Strangeways - 'Strangeways' Hot

Added by Central Electronic Brain     November 23, 2011    
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Re-issue of Strangeways' debut album.

I’m sure just about everyone who reads this magazine and web site must already be familiar with the most revered of Strangeways albums, ‘Native Sons’ and ‘Walk In The Fire’, but before these iconic releases the Glasgow band put out this self-titled debut way back in 1986. To be honest, vocals apart it’s not that far behind the other two, with excellent songs by guitarist Ian J Stewart and a strong production from none other than Journey’s Kevin Elson, and considering vocalist Tony Liddle was drafted in at the eleventh hour to replace the departed Stevie Doherty, his work here isn’t bad at all.

If anything this album was the most hard edged of the three, with punchy guitar parts from Ian Stewart and rock solid drums and bass from Jim Drummond and Ian’s brother, David respectively. Whilst perhaps lacking in a bit of the subtlety and arrangement savvy of its more illustrious cousins, ‘Strangeways’ is still an enjoyable listen with direct songs like ‘The Kid Needs Love’, ‘Breaking Down The Barriers’ and ‘Heartbreak Zone’ featuring Alan Thomson’s keyboards much further down in the mix than Stewart’s sometimes raucous guitar parts. Similarly ‘Now It’s Gone’ and ‘Hold Tight’ might be the kind of songs that Stewart was referring to with his “excessively formulaic” dismissal in the sleeve essay, but they’re also the paciest, most hard rocking songs the band have ever done. Other great songs include the catchy ‘Hold Back Your Love’, the energetic ‘Power Play’ and the quite inventive ‘More Than Promises’, but the undoubted cream of the crop was the first single ‘Close To The Edge’, which has a killer chorus and some brilliantly placed backing vocals.

Excellently remastered with a suitably powerful sound, and some interesting insights in Dave Ling’s sleeve essay from Ian Stewart, Jim Drummond and even Tony Liddle (correct spelling by the way, he was wrongly listed as ‘Liddell’ on the original release), the other essential feature is the addition of no less than five bonus tracks. Of most worth are the rocker ‘All The Wrong Reasons’ and the ballad ‘Hold On’, both of which were high quality demos produced by Elson and are pretty good songs. The other three I presume are older, and include different arrangements of probably the two best-known songs, ‘Close To The Edge’ and ‘Breaking Down The Barriers’, and another unreleased upbeat song called ‘Streets On Fire’, which is no clunker either. Things may not have been going perfectly for the band but take my word for it, this album is much better than Ian Stewart gives it credit for. If the band had split up immediately after it they would now be being lauded as one of those underrated one album bands, but of course that didn’t happen...

Phil Ashcroft


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