Esoteric [Release date: 24.11.17]
Regulars on the 70s’ gigging circuit in the UK, Stray harnessed consistently strong and varied repertoire with colourful performances supporting the likes of Black Sabbath and Ten Years After. But they were also signed to indie folk label, Transatlantic. Essentially part two of Esoteric’s ‘Stray Story’, this double album bags up the 1968-birthed London hard rockers brief sojourn in the world of the majors, specifically Dawn Records.
If its 4CD-strong Transatlantic years precursor, ‘All In Your Mind’, established in Steve Gadd and Del Bromham’s writing partnership their band’s near-brinkmanship in mixing psych, hard rock and beat pop to such explosive effect, it also revealed how by 1974 their sound had become more embedded into mainstream US-influenced rock.
‘Fire & Glass’ picks up the torch, yielding three albums in ‘Stand Up And Be Counted’, ‘Houdini’ and ‘Heart of Fire’, reissued here with bonus singles ‘B’ sides, that worked hard for acceptance higher up the ladder of fame and fortune.
All decent forays into the music of the time, they were also crowd-pleasing enough to get the band hired to open for the likes of Rush and Kiss on their earlier tours of Britain. Yet behind the scenes, matters were less happy, with Gadd leaving during the sessions on the first Dawn release; a succession of management issues peaking with the band hiring the notorious Kray Twins’ elder brother to hold the reins (a venue-emptying tactic at best).
And then there was the label (or there wasn’t). Set up by Pye to capitalise on the-then new fad for progressive music, Dawn were by all accounts making a bit of a mess of things according to Bromham, most notably by not getting behind his band. When punk came on the scene, Stray were rounded up with so many of the long-hairs and put to rest.
Fast forward to today, and happily it’s not all doom and gloom: the band is still with us, a cheery Del at the helm, and even if Dawn actually presided over dusk falling on 70s’ Stray, this set does justice to their strengths as writers and entertainers. ***
Review by Peter Muir
Album review (All In Your Mind, The Transatlantic Years 1970-1974)
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