attention. My first surprise is how prog this is – not Styx/ Starcastle prog-lite, but the real deal. British bands like Uriah Heep and Wishbone Ash come to mind, as do some of the other forgotten American heavy prog rockers, such as Captain Beyond and Happy the Man.

The opening track, Tower, alone sells this album for me, and other tracks carry the torch to the synth-laden instrumental finale (where the Happy the Man echoes are strongest). I'm speculating here, but I think Angel's "Kiss in white" stage schtick might have worked against them in the marketplace. Kiss perfected their campy theatrics on the elevated heels of metal-lite party anthems. Angel, on the other hand, sound like they needed to present themselves (like Rush or Tull) with appropriate grandeur – not as white satin dudes likely to get bottled offstage at the Hammersmith Odeon.

Anyway, I like this album and would buy it in a heartbeat if I came across it on vinyl. My rating: 8/10.

Philip Qvist: Right; so this was a rather interesting choice, simply because I have never heard of this band, far less their songs - until now. So I did some quick research and discovered that they were a 70s band from the US, were heavy into their keyboards - and their guitarist was named Punky Meadows.

Alright then, so I played their debut and was immediately impressed with opening track Tower - which I believe was a big deal when it was released. Fabulous song but how does the rest of Angel hold up? Well it became a mixed bag - Long Time was good enough without being great, while the same could be said of Broken Dreams, but the rest were okay; just not memorable enough to hold my attention - while Mariner was a poor man's ballad.

I guess this was the start of Pomp Rock, something which Kansas and Styx took to a whole new level - although I also picked up a hint of Uriah Heep on this record.

It's not a bad album, and the early 80s version of me probably would have bought it in the unlikely event that it was available in South Africa, but it doesn't really do it for me in early 2024.

A rather generous 6 from me - at least I can now say that I have listened to an album by Angel. Who knows, it could count for something in the future.

Tony Bickerdike: Never got to see Angel live but have been a fan of their music since the late 70’s. Tower is definitely the highlight for me on this record, brilliant song.

Gilbert Terpstra: Bought this one in 1977 as a kid, purely on sight. Loved the artwork. I learned it was a dream debut, with prog-like rock and good songs.

Richard Cardenas: I really enjoy this record. As a kid when this came out, it was easy to wrapped up on the visual production of the band. I was excited to see them “magically” appear on stage and blow my mind. However, the magic came from this record. I loved it. Especially Tower. I have spun this record since it came out and continue to do so today.


Final score: 7.15 (60 votes cast, total score 429)

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