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2008 : VOLUME 42
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REVIEWS IN THIS ISSUE:


National Head Band - Albert 1
National Head Band - Albert 1
Country of Origin:UK
Format:CD
Record Label:Esoteric
Catalogue #:ECLEC 2074
Year of Release:1971/2008
Time:45:54
Info:N/A
Samples:N/A

Tracklist: Got No Time (5:02), You (3:59), Too Much Country Water (4:12), Lead Me Back (4:02), Listen To The Music (6:30), Islington Farm (3:12), Try To Reach You (4:21), Brand New World (6:24), Mister Jesus (8:09)

The National Head Band evolved from a group called The Business a quartet featuring Neil Ford (guitar, vocals), Dave Paull (bass, keyboards, guitar, vocals), Jan Schelhaas (keyboards) and John Skorsky (drums). After signing a management deal and changing their name they got a deal with Warner Brothers who, for some unfathomable reason, insisted that the group should have two drummers. Enter Lee Kerslake (drums, keyboards, vocals), fresh from recording the first Toe Fat album. However, no sooner had the band entered the studios than drummer Skorsky decided to quit! The remaining quartet had quite divisive musical tastes: Schelhaas was a soul fan, Ford was a bluesman, Paull was ostensibly a folkie and Kerslake was more into rock. Given the task of melding all these influences into a coherent album was Eddie Offord who had just completed work on The Yes Album. Offord was more than up to the task in hand and the results he achieved are admirable as elements of all of the individual members musical interests can be heard on the album, which fits neatly in with other albums released in the early seventies that are recognised as classics of the blooming progressive scene. Label incompetency, a mistimed and misplaced tour of Top Rank venues, and a whole batch of faulty album pressings did the band no favours who, unheralded, split later the same year.

Opening number Got No Time starts off with a riff that is vaguely similar to Day Tripper by The Beatles but the piano adds a bit of rhythm and blues to the proceedings. A nice heavier ending courtesy of a couple of electric guitars gives way to their acoustic counterparts in You which displays the groups talent for harmonising. The mixture of the acoustic six strings with the bold keyboard and the soulful vocals provides an interesting blend. The excellent Too Much Country Water is up next and again the harmony vocals add a lot to the number. Schelhaas provides jaunty piano and different guitar solos emanate from each speaker, before things ramp up for the ending. Lead Me Back is certainly a Beatles influenced number with the Moog being tapped for a wide range of brass band sounds. However, the song doesn't really evolve into anything that special and would have benefited from having an earlier fade out. Another Apple band, Badfinger, can be heard within the grooves of Listen To The Music and is almost up to the same standard as that masterful but ill-fated group.

Unusual for even progressive bands, the harmonium takes centre stage for Islington Farm, a more melancholy number. The guitar has a ton of echo applied to it which contrasts brightly with the layered vocals. Overall a strange little song that I'm not entirely convinced by but holds up well against other experimental numbers of the era. Paull's folk leanings are more on display during Try To Reach You with Ford's bottle neck guitar solo proves a standout moment. Leaving the country twang behind, Brand New World mixes bits of everything that has gone before. The abilities of Offord come to the fore as the blend of different voices, a fluid bass line, the organ, acoustic and electric guitars is absolutely perfect, a great song. The grand finale is provided by Mister Jesus which sets off at a blistering pace - like a distant cousin to Flight Of The Rat by Deep Purple. However, this only serves as an intro, for after two minutes the rock is replaced by the acoustic guitars, organ and harmony vocals. The ending of the song is quite masterful with initially a Beatles-type section and then a bit more up-tempo with wahwah guitar pulling things to a close.

Although not a long-lost classic album, the National Head Band showed more than enough promise that they could have achieved far greater things. Instead Kerslake went off to join Uriah Heep, Schelhaas had stints in both Camel and Caravan (whom he rejoined a couple of years ago for their excellent The Unauthorised Breakfast Item album) and Paull joined the also excellent Jonesy. No idea what Ford did after the group disbanded, although the sleeve notes to the album conclude with the fact that after 37 years with no contact Schelhaas and Ford are back in touch and have started writing together again. Will we see Albert 2 after all these years? Who can tell!

