STRANGEWAYS – Strangeways [Rock Candy remastered +5]
Before being recognized as the definitive British AOR band with their second album, STRANGEWAYS released their self-titled debut “Strangeways” to critical and fans acclaim. This remastered job by Rock Candy Records discover new layers of sound from this strong first album, plus adding 5 bonus tracks to enjoy.
Not for want of trying, the British melodic rock scene was – post NWOBHM – eclipsed by the great American AOR sound of the early Eighties. With bands such as Boston, Foreigner, Journey and Survivor enjoying serious chart action across the great divide, a new wave of melodic British hard rock bands tried to muscle in on the action, proving to the American market that they could do the job just as well.
Based in Glasgow, Strangeways’ ambition was as far reaching as their music.
Things took momentum for Strangeways (or China White, as they were originally called) when their demo was heard by Carl Leighton Pope and Clive Cocoran, the managers of Saga at the time. They were looking for expansion in the European market and offered Strangeways a deal via their production company, Bonaire Records.
No one else than Kevin Elson (Journey) was asked to produce the debut album, which was recorded in Zurich, Switzerland. There was some delay when original singer Stevie Doherty left the fold, but he was replaced by powerhouse man Tony Liddle just in time to finish the record.
Liddle even brought a song of his own, titled ‘Strangeways’, but although it wasn’t used, the title itself became the new name of the band.
After giving the final touches in Pete Townshend’s Eel Pie and The Kinks Konk studios, London, the album was ready to hit the stores. The results were impressive, attracting musical comparisons to Def Leppard and receiving accolades from a variety of respected rock institutions.
“Strangeways” is an explosive mix of melodic hard rock and AOR featuring huge rhythm section, flamboyant melodic guitar lines, lovely keyboard harmonies and intense vocal performances. Even on this early work, Strangeways are every bit the melodic masters that fans have come to recognize once Terry Brock joined the ranks for the second album.
All performances are turned to 11 on this debut as leader Ian Stewart & Co. leaves nothing to the imagination.
Songs like the opener “The Kid Needs Love”, “Hold Back your Love”, “Heartbreak Zone”, “Power Play” and “Breaking Down the Barriers” are some of the best melodic rock songs to come out of the UK during the first half of the ’80s.
One could argue that for a band aiming at serious airplay and mainstream melodic rock appeal “Strangeways” had set the creative bar way too high, and though catchy as the tunes were, the overall sound was too intense for conventional taste.
Indeed, this album is plenty of melody and catchiness, but with a lot of punch, and a quite edgy guitar work.
This Rock Candy reissue is excellent, with a 24-bit remastering from original source tapes, 3,000 word essay about the making of the album, interview with the band and additional photos spread out over a 12 page full color booklet.
And we have 5 bonus tracks including songs that never made it into the final tracklist but equally strong in terms of quality.
01 – The Kid Needs Love
02 – Hold Back Your Love
03 – Close To The Edge
04 – Heartbreak Zone
05 – Cry Out
06 – Power Play
07 – Breakin’ Down The Barriers
08 – Now It’s Gone
09 – More Than Promises
10 – Hold Tight
11 – All The Wrong Reasons (Demo)
13 – Close To The Edge (Demo)
13 – Hold On (Demo)
14 – Breakin’ Down The Barriers (Demo)
15 – Streets On Fire (Demo)
Tony Liddle: lead vocals
Dave Stewart: bass, backing vocals
Ian Stewart: guitar, backing vocals
Jim Drummond: drums, backing vocals
Alan Thomson: keyboards
Alan Carvell, Tony Rivers: backing vocals
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