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RELAY The Big Picture Contact Records (2011)


There is something about Relay that's rather endearing. Looking at the inner sleeve, it just looks like a bunch of friends of certain age mucking around. In short, there's no image. Now whilst I am not saying that a cool image - even some cool graphics - will help an otherwise average album it would certainly help Relay. Because the music is actually pretty good.

This UK band's origins stretch back to the mid-1970s and Relay developed from the early eighties.

The band's secret weapon is singer Alison Taffs who joined in 2003. She has an excellent range and at times evokes Heart's Ann Wilson, and that's some compliment. And with Steve Tsoi's guitar and Rob Mepham's keyboards-you-can-hear there is additional interest in the mix.

Tsoi seems to be raised in the Axel Rudi Pell school of rock (great riffs, iffy solos) and does show his limitations on the brave instrumental 'Warpaint and Feathers' where he loses the plot a little in terms of creativity and perhaps there could have been more keyboard interplay to provide some atmosphere and context.

'Crazy' lets Taffs have full rein and is one of the standouts with an infectious bass/drum groove courtesy of Bob Addis and Paul Docherty who excel throughout. 'Can I Count On You' is another riff-driven showcase for Taffs even though she battles with Martin Luther King's random interjections.

The acoustic 'You Are Beautiful' is the least characteristic track although another great vehicle for Taffs who evidently could slip in to any number of different styles with ease, especially prog I would have thought. (Readers are directed to the band's MySpace where she does a very respectable 'Wuthering Heights').

'Svengali' brings us back to the riffs whilst 'It's Over' and 'Invisibility' are the other standouts punctuated by Mepham's keys and Taffs almost breaking out of her comfort zone: "Oh God... it's over!". I am sure she does raunch as well.

Overall the production is good, although in different hands this could have been a little tighter and a bit more robust in places. Alison Taff's vocals - arguably the band's USP - could also be more elevated in the overall mix.

If Relay looked less like middle aged mums and dads on a caravanning holiday and more like a slightly menacing hard rock band they could be more serious contenders. A little more raunch than paunch as it were.

But, for the moment, there is still lots to like for those who enjoy female-fronted hard rock.


Review by David Randall

David presents 'Assume The Position' on Get Ready to ROCK! Radio every Sunday at 22:00 GMT


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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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