The British music scene seemed to stand still in 1980, a gap year where the press and public alike held their breath and waited for the Next Big Thing. The new wave trod water, punk sold off what was left of its soul, and 2Tone tore itself apart. The future was coming, but from which direction would it arrive? For a brief moment, it looked like it might swing across Steve Swindells' path. The singing keyboardist was hot off the Hawklords' 25 Years On tour, with a handful of fiery demos burning a hole in his pocket. Inking a major deal with Atco/WEA in N.Y.C. in late 1979, Swindells returned to England to record Fresh Blood, with Hawklords Huw Lloyd-Langton and Simon King, and Van der Graaf Generator bassist Nic Potter in tow. "Turn It on Turn It Off" opened the set in fine style, a driving keyboard-led number that nodded to pomp rock's past but was equally beholden to the new wave, Hawkwind, and Ultravox. It also set the tone and stance for the entire set, yet Atco labelhead Doug Morris proclaimed Swindells the new Bruce Springsteen. Tracks like "I Feel Alive" and "Is It Over Now?" make it easy to see why, but the Jersey beach boy could never have composed a vicious song like "Bitter & Twisted." That number was tailor-made for the Stranglers, "Don't Wait on the Stairs," in contrast, channeled Elvis Costello through electro land. (Both these songs, incidentally, were later covered by Roger Daltrey). And in late 1980, Hawkwind took "Shot Down in the Night," written during Swindells' soiree with the band, into the U.K. chart, although his version here arguably rides roughshod over his former bandmates' take. An excellent composer and phenomenal lyricist with a flair for vivid imagery, Swindells' Fresh Blood heralded the coming rise of the keyboard, while gallantly introducing the immediate musical past -- punk and New Wave, to the future. But the future wasn't beckoning him; a tad too ahead of his time for the U.S., and just a step behind the times for the U.K., this fabulous album sunk with little trace and even less interest from his label. Swept in the cross-currents of its time, the set still sounds surprisingly fresh today, and in hindsight even more glorious.
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AllMusic Review by Dave Thompson