Archive Tag: phil thornalley

29 Jul 2022

A quick scan of the many records Phil Thornalley has worked on, and you’ll quickly spot some of the biggest names in popular music, including Bryan Adams, Thompson Twins, The Cure, Psychedelic Furs, XTC, Duran Duran, and even Paul McCartney. Phil co-wrote and produced Natalie Imbruglia’s 1997 worldwide smash “Torn,” and has written hits with Pixie Lott (“Mama Do”) and BBMak (“Back Here”). A kind of rock’n’roll Zelig, his name is probably on countless records in your collection, although you probably didn’t even know it was him. That bass line on The Cure’s “Love Cats”? That’s Phil. The haunting and ethereal production on Prefab Sprout’s “When Love Breaks Down”? That’s Phil too.

Now, on his latest offering, Now That I Have Your Attention, Phil Thornalley steps out of The Swamp (his North London studio) to unveil 11 catchy and brand-new original songs (plus three bonus tracks on the CD!) that find him exploring the production stylings pioneered by the Electric Light Orchestra’s Brummie boffin, Jeff Lynne.

Phil Thornalley's album Now That I Have Your Attention, on Lojinx

Thornalley celebrates the fine musicality and pure joy of Lynne’s widescreen symphonic string sections, the bare-faced brutality of his straight-ahead rhythm bed tracks, and plenty of multi-tracked and stacked harmony vocals. On tracks like “Stand By Love,” and “High On Your Supply,” Thornalley makes more than a passing nod towards Lynne’s carefully layered sonic tableau, from the multiple acoustic guitars to the highly specific electric guitar lines.

Clearly, it’s a sound that Thornalley can’t get out of his head.

Maybe we should have called it the Traveling Phil-burys,” Thornalley jokes, “but I enjoyed the earlier ELO records, and the way they married a crummy beat combo with the grandeur of a full orchestra – it was over-the-top but infectiously musical, creating a foundation of the oxymoronic ‘controlled’ rock and roll drums and a super simple bass guitar.

Phil Thornalley (credit: Neil Mackenzie Matthews)

Why, you may well ask, would a lauded and Grammy-nominated songwriter and producer (and the focus of a recent in-depth career retrospective story in the American trade magazine, Tape Op) decide to record an album with both feet planted haphazardly in the squelch of the seventies sounds of ELO and glam rock?

Because it’s fun.

When I listen to pop radio these days,” says Phil Thornalley, “no one seems to be having any fun. In my teenage years, every other record you heard was ridiculous. I think that sense of fun is missing from today’s often turgid, doleful would-be soul singers moaning about their millionaire ennui.

It’s worth noting that this is a true solo album, and while Thornalley had some vital assistance from Jimmy Hogarth (on “Hell Bent On Compromise” and “High On Your Supply”), the string arrangements of Sally Herbert, Thornalley was solely responsible for the lion’s share of what he calls the “strumming, banging, plucking, crashing, bashing, and warbling,” on the record, writing all the songs, producing, and engineering the whole thing.

I’ve been gifted a certain talent for rudimentary playing of the pop instruments such as bass, drums, guitar and piano. I understand musical arrangements from making records for other people through the decades, so I can hear what I want and gravitate towards achieving it. I’ve even tried some cello and some Dylan-like harmonica on ‘High On Your Supply.’” And while I like to think I have an ear for scoring an approximate string arrangement, I gladly handed over my ideas to Sally who plays viola and violin, and Ian Burdge who plays cello. Sal finesses the score, adds slurs and unexpected effects, and then they track that up at their home studio.

Thornalley played a bar room “tack” piano over a doubled string quartet, arranged by Herbert, and little else to achieve a McCartney-esque melancholy on what is arguably the album’s most poignant song, “Bluer Than A Bluebird” over which a simple lyric wallows in the sadness of a misguided, one-sided love affair. “The strings,” laughs Thornalley, “especially the cellos, really pile on the agony.

The more delicate flowers amongst you might be taken aback by the overt drug-analogies in songs like “Heaven In A Hash Pipe,” and “High On Your Supply,” but again, Thornalley says it’s all in good, tongue-in-cheek fun.

Phil Thornalley (credit: Neil Mackenzie Matthews)

The actual message of ‘Heaven…’ is that I don’t think you’ll find true happiness in losing your mind,” says Thornalley, “while ‘High On Your Supply’ is about dealing in love addiction.

Thornalley considers the glam rock shuffle of “Solid Gold Sunshine,” with its unsubtle blend of a seventies groove and teenage feel-good melody, to be something of an outlier on the album.

I tried to marry some elements from my old record collection,” says Thornalley. “The big bludgeon-like Moog synthesizer of ‘Jet’ by Wings, or the fuzzbox slide guitar frenzy of Joe Walsh. There’s a certain type of guitar riff that was ubiquitous in ‘70s pop but is now relatively unheard, yet it somehow fits on my album. While the galloping rock of “One Night In America” evokes thoughts of Neil Diamond singing ‘Xanadu.’

