What does it sound like?:
Stray are one of those ‘meat and potatoes’ British rock bands that really deserved more success than they achieved. Why did they never graduate beyond relatively small venues despite having a devoted following? Perhaps this four cd set will provide us with some answers.
Firstly though, allow me a grumpy old man moment. It’s really irritating when albums are arbitrarily split over two cds- the first half on one disc, the remaining songs on the next. I daresay it does save a bit on cost, but it’s a pet hate of mine I’m afraid! Ok – on with the important stuff. This box collects every track, five albums worth, the band recorded for Transatlantic between 1970 and 74. There’s also a bonus cd that gathers together a further thirteen outtakes, demos and rare singles, including four songs recorded at a 1968 audition session. Looking at the albums individually, their 1970 self titled debut is a hell of a statement of intent, the band really seeming destined for great things. Just listen to the nine minute opener All In Your Mind for the evidence. The downside is the rest of the album, which is pretty good, struggles to live up to such a strong opening. A very acceptable debut though, and this promise was carried through to the following year’s Suicide set – another strong set of songs which by and large followed the template set by the previous album, but with a few embellishments to show they weren’t just a one trick pony. A good set of catchy rock songs that built on the foundations laid by their debut. A further album, Saturday Morning Pictures, arrived later that same year, showing a slightly broadened sound, adding keyboards and soulful backing vocals into the mix. Generally though, there’s a feeling of a drop in intensity – maybe the hectic touring and recording schedule was beginning to take its toll. Indeed, it was two years before their next release, Mundanzas, which seemed to mark a further step away from their trademark hard rock, and suffers because of that. Some of it is a little reminiscent of The Faces, other bits are a bit Quo, but really those two bands were already covering that ground better. A bit of a disappointment really, continuing a decline that seemed to have started with the previous release. Maybe the band were running out of steam by now, having self penned all of their first four sets. The final album is 74’s Move It – and yes, it does contain a rocked up version of Cliff’s classic! Recorded in the US, the album fell between two stools – in trying to demonstrate their versatility they seemed to forget where their strengths lay, to the detriment of their overall sound. I suppose you have to give them some credit for trying something different, but this is their weakest album. Finally, the bonus cd, which rounds up various rarities. Certainly the four demos for Pye capture a very exuberant raw sound, but there’s also, as well as various single A and B sides, two songs contributed to a compilation album and a short throwaway blues jam.
What does it all *mean*?
A talented inventive band, which somehow slipped under the radar and inexplicably remained mired in the second division, while other seemingly less capable outfits moved on to bigger and better things.
Goes well with…
An evening listening to some ‘old’.
Might suit people who like…
Traditional British hard rock – old school style!