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STRANGEWAYS Perfect World Frontiers Records (2010)


Strangeways were one of the British AOR bands who promised to break big in the 1980's but never did, despite Kerrang's then guru Derek Oliver hyping 1987's 'Native Sons' album as 'the greatest and most preciously perfect AOR album of all time' (it was good, but not that good!)

Expectations were therefore high when, despite claiming it would never happen, they both joined the growing reunion bandwagon, and re-enlisted singer Terry Brock, whose dulcet tones graced both that album and the follow-up 'Walk in the Fire'.

The soaring, Journey-esque title track leads things off in the old style, but gives a misleading impression. Terry Brock's other albums in 2010, with Giant and his solo record, may have been in the AOR mainstream, but this one then veers off in different directions.

The second song 'Borderlines' is a long, meandering country soft rocker, sounding like it could have come off the Eagles' reunion album, and though it comes as an interesting diversion, there are three or four similar numbers during the course of the album. In contrast, only the rather unmelodic 'Movin On', and 'Liberty' of the eleven songs on the album are out and out rockers.

Anyone feeling shortchanged by this needs to remember that Strangeways continued after Brock's departure, with founder and guitarist Ian Stewart singing, but explored a more atmospheric, anti-commercial sound which owed more to Pink Floyd than Journey. There are clear echoes of that approach in tracks such as 'Bushfire'.

Stretching out of AOR's comfort zone is no bad thing, but my biggest gripe is that the songs plod along at the same slow tempo, even if the guitars are turned up from time to time. After five such numbers concluded the album, on the first listening I was preparing to dub this the most boring album of its kind since Steve Perry's For the Love of Strange Medicine.

The quality of the songwriting and singing does begin to shine through with repeated plays, but this is on balance a rather disappointing comeback ' and no one should expect Native Sons part 2. Talking of which, I wonder what Derek Oliver thinks of them now?


Review by Andy Nathan


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***** Out of this world | **** Pretty damn fine |
*** OK, approach with caution unless you are a fan |
** Instant bargain bin fodder | * Ugly. Just ugly

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