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Music Review: Stray – New Dawn / Alive And Giggin’ 2 CD Angel Air Re-Release

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In 1966 four young pupils from a West London school got bored with lessons and formed a band, Stray. Guitarist Del Bromham, bass player Gary Giles, and singer Steve Gadd were joined by drummer Steve Crutchley, who was replaced by Ritchie Cole two years later.

Their first self titled album appeared in 1970. It represents a confident debut from a band that could have, and should have, gained far wider recognition. The album is perhaps best remembered for its inclusion of the live favourite “All In Your Mind,” which has bee covered by Iron Maiden thanks to Steve Harris’s long time admiration for Stray.

Suicide, which followed in 1971, further underlined the young band's potential, but it was the excellent Saturday Morning Pictures a year later that really started spreading the word.

Mudanzas, released in 1973, represented an unexpected change of step with the introduction of brass, before 74’s Move It returned to a more familiar format. Following Steve Gadd’s departure a year later, and with Pete Dyer in the line up, they released further impressive and consistent albums Stand Up And Be Counted, Houdini, and Hearts Of Fire.

Sadly, it then fell apart and by the end of the seventies Stray became history. That is until 1997 when Del Bromham, one of rock's most gifted guitarists, decided to reform the band. New Dawn was the appropriately titled comeback album from the band who were now trimmed down to a trio of Del, who also took on lead vocals, drummer Phil McKee, and bass player Dusty Miller.

This period is recalled by Angel Air Records who have just released a generous double CD set from the reformed line-up. This comes complete with informative album notes by promoter Pete Feenstra, a long time supporter and admirer of the band.

Taking New Dawn out onto the road resulted in a live album Alive And Giggin’ which provides CD two of this release. Recorded in the West Midlands in August 1996 it includes a set of largely older favourites.

These include “Leave It Down To Us”, “After The Storm”, “Jericho”, “Mister Wind”, and “I Believe It”, which all make very welcome reappearances. It provides a good cross section from Stray’s earlier albums.

New Dawn was a solid comeback from a band whose following remain fervently loyal today. The dramatic atmosphere created by the intro of opener “Dawn Rising”; the Police flavoured title track, which also has some echoes of Yes’s “Owner Of A Lonely Heart”; and “No Future” all ensure a solid re-introduction to all that was good about the band.

Further highlights include “Dangerous Games”; “Trouble”, a track full of trademark Del brilliance; and the vaguely Lennonesque “The Man In My Head.” Further To Fall” echoes the twin assault of Thin Lizzy, whilst “Rock Steady” reprises Frampton Comes Alive style voice box.

Del also plays homage to his hero Jimi Hendrix with the explosive “Jimijam” whilst there is also many more moments to remind us of Strays illustrious past. The sole survivor of those far off days in the mid sixties, he has kept the Stray tradition alive with further albums, 10 in 2001, and last years Valhalla which was enthusiastically reviewed here on Eurorock.

In the meantime this Angel Air set captures the re-invented Stray in the late nineties and is a must have for fans everywhere — new and old. It may lack the legendary exploding dustbins but still provides a trademark ‘in your face’ live gig and a solid return to studio recording.

This was the first band I ever saw live (Croydon circa 1974) and I have loved them ever since and saw them countless times over. Quality rock is after all timeless so step into a New Dawn for Stray and work your way through a catalogue that maintains a rare consistency of quality throughout.

Live dates for today's version of Stray can be found by visiting Del’s Stray site. Details of Angel Air Records catalogue, including this album, can be found by visiting their website.

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