Conclusion: 7 out of 10

MARK HUGHES



Keef Hartley Band - Halfbreed
Keef Hartley Band - Halfbreed
Country of Origin:UK
Format:CD
Record Label:Esoteric
Catalogue #:ECLEC 2050
Year of Release:1969/2008
Time:50:48
Info:Keef Hartley Band
Samples:Click here

Tracklist: Sacked - introducing Hearts And Flowers / Confusion Theme / The Halfbreed (7:57), Born To Die (10:02), Sinnin' For You (5:54), Leavin' Trunk (5:58), Just To Cry (6:21), Too Much Thinking (5:33), Think It Over / Too Much To Take (5:38), Leave It Til The Morning (3:27)

Keef Hartley started his musical career as the replacement drummer in Rory Storm and The Hurricanes when their original skinsman left to join a little known beat combo called The Beatles (wonder what happened to them?!). He also played with Freddie Starr and the Midnighters (yes, for UK readers, it is that Freddie Starr!) before becoming to more prominence with The Artwoods, a group most notable for having a pre Deep Purple Jon Lord in their ranks. After receiving the sack from the Artwoods for dress code violation he joined John Mayall's Bluesbreakers who, coincidentally, had just fired Mick Fleetwood. After a year and another sacking, Hartley formed his own band with Miller Anderson on guitar and vocals, Peter Dines on organ and harpsichord, Spit James (who Hartley named as he didn't think that his original name, Ian Cruickshank, was suitable for a blues band!) on guitar and Gary Thain (who later gained fame with Uriah Heep) on bass. The band had a one-album deal with Decca and, as was common at the time, recorded the album in a matter of days. Following its release in 1969, Decca soon upgraded the deal signing the band on for a further seven albums!

I have to admit that I was ignorant of the output of Keef Hartley before hearing the first three reissues by Esoteric. Maybe it was the picture of a man from Preston, Lancashire in full American Indian dress on the cover or the unknowns of what to expect from a blues band with a drummer as leader. However, I am glad to say that I was very pleasantly surprised when I popped Halfbreed into my CD player. The initial medley starts with a telephone call revisiting the initial firing of Hartley from The Bluesbreakers that ultimately led to the formation of Hartley's own group. The music then starts and meanders along with some very good guitar work mixed in with the gorgeous sound of the Hammond organ. There is no getting away from the fact that the music is immediately identifiable as from the late 1960s but that doesn't prevent it from being very good indeed. The horns comprising the cream of British jazz musicians (Henry Lowther and Harry Beckett on trumpet, Lynn Dobson and Chris Mercer on tenor sax) add suitably enhancing stabs at all the appropriate moments. Born To Die is a slow blues that bears some similarities to Cream; Anderson has a pure voice that suits the music which, despite the slow tempo and the ten-minute playing time, keeps one interested until the end where the band ramp up the intensity: sounds like they could have continued but instead a fade out is opted for. Sinnin' For You starts with some up-front drumming before the horns and organ kick in and the vocals are introduced. A scorching guitar solo and some nifty bass playing from Thain take up the middle eight before returning to the vocals and ending with some more prominent drumming and a flute solo (played by Dobson).

Leavin' Trunk could very well be considered 'proto-prog', similar to the early Deep Purple albums although with a more bluesy vocal line, the guitars provide plenty of riffs and some great dual soloing, not at all what I had expected to hear, and well worth a listen! Next up is Just To Cry, as you would expect from such an emotive title, we are back into a slower groove. With plenty of echo on the guitar, a steady and persistent bass line and alternating chords on the organ this is a song to get lost in. A great number that shows that simplicity is often best. The addition of the trumpet to the end vocal section is masterful and certainly adds a new dimension to the song. Too Much Thinking continues the slow blues with the vocals and brass combining to give a plaintive air. A great song that maintains the originality by including a violin solo (from Lowther) that gels with the brass perfectly. Final number of the original album, Think It Over/Too Much To Take again features some very good guitar soloing that takes things away from the more characteristic blues formulae. An energetic and comprehensive ending to the album it is no surprise that Halfbreed was Hartley's biggest seller as it must have offered something a bit different for the time. As a bonus, Esoteric have included a contemporary single, Leave It Til The Morning which is slightly out of kilter with the rest of the album. A bit popier with a slight psychedelic vibe, the song features acoustic guitars and double-tracked lead vocals. Indeed it could almost be a different band performing!

