Stronger than known
4 Out of 5 Stars
Gregory Gray made three solo albums and has been releasing tracks under the nom de tune "Mary Cigarettes" for a few years now. "Strong At Broken Places" was his second album and released on the Atco/Atlantic in 1990 when the company was trying to resurrect the Atco label (and made the place the home of AC/DC for a time). While Gray has little else in common with AC/DC, his album deserves your attention all the more.
He has the songwriting sensibilities of Randy Newman at his most biting and recalling the Pet Shop Boys at his most buoyant. Producer Davitt Sigerson (and later, Stephen Hague) frames Gray with modern sounding synths and often danceable rhythms. There's even a dabble of reggae on "People Are Hard." But Gray is at his best when he's either out to party ("Universal Groove," "Things Ain't Always What They Seem") or wax cynical. On the brilliant "When The Music Turns Into Money," he rails against an industry that he wants to crack, ending up singing without any missing irony "I'm a goldmine, I'm a gold mine." It's sublime and subversive at the same time.
Gray also tries his hand at commercial pop (his first album hasn't even seen a CD release, it vanished so completely) on "The Fun Has Just Begun" and "Easier Said Than Done" and rocking a bit on the closing "Coming Back For More." That song is when he loses the high croon for a Bowie Belter and does so convincingly. All this makes "Strong At Broken Places" on of those good albums to slip through the cracks. It may not been as strong as the follow-up, the gay-centric "Euroflake In Silverlake," yet it stands the test of time better than may albums from the same period.