Album review: STINGRAY (Remaster with bonus track)

Bad Reputation France [Release date 05.03.21]

Enterprising French label, Bad Reputation, has been bringing some excellent new material to our attention recently. But for now we’ll focus on some classic blasts from the past, beginning with criminally overlooked South African band, Stingray.

Their 1979 debut album had all the drive, urgency and rich harmonies of the nascent Styx sound, bound together in remarkably sophisticated arrangements. It made a few waves in the music press at the time, a few perceptive critics sat up and took notice, but surprisingly, it didn’t make the worldwide breakthrough everyone expected.

Three singles taken from the album all scored in their home country’s charts. ‘Where Do We Go From Here’ shows the band’s music dressed in pomp splendour. ‘Better The Devil You Know’ (not that one) gets a bit of dirt under its fingernails, and the punchy, driven, ‘The Man In My Shoes’ could’ve fallen off the back of Styx’s tour bus.

Those are the more obviously commercial tracks. But not necessarily the most interesting, or indeed the most satisfying.

Band leader, vocalist, producer and main songwriter, Dennis East was clearly acutely aware of the growing worldwide populism of radio pop and rock. ‘Love Saver’ has the authoritative stamp of Denis DeYoung, and his penchant for street level theatricality, shorn of bloat and bluster.

The memorably melodic ‘How Much’ is very much an echo of Boston’s or REO Speedwagon’s epic rock ballad style, carrying Stingray’s fight for fame right into the USA’s AOR heartlands.

But amazingly it failed to register outside of South Africa.  Those two songs alone should have been enough, but no.

A second album was released, but the band folded soon after.

Bad Reputation have recently released an expansively remastered version of the debut album, adding a bonus track, an edit of the band’s hit single, ‘Better The Devil You Know’.
Digitally restored artwork too. ****

Review by Brian McGowan


David Randall presents a weekly show on Get Ready to ROCK! Radio, Sundays at 22:00 BST (GMT+1, repeated on Mondays and Fridays), when he invites listeners to ‘Assume The Position’. This show was first broadcast on 12 September 2021 and includes the Top 10 albums at www.getreadytorock.com for that week.

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