As mentioned, this album was a pleasant surprise to me and one that I'm certainly glad to have had the opportunity to listen to and add to my collection. As to its 'acceptability' by progressive rock fans, well that all depends on how willing one is to stretch definitions or how open one is to taking in new genres or discovering the history of music! As a progressive album, Halfbreed would score very low on anyone's rating system. However, as a great album from the late 1960s that saw bands developing into many different areas then it is well worth a listen for the simple fact that it contains some great songs, some wonderful playing and has a man from Preston dressed as a native American on the cover!

Conclusion: Unrated

MARK HUGHES



Keef Hartley Band - The Battle Of North West Six
Keef Hartley Band - The Battle Of North West Six
Country of Origin:UK
Format:CD
Record Label:Esoteric
Catalogue #:ECLEC 2052
Year of Release:1969/2008
Time:42:02
Info:Keef Hartley Band
Samples:Click here

Tracklist: The Dansette Kid / Hartley Jam For Bread (4:04), Don't Give Up (4:07), Me And My Woman (4:27), Hickory (2:49), Don't Be Afraid (4:28), Not Foolish, Not Wise (4:00), Waiting Around (2:29), Tadpole (7:04), Poor Mabel (You're Just Like Me) (3:11), Believe In You (5:24)

The second Keef Hartley Band album was, according to Hartley's own sleeve notes for this re-issue, recorded without the restraints of the first album, Halfbreed. In reality that meant the group had a whole two weeks to record everything! The title of the album stems from the fact that the group were forced by Decca to record in the label's own studios which were, to say the least, antiquated and more used to recording Mantovani than a five-piece band and horn section. Although only recorded a few months after the first album, there were a few changes in personnel. Hartley (drums), Miller Anderson (guitar and vocals), Gary Thain (bass) and Spit James (guitar) remained of the core band with Mick Weaver taking over from Peter Dines on organ. The first class horn section of Henry Lowther (trumpet, flugelhorn and violin), Harry Beckett (trumpet and flugelhorn), Lynn Dobson (tenor sax and flute) and Chris Mercer (tenor sax) were augmented with Jim Jewell (tenor sax), Mike Davis (trumpet), Barbara Thompson (baritone sax and flute) and Ray Warleigh (flute). Even future Rolling Stone Mick Taylor, who was at that time in the Bluesbreakers and sharing a flat with Hartley, makes an appearance on the final track.

Given the short time period since the release of the debut album, stylistically the music had changed quite a bit. Not so heavily blues influenced, there is an overall greater feeling of experimentation. This is clearly evident on opening number The Dansette Kid / Hartley Jam For Bread which is a very rhythmic tune allowing Spit James free reign to solo with Lowther's brass arrangement adding that extra bit of spice. Don't Give Up shows that Anderson is not just adept at singing the blues, but can also be a bit of a crooner! A more acoustic side than previously displayed, the dual flugelhorns add a different timbre to the song, particularly on the fade-out where each instrument solos independently and yet still manage to provide an integrated sound. Heading back to the blues, Me And My Woman is a showcase for Anderson who not only sings but provides lead guitar. The baritone sax is evident and the jazzy piano can just about be differentiated playing along in the background. For those who like the sound of the flute then Hickory will be a particular delight. Warleigh handles the main theme and improvisation whilst Thompson and Dobson provide a counter melody, a delightful piece with the organs, drums and guitar laid back to provide a basic backing that doesn't interfere with the flautists. Don't Be Afraid is a number that stems from the early days of the band and could easily have been included on Halfbreed as it is very much in the style of the music on that album, with the Hammond playing a more prominent role.

