XCEL from Port Neches and Nederland, TX, USA were formed in 1985 from the ashes of the band Wizzard. The band’s primary line-up featured Barry Duncan and Kevin Cox on guitar, Kevin Luke on vocals, Dag Gabourel on drums, and Peter Voight on bass.
From the start the band rehearsed relentlessly, working hard on their original compositions. The first songs they composed were “Out To Maim” and “Teaser”. Influenced by bands like Queensryche and Iron Maiden, Xcel would push their Power Metal style a little further, delivering a musical result that would be marked by magnificent melodies, a heavy and solid rhythm section, brilliant double guitar harmonies, and of course the powerful, yet clean vocals of Kevin Luke, another of the band’s big trademarks.
Their very first live show was done on January 3, 1986, at the Port Arthur Civic Center. Working hard to promote the show themselves, the band managed to strike a sold out concert delivering their “Tasteful metal” to the audience. 1100 tickets were sold that night and there has been no one, before or since, to pull off that big of a show being just a new, local band.
More shows followed but the main goal at the time was to record their music. Normally, most new bands would enter the studio to record a three or four song demo tape. However, that was not the case for Xcel. The band’s thought was simple and clear: “Hey, let’s put out an album to show them we mean business and that we’re capable of doing it on our own”. Barry Duncan recalls: “Again, we wanted to turn the world upside-down. Queensryche had done it with their self-produced demo, why not us?”. So, in April of 1986 they entered Triplex Studios, in Port Arthur, Texas and in one week, they recorded their “Deliver This Dream” debut, released the very same year by TRI Records on vinyl and cassette. There was no record deal and everything was self-financed. TRI Records was just a couple of local guys with a decent bit of recording equipment and a nice recording facility. They were kind enough to let the band use their “label” for the album. The album included 8 of the band’s first set of originals and what they felt best showcased their flexibility for a potential record contract. I am assuming that those who are holding this re-release are aware that “Deliver This Dream” is one of the most inspired Metal releases ever made. There is not enough space here for reviews and no need actually. Just press the play button on your CD player and listen for yourself.
The band was never happy with the album’s original production. Unfortunately, the engineers at Triplex studios had only recorded Country and Western artists; they had never done any Rock ‘n’ Roll or Metal bands. Dag recalls: “The engineers didn’t have a clue how to produce a heavy sound when they tried to mic my snare drum from the bottom”. One of the biggest goals in this re-release was to bring the album sound to a level that would match the band’s vision and do justice to the music. By having the band and engineer George Coyne at Parrot Tracks Studio in Austin, Texas resurrect a 26 year old master tape, remix and remaster the entire original album, I feel we have succeeded that goal.
So the album was out and the band was doing shows to promote it. It was time for the band to get someone to bring them to the next level. Again on their own, they made it to Houston, Texas and after a show there, they were approached by a management company who signed them but unfortunately did nothing for them. The band severed ties with that company and hooked up with LD Promotions in California hoping for something better. This turned out to be nothing as well. In both cases, it was all promises and no action. The feedback they were receiving on the album locally was encouraging, but it needed broader exposure.
However, one bright spot out of the partnership with LD Promotions was the release of a 7” single. The single included two tracks: “Last Ride of Ichabod Crane” and “Teaser” on new re-recorded versions except for the drums. The drum tracks used on those new versions were the ones recorded for the debut album. It is worth noting that the two new versions of the songs appearing on the single had better production than the originals. The single was released in 1987 on Accent Records. It was produced to be given out to radio stations across the United States and was never sold to the public. Accent Records was an independent label in California that was used only for the purpose of producing the single, much in the same way TRI Records did for the original album. Only 500 copies of the single were made. Both “Last Ride Of Ichabod Crane” and “Teaser” are included as bonus tracks in this re-release straight from the original 7” single, also remastered by the band and George Coyne at Parrot Tracks Studio in Austin, TX.
It was 1987, time was passing and the band was still after a big deal with a record label, but nothing was on the map. Outside of some positive feedback from the west coast and north-eastern United States, the single distributed to the radio stations didn’t do much of anything. However, the truth was, the band’s management company had other intentions with the interest that Xcel was starting to generate with potential investors. Here was Xcel, full of talent and passion, with no one to promote and move them forward the way they deserved. Kevin, Dag, Kevin, Peter and Barry tried to keep the band going. But since they had set such a high bar for themselves, it was costing them too much of their own money to keep pulling off these shows, while one break after the other didn’t pan out. It got to the point where they couldn’t even afford a place to practice anymore and with bills piling up, they had to look elsewhere to survive. It was actually the U.S. stock market crash of October 1987 that really led to the band losing funding and investors pulling their money. This marked the beginning of the end of the band.
However, the members of Xcel remained friends and never lost contact with each other. In 2011 they began rehearsing some of their classic material as well as songs that they had composed in the late 80’s, but never recorded. There is also the possibility of some new songs in the works. This re-release actually marks the potential return to action for Xcel. Everyone at Arkeyn Steel Records is extremely happy and honored for this re-release. This CD gives the newer fans the chance to discover this masterpiece that is called “Deliver This Dream” and it is a good starting point for a potential new era of Xcel that hopefully will bring even more great and high class Metal!
The dream is on!
Chris Papadakis, March 2013