Wednesday, May 11, 2011

The Best Albums You Never Heard

By Kurt Torster

Strangeways “Native Sons” (1987)

1987 - It was about this time in my life when I had two habits that were both essential to my life and ultimately, ridiculously expensive. First, my weekly fix of heading into the city (New York City that is) and haunting a dozen or so record stores where a $20 bill would let you walk out with about 19 brand new albums, all *cough cough* promo - not for sale *cough cough*. Secondly, my bi-weekly fix of reading what was then my musical bible, Kerrang! magazine. These two combined led me to amass close to 2000 albums over a very short period of time, most of which are those gems that have become AOR cult classics that outside of a small circle, very few even know exist.

Leading the way as a diamond in a very large rough is “Native Sons” by Strangeways. Headed by session vocalist Terry Brock, this is about as close to a Journey album as one can get without Perry, Schon and Cain performing it. Brock’s soaring vocals on a song like the mid-tempo never was hit “Only A Fool” only cement this fact and put him in a pretty small group of singers that to my ears can do no wrong.

But it’s all about the songs here, which still deliver almost 25 years on. Whether you’re looking to scratch that arena rock itch (with the driving “Where Do We Go From Here” or “Empty Streets”) or romanticize in the bombast of sentiment (the exceptionally written “Goodnight LA” or “Shake The Seven”), you’ll find it on what is a canvas of melodic perfection.

Research this one and you will find glowing reviews and high placings on almost every “best melodic rock” list around, including a #4 showing on Kerrang!’s all important fan voted best AOR of all time. All too often albums in this genre are tagged as “essential,” this is one of the times it’s every bit deserved.

The band would go on to record another exceptional album with Terry Brock, “Walk In The Fire,” before attempting one without him and calling it a day...until last year when they reunited for the Eagles-sounding “Perfect World.” Brock in the meantime has recorded a few solid solo albums as well as handling lead vocals on the last album from Giant.


Real Gone said...

Fantastic stuff, as was the follow up 'Walk In The Fire'.

Shame their comeback album this year sounded like mud.

Real Gone said...

...Actually, I also forgot to mention that Kurt says Strangeways followed 'Walk In The Fire' with one more album without Brock.

There were actually three: 'And The Horse' (1994), 'Any Day Now' (1997) and 'Gravitational Pull' (2000). Never heard 'GP', but have a soft spot for the other two, even though they're much maligned by other fans.
Also, what on 'Perfect World' sounds Eagles-y?!! (*bemused*)

For those who recall those days of picking up $1 vinyl with gold promo stamps, those bargain bins held some gems. The king of which still remains 'Wait For The Night' by John Phillip (Atlantic, 1987) - a great album never given a CD release.

Kurt Torster said...

Yep, I hear a lot of Eagles in the new one. I'm talking the 90s/00s version, which maybe I should have clarified.