Angel Air 2015
From hard rock to power pop: entire output of English band, with elite champions, on 2 CDs, and then some.
In pool terms, straight eight is all about intentions of the player, and this group’s aiming at the top was clear from the beginning. Their demo finding its way into Pete Townshend’s hands resulted in the quartet’s debut single’s issue on his Eel Pie label, eager to embrace the Zeitgeist of “Modern Times,” yet the ’45’s parent album “No Noise From Here” felt out of tune with 1978’s atmosphere. The following year THE WHO man also played on their “Spread It Around” – included as a bonus on the second CD, alongside other rarities, here – and it seemed more congruous; still, there’s energetic escapism to the funk-kicked “Running” and “Nothing To Live For” that boast a catchy chorus as a contrast to Rick Cassman’s romanticism in the punchy balladry of “Angel.”
But if the power riffs of “I Idolise You” chimed in more with American AOR of the day than UK’s post-punk, “Nicotine Boys” taps right into it – with gusto, while Boot Kingsman’s bluesy licks spice up the organ-oiled “Take It All Back” and “Power Cut,” the latter – a Winter of Discontent snapshot – sitting in the heart of 1980’s “Shuffle ’n’ Cut,” a rather different proposition. No “duplication of yesterday” as stated in one of the pieces here, it starts with the bubbling “I’m Sorry” baring the band’s new pop agenda and takes “On The Rebound” to the dancefloor in fine fashion, whereas “I Can’t Stop” are “Satisfied” are channeling the CLASH sort of twang and vocal chops.
John Burns’ sympathetic production, honed on prog, makes pieces like the anthemic “Only You” or the elegant rocker “Heartbreaker” sound modern even now, which can’t be said of Martin Rushent’s insipid handling of “Straight To The Heart” which saw a limited release in 1981 and was to become the quartet’s swan song, because they lost the momentum gained as an opening act for QUEEN at such venues as Wembley Arena. So although “Next Time” signals a return to a heavier melodic base, and “Walls Can’t Keep Us Apart” may be the collective’s best offering as it marries tightness with a lyrical flow, the club gloss of “Desperation” didn’t date well. For all its romp and piano runs, the eloquently titled “Faded Stars” comes across quite tired, but the “spirit will never die” line proved prophetic with the group ready to put out the fourth album in 2015, as STRAIGHT 8UK.
If it’s to have just a bit of the shuffle which carries the demo of “Stay With Me” at the end of this collection, there’s going to be a great follow-up chapter to the original trilogy – ready for rediscovery now.