Strangeways – Classic AOR Melodic Rock Album Review

Video Review (Transcription Below)

This video review looks at Strangeways the classic AOR band from Scotland. The review looks specifically at the first album and how I discovered them.

You can tell already by looking at the album artwork that he doesn’t necessarily look like a typical rock album. And I think this was probably one of the problems and contributed to why they didn’t kind of take the world by storm. Their next album ‘Native Sons’ is seen as one of the greatest AOR albums of all time.

I discovered this album when I was in London one day and I had gone to one of my favourite record stores Reckless Records in Berwick St in Central London. In the shop at the time they had a section where they had the latest arrivals and bargains. As I went thought the records I noticed that there were lots of copies of an album by a band called Strangeways, in fact there were about 30 copies and they were all 10p each! I thought it was a mistake and  I went up to the counter to ask if this was correct. Finding out it was I handed over my cash and took a copy home. I got the impression that somebody from the record label had been told to give out lots of demo copies to various radio stations and just decided to offload them in the nearest record shop. Later on, I found out that this specific lineup of the band was already split up. The vocalist Tony Liddle had been replaced by Terry Brock and maybe the record label just didn’t see the point in promoting it too much.

The Record Label they were signed to was more known for its disco leanings than anything to do with rock music and the album artwork has a new romantic/pop feel or gives the impression that it is a female artist?

it wasn’t until I got back home and pulled out the inner sleeve and realized this could possibly be a rock band and perhaps I had found some hidden treasure. The photograph of the band on the inner sleeve did indeed look a band from that period.

The band themselves originated from Scotland but they were up against many things, one of them being that UK rock / AOR fans did not think a good quality melodic rock band could come out of anywhere but the USA.

In the 70s everyone looked to the UK with Deep Purple, Black Sabbath and Zeppelin etc but in the 80s it was all about bands coming out from the USA. Yes, we had Def Leppard and Iron Maiden and Saxon but when it came to AOR / melodic rock, everyone just looked towards the USA with Journey, Van Halen and Bon Jovi etc.

So this band were already at odds with how this was going to work for them. However, when the needle went down on that first track, I realised that this was a band that should have been absolutely huge. Every single track, one after the other had absolutely stunning melodies superb song structure and killer performances.

I also thought their use of keyboards was really inventive, lending a level of light and shade that was missing from a lot of the more successful bands from the USA.  Most of the songs were written by the lead Guitarist Ian J Stewart who is also a brilliant and tasteful guitar player.

The whole album is absolutely stunning and If you’re into classic AOR  this comes highly recommended. Rock Candy reissued the album on CD in 2011 which comes with five bonus tracks ( all worth hearing) and as with all Rock Candy CD Remasters, the booklet is informative and very well written.

Phil Aston

 

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