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Articles Home » 2010 Articles » Strangeways - 2010 Perfect World
Strangeways - 2010 Perfect World

ARTIST: Strangeways
ALBUM: Perfect World
LABEL: Frontiers
YEAR: 2010


LINEUP: Terry Brock - vocals * Ian J. Stewart - guitars * Warren Jolly - bass * Jim Drummond - drums * David 'Munch' Moore - keyboards

TRACK LISTING: 01 Perfect World * 02 Borderlines * 03 Movin' On * 04 Time * 05 Cracking Up Baby * 06 Liberty * 07 One More Day * 08 Bushfire * 09 Too Far Gone * 10 Can't Let You Go * 11 Say What You Want


It seems like a lifetime ago now.. A handful of excellent albums by the band Strangeways left as a legacy of a different era. Those three albums from 1985 to 1989 are entrenched in AOR legend. I don't need to say anymore or preach to the converted on this topic, as we all know how good 'Strangeways', 'Native Sons' and 'Walk In The Fire' were. The 90's was a strange time for AOR fans having to cope with a completely different Strangeways, now without Terry Brock who had returned to the U.S, and with a neutered sound akin to Pink Floyd mixed with Simple Minds. Just what the Stewart brothers were up to only they can say, but it wasn't trademark Strangeways by any stretch of the imagination, and as a result there was much gnashing of teeth and consternation within the AOR community. Early in 2010, Facebook followers were alerted to the prospect of a Strangeways reunion featuring Ian Stewart and Terry Brock. This was around about the time that Giant released their 'Promise Land' album, and that set tongues wagging and heightened anticipation. Rejoining the fold were the pair of Jim Drummond and 'Munch' Moore, though bassist David Stewart opted not to return, instead his place taken by Warren Jolly. Well, 'Perfect World' is the result, and as some of you will have read from other sources on the Net, it certainly isn't 'Native Sons Part II', if that's what you were hoping.

The Songs
Definitely the ideas are there, as are the familiar strains of melody/harmony from years gone by. However, it's the sonic lead guitar work of Ian Stewart that is missing, and you notice this on the opening title track 'Perfect World'. I actually like the arrangement, especially on the chorus, plus the backing vocals, but the lead guitar is disappearing out the back door! Oh dear. The mid-west vibe of 'Borderlines' is lush and appealing, Brock carries it for the most part, the guitar is swamped in a backwash of effects where you can hear different parts in the left/right channel. This track is kinda unassuming, just nice - just right, like the breakfast cereal right? 'Movin' On' presents a different picture altogether, a bluesier gritty affair with roughened guitar parts. The arrangement is quite static with not a lot of variation, but again, the lead guitar has no clarity, and is hanging onto the fringes of the song like Mel Gibson is hanging onto his celebrity popularity. Like the previous 'Borderlines', 'Time' is another track to walk down the dusty roads of the mid-west, I like this too. Four tracks in, and it's like I'm dealing with Jekyll and Hyde! Next, we move into 'Cracking Up Baby', again, in that mid-west/lush backdrop style, nice to listen to admittedly, but by now I'm thinking 'where's the killer track?' Finally, we get a bit of action with 'Liberty', this one sounds promising, nice rhythm guitar parts, an organ presiding in the background gives it an earthy feel. 'One More Day' is another lush affair, and at this stage of precedings, I'm starting to compare this to an album like Hunter Greer (featuring Ken Greer and Myles Hunter) who released a fantastic one-off album back in 1995. Taking their queue from the Black Saturday bushfires in Australia during early 2009, 'Bushfire' is an intense tribute, though the shape of the song doesn't deviate too much. Keeping with the 'one-up and one-down' approach, 'Too Far Gone' continues down that long dusty road, but with more thick electric guitar rhythms layering the song. 'Can't Let You Go' has a familiar ring to it, and I was wondering where it came from. Answer: 'Never Gonna Lose It' from 'Native Sons'. Listen to the steady drum beat and some of the guitar parts. Still, it's not an identikit picture of that classic track, but nice to put a face to a name - literally. It's back to the mid-west locale for the closing 'Say What You Want', again when Hunter Greer is used as a reference, then you'll know where Strangeways in 2010 have come from and where they are ultimately headed.

In Summary
Many listeners have poured cold water on 'Perfect World', and to be honest, I'm not sure why. I don't believe everything I read and prefer to listen and make up my own mind. Because the bar had been set so high from their 1980's albums, Ian and Terry were always on a hiding to nothing. Sure, the two major criticisms of the album thus far have been the supposed quality of songs and the production/mix. I don't think it's as bad as people make it out to be - I'm thinking also that people were expecting another 'Native Sons' or 'Walk In The Fire', and have based their disappointment on the fact that 'Perfect World' is not even in the zone, which is a bit shallow really. However, I will say that I feel that everything might have been rushed to a deadline, and possibly the end result shows. Those of you that know Ian Stewart will know that the man is meticulous when it comes to musical arrangements, but I'm also guessing that the budget did not allow for someone of John Punter's ability to recreate that classic 'Native Sons' sound, nor did it allow for an extended working window to thrash out these songs during pre-production. As mentioned, this isn't 80's era Strangeways, but I'm approaching 'Perfect World' in a fresh context. If you line this up against material from other acts who have delivered mid-west oriented material particularly during the 90's decade, plus also the aforementioned Hunter Greer then you have a great reference point to work from. Hopefully, Strangeways will continue on into the future. In my books, it's great to see Ian and Terry working again, that in itself is worth the price of admission. One last thing, don't believe everything you read, be your own judge.

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#1 | Shawn Of Fire on November 01 2010 14:46:19
I kept seeing this album get dumped on because of the mix. Sure, it's a little spotty and maybe uneven in places, but its certainly not unlistenable...Brock sounds amazing on it.
#2 | Jez on November 04 2010 03:07:47
I'll stand by my initial assessment of this, which is, if you like the latter day discs you'll get something from it, if you are expecting the mega days of 'Native Sons' and 'Walking In The Fire' then leave well alone. personally I like about half of this one, 'Perfect World and the rather nice 'One More Day' being my top picks. The rest are a little too laid back, which leaves a very one paced album that doesn't really rise or fall or go anywhere at all to be honest. I have read elsewhere complaining about the production on here, some saying it is appalling and unlistenanble, and whilst the mix is a bit muddy on certain songs, it certainly isn't that bad. This was touted originally as a continuation from 'Walk In The Fire' and that, it has to be said, goes against the trade discriptions act, so I think a majority of people with big expectations of the same are going to be mightily disappointed.
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