Van Wilks - Bombay Tears album review

Texas guitarist’s eclectic 1980 effort uncovered.

Van Wilks Bombay Tears album cover

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Originally released in 1980, this is the first in a sporadic career by guitarist Van Wilks, co-author of Drive By Lover, a bonus track on ZZ Top’s 2012 La Futura album.

Wilks is a genuinely innovative player, rooted in blues, but here spreads himself much wider. The result is a curious mixture of virtuoso soloing, AOR, hard-driving boogie and quasi-jazz structures, with echoes of late-70s Doobie Brothers and contemporary Blue Öyster Cult.

Interviewed for the booklet by Southern/Texan rock aficionado Xavier Russell, Wilks admits: “It was more accepted at that time for a song to be all over the place,” and with no two songs much alike, it proved to be a tough sell for his (and Top’s) manager, Bill Ham.

Opener Danger In The Dark boasts two Skynyrd-esque guitar breaks, but the keys and Wilks’ smooth voice pitch it more towards FM radio. Likewise the melodic Can’t Cry Anymore and Sirens In The Night. Ageing much better are the more straight-ahead rockers such as the title track, 1959 (start fast, add cowbell!), Eyes Like Lightning and Living On Borrowed Time.

Within three years Van Wilks had assembled a new band, cut the equally diverse Boystown EP (included here as the CD’s four bonus cuts) and settled for being big in Texas.

Neil Jeffries

Freelance contributor to Classic Rock and several of its offshoots since 2006. In the 1980s he began a 15-year spell working for Kerrang! intially as a cub reviewer and later as Geoff Barton’s deputy and then pouring precious metal into test tubes as editor of its Special Projects division. Has spent quality time with Robert Plant, Keith Richards, Ritchie Blackmore, Rory Gallagher and Gary Moore – and also spent time in a maximum security prison alongside Love/Hate. Loves Rush, Aerosmith and beer. Will work for food.