As a gifted and chart proven producer in his own right, Thornalley calls upon decades of experience in the pop trenches, daubing sonic textures like paint on an aural canvas.

I particularly enjoy finding different rooms in my house to record in,” says Thornalley. “I rarely use reverb, but I do like to place a microphone at the far end of a corridor to find the right tonal perspective for the drums or particularly the background vocals. I like the natural feel of call and response on a chorus and the natural colours available in my studio – just by pointing the mic at the ceiling not at the singer – can create pockets of unique, blended tone. I was trained in the studio by the man with the golden ears, Mickie Most, an uber-pop producer with a telepathic sense of what the record buying public wanted, and always with an ear for the melodic, funky or just plain catchy.

Phil Thornalley deserves your attention.

Lead single ‘Fast Car’ is out now (Apple | Spotify | Deezer). Pre-order the album direct HERE or request it at your local record store.

<< lojinx blog
24 Sep 2021

Happy Release Day to Astral Drive’s 2nd self-titled album!! Out now on CD & digital, the ‘orange album’ perfectly captures the world-class talent of Mr Phil Thornalley at his absolute best. Tune in to Astral Drive on Facebook for live stream event tonight! (24th Sept @ 10pm UK / 5pm EST).

It’s been three years since Astral Drive’s debut release and the bar been raised with this new eleven song follow-up, heavy with soulful harmony vocals, heartfelt singing, lush chords and uplifting star-gazing lyrical themes.

The, again, self-titled album is out now CD and digital: CD & Tee Bundle | Spotify | Apple | Tidal.

Buy the CD (with bonus tracks) & exclusive merch direct from us and if you want it on vinyl, let us know! We’d love to make it happen.

Astral Drive - Phil Thornalley

Follow Astral Drive & Phil Thornalley on social media:

<< lojinx blog
30 Jul 2021

It’s been three years since Astral Drive’s debut release and now Phil Thornalley has raised the bar with a new eleven song follow-up, heavy with soulful harmony vocals, heartfelt singing, lush chords and uplifting star-gazing lyrical themes.

Ahead of the ‘official’ CD release in September, the self-titled album is out now on all good digital services.

LJX125 Astral Drive
CD & Tee Bundle | Spotify | Apple | Tidal

Pre-order the bonus tracks CD & exclusive merch and get your high res digital download direct from us or stream wherever you prefer.  And if you want it on vinyl, let us know! We’d love to make it happen.

<< lojinx blog
27 Feb 2021

Following last months release of the Waterlilies single, Astral Drive follow up today with new track “For The Dreamers”

Phil Thornalley, aka Astral Drive, explains: “In January I stumbled on a simple guitar riff, hummed along and two minutes later it had morphed into a melody for a complete song. I e-mailed the idea to my friend Shelly Peiken in LA, she added her lyrical magic and the recording just flowed naturally from there.

Back in the 70s, when i worked at RAK Records, songs would be recorded by the artist and released two weeks later so I’m excited that this tune was written and recorded with that elan.

<< lojinx blog
28 Jan 2021

Phil Thornalley continues his quixotic adventures into 70s inspired aural delights with a new batch of Astral Drive songs for 2021, written and recorded throughout 2020.

Temporarily exiled from his London studio, Phil made the most of what was to hand. With one piano (ex 10CC), one tiny beginner’s drum kit, one unloved bass, a battered acoustic guitar and one very nice old microphone, Phil set to work on his Macbook.

I was able to record in my re-purposed garage in the Suffolk countryside. Luckily, the week before lockdown it had been insulated but not from the smells of the pig farm next door!

The songs were mostly conceived and half-written on long bike rides through the ‘mighty hills of Suffolk’. An avalanche of major and minor seventh chords, heartfelt vocals and soul searching lyrics all topped off with swathes of sonic sunshine.

The first single, Water Lilies, is out now:

Sadness and loss cast a shadow during the lockdown which added an extra emotional dimension to the songs. “While my creative default is to hunt down happiness in music a couple of the songs naturally became reflections on immortality” the artist mused.

With writing contributions from Gregg Alexander, Shelly Peiken and David Munday (Astral Drive guitarist on live shows) it’s not an entirely solo affair. Additionally, Boo Hewerdine made his mark:

I asked Boo to write me a song on the theme of ’Star Gazing’… so literally, he did! The next day I had a scratchy piano demo from Boo with some distant singing and beautiful lyrics about fame and failure. He gave me carte blanche to shoot his song into astral orbit.

