If ever there was an example of a rock band that was in the wrong place at the right time, it's Absolute Grey. In the mid-'80s, Absolute Grey was playing intelligent, tuneful folk-rock with intriguing melodies, subtle but effective hooks, and a psychedelic undertow that would have allowed them to fit right in with the paisley underground bands blossoming on the West Coast or the jangle pop armies gathering in Athens, GA. But some trick of geography placed Absolute Grey in Rochester, NY, where they were pretty much on their own and, while they managed to attract a devoted hometown following, significant nationwide recognition escaped them. Then again, it's hard to say if Absolute Grey would have been an ideal fit anywhere else, either; their approach was a bit less trippy and significantly less retro than such paisley underground stalwarts as the Rain Parade or the Long Ryders, while the band's tone was notably cooler and more hard-edged than what R.E.M. or Pylon brought to the table. A Journey Through the Past is a posthumous live album, compiled by drummer Pat Thomas, that brings together eight original songs the band had never cut in the studio, along with two remakes and one cover (significantly, the Dream Syndicate's "Halloween"). The audio suggests a clean soundboard tape from a club show and, while most of the songs sound as if they'd be better served with a touch more production polish, the performances make it clear that this band was a strong live act (especially guitarist Matt Kitchen and bassist Mitchell Rasor), and the songs certainly merit preservation, especially the propulsive "Elements" and the darkly atmospheric "Hug Hug." Paisley Pop's 2001 reissue of A Journey Through the Past tacks on seven bonus tracks, including a jokey stumble through Bon Jovi's "Wanted Dead or Alive" and a solid rendition of Green on Red's "Abigail's Ghost," while Pat Thomas' liner notes offer a glimpse at the band's history and working methods, as well as the differences that split up the band.
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AllMusic Review by Mark Deming