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It is rare indeed that a re-formed band should be acclaimed as cutting its best-ever album, especially when that band is one as storied and steeped in legend as Stray. Seemingly eternal denizens of the British hard rock circuit during the early- to mid-'70s, and one of those bands whom everyone at one point tipped for the top but who somehow contrived to never quite reach it, Stray were, quite simply, so ubiquitous that, even when they split up, it felt as though they were still out there someplace. And when they returned, it was as if they had never been away. That is certainly the case with Valhalla, a dozen-song set that showcases everything that was immortal about this band in the first place: the harmonies that soared out of somewhere so left-field that they amazed as much on the umpteenth play as they did on the first; the bludgeoning riffs and the soar-away melodies; the knowledge that, if Stray had only enjoyed the right breaks.... Valhalla is a fantasy fulfilled, a confirmation of all that we once held dear, and a compulsive reminder of all that we still ought to. "Move a Mountain," "Harry Farr," "Ghostwriter" -- every song here is a Stray classic in the making, and so one more voice adds itself to the chorus. If this isn't Stray's best album ever -- well, it's certainly as good as whatever else was.

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