(4 / 5)
This veteran British rock band don’t get the acclaim and credit that maybe they have earned and deserve over a 50 year period. Esoteric Recordings’ double-disc set celebrating the band’s total output for Pye and its imprint Dawn Records between 1975 and 76, goes some way to rectifying that disservice.
We get 35 tracks in this collection, from their albums “Stand Up And Be Counted”, “Houdini”, “Hearts Of Fire” and the album and single versions of “Take It Easy”, a single B side plus two studio out-takes.
The band was formed in 1966 by West London musicians Del Bromham (lead guitar, vocals), Steve Gadd (vocals), Gary Giles (bass) & Steve Crutchley (drums). Crutchley soon departed the band and was replaced by Ritchie Cole.
By August 1968 and while the guys were still only 15 or 16 years old, Stray had begun to make a name for themselves on the Underground music scene in London, performing at legendary venues such as The Roundhouse and Middle Earth.
The band’s hard-edged progressive rock earned a loyal following, which resulted in the band signing to Transatlantic Records in January 1970. Over the next four years they would record five acclaimed albums and went on to tour with the likes of Black Sabbath, The Groundhogs, Status Quo and Ten Years After. One of the hardest working bands in Britain, Stray failed to make the commercial impact they deserved, and in 1975 they signed to the Pye Records label.
During sessions for their first album for the label, “Stand Up and Be Counted”, Steve Gadd departed the band. Second guitarist Pete Dyer joined Stray and Del Bromham, the band’s main song writer, now handled lead vocal duties.
Over the next 18 months Stray recorded two further albums for Pye, “Houdini” and “Hearts of Fire”, toured the USA and supported Kiss and Rush on their British tours. Various factors including the emergence of Punk, led to Stray disbanding in 1977. But their influence would be felt by a new generation of musicians such as Iron Maiden.
Covering every track from the albums “Stand Up and Be Counted”, “Houdini” and “Hearts of Fire”, “Fire & Glass” includes an illustrated booklet with a new essay by rock writer Malcolm Dome featuring an interview with Del Bromham.
The material and the performances cross this two CD set, still stands up to scrutiny some 40-plus years later, in today’s era of ‘here today-gone tomorrow’ pop and various made-up genres. It is therefore good to know that Del and the band are getting their moment in the retro spotlight again. They are still out there on the road, and held a Stray reunion concert in London in October, which I am told by those who attended that it as a real blast. Nice one Del boy….
By Simon Redley
(2 / 5) ‘OK Zone’
(3 / 5) ‘Decent Zone’
(4 / 5) ‘Super Zone’
(5 / 5) ‘Awesome Zone’