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Relay: The Big Picture

As I've been listening to The Big Picture by UK Melodic Rock outfit Relay, I really have been caught in two minds as to which way this review will go. To elaborate - after spending some time with this CD - and before reading the band's press blurb, my immediate impression was of a band working on a low budget, that while far from the finished article, do possess a huge amount of potential and no little talent in their ranks. However the question has to be, after reading the aforementioned band profile, is that really enough for a band who are in fact releasing their sixth full length album?

The band actually has a history stretching back to the late seventies, although it wasn't until 1982 that Relay was actually born, with Steve Tsoi (guitars) and Bob Addis (bass) being constants in the band throughout. Five albums have appeared between 1993 and 2007, with the Relay line up being completed by Paul Docherty (drums), Rob Mepham (keyboards) and Alison Taffs (vocals) since 2003. So with eight full years together, Relay should be a slick, smooth, focused operation by now, but in reality that isn't really the truth. The production on the album, which with no actual producer credited in the booklet, I'm guessing was handled by the band, is too flabby. This leaves riffs and keyboards stabs being just too loose and unfocused, instead of sharp and incisive, while the vocals, which are universally excellent, feel extremely isolated in the mix. Add to that a bass drum sound that feels more like a stick thwacking a wet cardboard box and there really are some "sonic" issues with The Big Picture. That in itself is extremely frustrating, but when you couple that together with the fact that the songs themselves are of a better than decent standard, and it really becomes a missed opportunity. For example the energetic and piercing "Svengali" should be a galloping masterpiece, instead of the gently cantering jaunt it is, whereas "Crazy", with its spiralling riff and driving beat is at times a muddy mess that, with a clearer sound, could well be a shiny pearl. And so it goes on really, with nine excellent Melodic Rock tracks all lacking for bite and one almost folk-like acoustic number in the shape of "You Are Beautiful", which with the sound issues put to one side actually has a more potent impact than its supposedly fiery track mates. What the latter track also shows off perfectly is what a gem of singer Relay have in the shape of Taffs, with power, precision and poise being displayed in equal measure.

I know that I have been quite harsh on The Big Picture, but that is only because the potential for this album to be an absolute corker is undoubtedly hidden under the surface of this release and with a little more care, attention and I've no doubt a larger budget (there's the trick I suppose) it really could have been something rather special. As it is, Relay are well worth checking out, but I'd give their music a listen on their MySpace page before venturing further - although I'd definitely pay to see them play live.

Oh and while image is far from being everything, a look that didn't suggest a family trip around the shops wouldn't go amiss either......

Track Listing
1. Crazy
2. Keep Your Head Down
3. Can I Count On You
4. I Don't Care
5. You Are Beautiful
6. Svengali
7. Pour me Another
8. It's Over
9. Warpaint And Feathers
10. Invisibilty

Added: February 2nd 2012
Reviewer: Steven Reid
Related Link: Relay MySpace
Hits: 1902
Language: english

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