– “Back To Thunder”
Line Records LICD 9.00713 O (1989)
Originally released: Gull Records GULP 1029 (1978)
It was the cover of this album which caught my interest in the first place.
I thought it was cool and interesting and I assumed that this was no ordinary
pop album. This happened back in the good old days when you got a chance
to listen to the music before you bought it. Not a practice all that common
nowadays, but things seems to get a little better in some shops.
The back of the cover listed only three musicians (with a keyboard player
on a few tracks), so I was hoping for some really heavy guitar freak-out
here when I asked for a quick listen. I was both right and wrong. It was
absolutely guitar-driven, but far from the expression of Cream, Robin
Trower or Rory Gallagher that I was hoping for. But it’s a classic
anyway in my humble opinion ! I’ll try to explain why.
A rasping, scratchy guitar starts “Shockproof” with a fast
repeating riff which makes your boogie feet itch. John Reid is the man
behind all the guitars on the album and, believe me, he’s busy here!
And he takes care of all the lead vocals as well. He got a very pleasant
voice, light and smooth but with the necessary power needed to cope with
the music. A busy man is also the drummer David Williams, he pounds along
with Gordon Rowley’s and keeping the track tight and meaty. A few
bars with fat boogie is thrown in for good measure before John Reid lays
on more guitars on top of the raspy riff who runs all the way through
the track. I liked this track immediately, but when I heard the follower,
“Let Me Down”, I was completely sold! Some fragile soft chords
from John’s guitar starts the ball before a fat, bluesy guitar tops
the easy riff in the background. And the bass of Gordon is far more at
present here, heavy and slightly distorted. It’s powerful and full
of hooks that sticks to your brain. A killer ! Much of the same is to
said about “Feel So Good”, a short fast snappy tune, but with
a tough wah-wah solo, which was very typical seventies. Goodie!
Don Airey is no novice when it comes to the art of keyboard playing (widely
known for his work with Colosseum II, Rainbow and many others), and he’s
the man hired to deal with the job on this album. We got a good feel of
the man’s capabilities in “Sky” where he backs the band
nicely with piano and has clever ideas when it comes to follow all John
Reid’s guitars and tempo changes. Maybe the best track on the album
“You Are What You Are” is another track with several tempo
changes, lots of guitars but where Gordon’s bass steals the show
with his bending of the strings and where Don adds a few Hammond organ
chords. Gordon has also written the follower, “Red Sun”, an
instrumental with only his bass guitar as the only instrument. The track
got this warm sound despite the fact that the bass is heavily fuzzed at
times. The long “Fool Injected Overlap” opens with some nice
acoustic guitar theme and some relaxed singing before both the power and
tempo changes. And more tempo changes is to come, this one is a workout
of dimensions for the whole band. Good one! Good is also the album closer
“Weary Traveller”, a more quiet and subdued track with John’s
voice full of soul and where Don’s keyboards is majestic and classical
inspired. An absolutely worthy ending to a classy album!
Strife, and particularly on this album, was a band who knew a lot how
to sound both heavy and simple, advanced and rocking in a way that made
me playing this album a whole lot, since the day I grabbed and it will
continue the occupation of both my cd-player (when I’m at work)
and my record player (when I’m home) from time to time. I never
get tired of this album !
So if you’re into records with tons of guitars, rocking and heavy,
coupled up with shitloads of tempo changes and good songs, you could do
a lot worse than get your hands on this one.
Strife released only two albums (this was their second and last) and one
EP in their short career. Their debut “Rush” isn’t quite
up to the standard of this one, but worth having. I’ve regrettably
never heard the EP.
All I know is that when they called it a day, bass player Gordon Rowley
started Nightwing, but what happened to bandleader John Reid and drummer
David Williams I know nothing about.