The final album tracklist is yet to be decided but guest contributions so far come from some familiar names to those who read the debut album liner notes: Kasim Sulton on backing vocals, Keith Scott on lead guitar, Mickey Curry on drums and Gary Breit on keyboards all sending in parts from their respective home studios . Phil’s still hoping his old mate Bryan might join the dream team.

He’s offered to play some guitar or drums from his studio in Vancouver but right now is busy working on his next album, hunting down his own dreams.

Superstar mixer Dave Bascombe returns to pull the whole thing together with a vibrant punchy balance to compliment Phil’s production.

<< lojinx blog
08 Oct 2020

I was cycling through Suffolk in the April sunshine during the dark days of lockdown and this song just fell into my head” says veteran songwriter Phil Thornalley, “It seemed darkly funny, but honest too.

After years in the music industry writing, producing and playing for Bryan Adams, The Cure and, perhaps most famously, Natalie Imbruglia’s ‘Torn’, Phil has honed the skills of writing, arranging and playing to pop perfection. The recording took barely a day with Phil laying down all the instruments at his modest home studio, taking on the familiar role of a one-man-band akin to his other solo project, the seventies rock inspired Astral Drive.

For ‘22nd Century‘ the song’s production took on a distinctly Jeff Lynne / Travelling Wilburys sound.

I’m a fan of Jeff Lynne’s records” raved Phil, “and I worked with Jeff on a song I’d co-written with Mr Adams for his ‘Get Up’ album. I thought the demo I made was simple and no-nonsense but Jeff took that demo and made it even simpler! Simpler drums, the most basic bass guitar part, everything was reduced to work for the song and the voice – no fancy shit!”.

When i sang the line ‘ooo-ooo-ee, 22nd century’ I thought I might be pushing the limits of simplicity into bubblegum absurdity. A hit songwriter friend suggested changing the line for something with more substance but the song seemed to want to stay simple and that’s what i went with – the feel of that breezy, sunshine Suffolk bike ride”.

Its tongue in cheek lyrical message hopefully brings a knowing smile to the listener, young or old. A record made for classic radio and Saturday evening barbecue playlists. Something to kick back to.

A simple beat, a simple hook and an unavoidably simple truth. Three chords and the truth, in fact.

Phil Thornalley - 22nd Century

Apple | Spotify | Deezer | Tidal

22nd Century by Phil Thornalley is out now on Lojinx.

Find Phil on Facebook and Instagram.

<< lojinx blog
23 Aug 2019

Self-titled Astral Drive album #2… sort of… aka “Green”. Although this is an album of new recordings it’s designed as a companion piece, an extension to the original Astral Drive record.

After playing my songs solo and acoustically during promotion of the album, Andrew at Lojinx gave me the idea to strip down and “recycle” the summer-bleached original recordings and go back to their green grass roots, the essence of the songs, with me singing at the piano.”

I recorded the original album with an avalanche of ideas and off-the-cuff performances that caught the vibe, in the moment. I aimed to capture the spirit of the songs as they bubbled up from a fragment of melody or a line of scribbled lyrics and formed into a full-on production.

The theme of this ‘Green’ album was to strip away the production from the original recordings and shine an astral light on the songs from a different angle. I re-recorded them in a more basic form, added some spicy herbs, and then served it all with some chilled vibes. Like an astral green curry.

There’s a few name-dropping guest performances from Keith Scott on guitar and Gary Breit on piano and vocals (Bryan Adams band), David Munday on harmonica (who had sat in on my live performances) and Kasim Sulton (Todd Rundgren’s band) on vocals. My daughter Maddy also sings harmony vocal too.

Astral Drive green album (Lojinx)

So, here it is… Astral Drive, the ‘Green’ album, back to basics with, hopefully, a few spicy surprises.

<< lojinx blog
21 Jun 2019

Out now is the new 3-track single and video from Astral Drive! ‘Wishing I Could Change the World’ is taken from the self-titled album and now re-mixed for radio by the legendary Dave Bascombe. The single includes 2 new recordings; a cover of the Goffin/King classic ‘Up on the Roof’ and new song ‘Who Loves You’.

‘Up on the Roof’ has such evocative, melancholic lyrics”, says Phil “and in my slowed down version, based on Laura Nyro’s 1970’s recording, I wanted to let the words come to the fore – the wide-eyed hope and the heart wrenching sadness“.

The great reception for Astral Drive inspired me to write the lyrics for a dreamy song that wasn’t finished in time to make that first album. ‘Who Loves You’ is about how life can change in a heartbeat and how insecurity can haunt us just as easily as love can lift us.

Lojinx: (digital download + new limited edition T-shirt)


Astral Drive is songwriter/producer, Phil Thornalley’s vision of a long lost album from the 1970s. Writing, singing and playing all the instruments in the style of 70’s legends Todd Rundgren and Stevie Wonder. The eponymous debut Astral Drive album is out now!

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