D I S C O G R A P H Y
Strange Affair (1991)
Released: April 1991
Martin Turner's memories:
"We decided to record Strange Affieat Andy Powell’s house in Great Brickhill, near Milton Keynes. By this time I had a pretty decent studio installed at my home in south west London. It was of a highly professional standard and I was adding new equipment all the time. Andy, meanwhile, was by now spending most of his time at his home in the States, but he still had a house in Buckinghamshire that he would rent out as and when he wasn’t using it. At this particular time he was having difficulty getting anyone to rent it and so the band rented his house and I brought in my recording studio. We were basically pooling our resources and I felt it would be an interesting project from a creative standpoint.
So there we were at Ivy Lane Farm – Steve stuck in the barn on his own with his drums, me in the control room playing bass, and Ted and Andy in the bedroom playing guitars through amps. We had not been going at it long before we discovered that Steve was not playing like the Steve Upton we all knew and loved. We all tried hard to get it happening for him but after a while Ted and Andy gave up and it was left to me to help get him playing in the way we were used to. What soon emerged was that Steve was actually in the midst of a marriage breakdown, just as I had been during the Here to Hear sessions. He was obviously upset and was finding it difficult to play. I managed to talk him up and coax him along and after a few days of working with him I thought he was sounding okay. I went to chat to Ted and Andy about it, quite excited by the fact that Steve appeared to be getting it together, but they were adamant that it still wasn’t going to be good enough. Steve was obviously conscious of the fact that he wasn’t functioning correctly and that he needed to sort his life out. We talked about this as a band – all four of us – and eventually Steve just said “I think I should go and let you guys make other arrangements”. I thought at first he was just being a bit dramatic and so I couldn’t believe it when he got up from the table, went to his room and packed his bags – ten minutes later he was gone, never to return. Steve had been with me since 1966 and was the backbone of Wishbone Ash. The band was not going to function as well without him, particularly on the business side of things where he was the key man.
We continued with recording Strange Affair suing drummers Robbie France and Ray Weston. Overall I thought the album came out sounding really good, although it possibly lacks the consistency and continuity that Here to Hear had, with a lot of different styles being attempted to varying degrees of success. In particular there was a bluesier feel on the songs that Andy had written, as he does have a naturally bluesy edge both vocally and guitar-wise. Overall there was arguably a little too much boogie-woogie on Strange Affair at the expense of the more melodic side of the band.
This really was a strange period in the band’s career, as we began to adjust to life without Steve Upton at the helm. There were a lot of strange pressures in the background during the making of Strange Affair. Everything was moving in different directions for each person at that time and I think it was a very aptly titled album – it really was a strange affair."
adapted from the book "No Easy Road - My Life and Times With Wishbone Ash"
Read review from Metal Hammer, April 1991
I don't know what it is about Wishbone Ash, but they seem to have a tendency to follow up a top notch album with a disappointing, if not downright awful, one. For example, Argus followed by Wishbone Four, There's The Rub and Locked In.Strange Affair is a classic example of this. After the excellent Here To Hear, and even with the loss of Steve Upton, it's hard to understand how they could have produced such a lacklustre album as this. It comes across as an album by a fragmented band, rather than the more together sound of Here To Hear.
To my ears there are two excellent songs on the album - "Standing In The Rain" and "Wings Of Desire", and three other good songs - the title track, "Some Conversation", and "Hard Times". The rest I could happily live without ever hearing again. "You" must be the nadir of Martin Turner's otherwise excellent songwriting, and the same goes for Ted with "Say You Will." "Renegade" fulfils the same function for Andy. "Rollin" and "Dream Train" are nothing special either.
Bottom 5 for me I'm afraid.
Just picked up the remastered version of this album to replace the orignal CD and I have to say that it's the difference between night and day. A much brighter sound all round with a wider soundscape allied with a considerably more robust bottom end. Raises the quality of the album quite considerably particularly on some of the slower tracks which were a bit wet on the original version. Some of the more "routine" numbers are raised a notch or two, whilst the genuinely excellent tracks are on a par with some of the best stuff that WA have done (has Andy written a better song than "Wings Of Desire"? I think only "Master Of Disguise" would come close).
Overall, the album's too patchy and the fragmented nature of the recording detracts from it as a whole but I'd wholeheartedly recommend anyone who still has the original CD to invest in the later version.
I was listening to Strange Affair the other day. I've often tended to disregard this one as a weak successor to the excellent Here To Hear, but there is actually some very good stuff on it and it definitely bears repeated listenings.
When it comes to solos what about Ted's final solo on "Standing In The Rain"? That is superb, and easily as good as any other W.A. solo I can think of by Ted, Andy or Laurie. I can listen to that solo over and over...
For that reason as well as others - I really don't have a favourite Ash guitarist. I like Andy, Ted and Laurie in equal measures for their different styles, approaches and particular solo responses to the various songs.