Stray

Stray

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Because they were merely precocious teenagers when they'd been signed to a recording contract in the late '60s, the Stray (as they were originally known) probably experienced the golden era of British rock in all of its kaleidoscopic, Sgt. Peppers-powered glory, even more intensely than most. As such, they quickly progressed beyond their Brit blues and mod-ish beginnings to dabble in acid rock and psychedelia before diving more permanently into the nascent progressive and hard rock movements. It is clearly the latter two styles that inform the core of their eclectic eponymous debut from 1970, and especially its sprawling, nine-and-a-half minute opener, "All in Your Mind." Building slowly at first, the song gradually sprouts into an insistently driving juggernaut offering ample opportunities for guitarist Del Bromham to showcase his wah-wah intensive solo flights, and to introduce the quartet's penchant for singing in harmonic unison. As with most of the album's other heavy rockers ("Taking All the Good Things," the Hawkwind-like "Only What You Make It," etc.), we're talking about weight streaked with softer dynamics and stylistic variety, on par with the parallel work of the Groundhogs or Pink Fairies -- but not single-minded riff leviathans like Black Sabbath or earliest Budgie -- although, curiously, shades of the latter's lighter, more explorative mid-'70s material do crop up in mellower tracks like the mildly exotic "Around the World in 80 Days" (featuring a mournful Spanish guitar figure) and the sultry grooves of "Yesterday's Promises." The H.G. Wells-inspired "Time Machine," in particular, collects an astonishing array of unrelated genres (folky acoustic guitars, handclaps, chucka-wucka guitars, etc.) but then so does "Move On," with its kinetic, funk-meets-jazz-meets-proto-metal mishmash, and LP closer "In Reverse/Some Say," with its tightly executed fuzz rock jam. Along with most everything found on Stray's fascinating first album, these songs' rampant diversity suggest a far more seasoned and experienced group of musicians than the 18- and 19-year-olds involved -- impressive!

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