Not Foolish, Not Wise makes full use of the enhanced brass section who battle it out with the guitar and keyboards for pole position. A drum solo splits the song before Jewell lays down a tenor sax solo that is jazzy whilst simultaneously not being jazz. Waiting Around is another number that takes the group away from the original blues base. Piano added to a totally different vocal style from Anderson certainly display the originality of the newer compositions, although whether this can, as the original sleeve notes intimated, be viewed as a maturity of writing is debatable. A section of a long 12-bar blues improvisation largely featuring Weaver's organ forms the basis of Tadpole. Being a massive fan of the various sounds created by the Hammond organ, I love this track! Jim Jewell lays some tasty tenor sax down and Spit James complements it all with some understated guitar licks. Poor Mabel is a rather tongue-in-cheek country number with an uncredited harmonica. Largely forgettable but with some amusing lyrics it provides a bit of a break before the final track which showed 'an important step forward for the band', although I am not sure how! Nonetheless, Believe In You is a decent enough track, enhanced by Lowther's violin solo and the presence of Mick Taylor's guitar (although barely heard) in the middle and end passages.

The Battle Of Northwest Six is certainly a decent enough follow-up to the group's debut album and although featuring a few stand-out tracks lacks the edge of Halfbreed. Still, there is certainly enough to entertain anyone who found enjoyment in the first album, although as with the debut, the progressive aspects of the music are few and far between. Even so, it is good to have this music available once again and all credit to Esoteric for reviving albums that have an importance in musical history.

Conclusion: Unrated

MARK HUGHES



Keef Hartley Band - Little Big Band
Keef Hartley Band - Little Big Band
Country of Origin:UK
Format:CD
Record Label:Esoteric
Catalogue #:ECLEC 2051
Year of Release:1971/2008
Time:42:45
Info:Keef Hartley Band
Samples:Click here

Tracklist: You Can't Take It With You (8:44), Me And My Woman (5:23), Not Foolish, Not Wise (6:47), Leg Overture (Medley): Leavin' Trunk; Halfbreed; Just To Cry; Sinnin' For You (21:47)

Anyone who ever visited the glorious old Marquee Club in Soho's Wardour Street will remember just how small a venue it was. To try an envisage quite how Keef Hartley managed to squeeze his sixteen-piece big band onto that stage simply blows the mind! Ever since Hartley had seen the Count Basie Orchestra as a teenager he had been fascinated by the big band sound and energy. Although the group's studio albums had featured a prominent horn section, finances meant that live only one sax and trumpet could be included. After recording a BBC in Concert programme, producer Jeff Griffin asked if it would be possible to replicate the horn section as per the albums. Having agreed additional cash from Auntie Beeb the idea of the Big Band came about. Unbelievably, Hartley managed to take the whole band on a European tour. After several dates with a scaled down band, the Marquee announced the opening of the recording studios above the venue. The idea was then born of recording the whole big band live! The band consisted of regulars Hartley on drums, Gary Thain on bass and Miller Anderson on guitar and vocals. Derek Austin provided keyboards while Pete York beefed up the percussion. The expanded horn section featured regulars Chris Mercer (baritone and tenor sax), Lynn Dobson (tenor and soprano sax, flute), Barbara Thompson (alto sax) and Harry Beckett (trumpet). Additional trumpets were played by Martin Rover, Terry Noonan, Mike Davis and Martin Rover with additional tenor sax by Roger Wade and finally a couple of trombones, Derek Wadsworth and Danny Allmark, completed the big band.

The album contains just four tracks, with the whole of the second side of the original album given over to the Leg Overture, a medley of songs from the hit debut Halfbreed album. Although the horn sections added to the Halfbreed and Battle Of Northwest Six albums, I feel that they are somewhat overpowering on this live album leaving the bass, guitar and organ restricted to the background. One can only imagine what the intensity of the band would have sounded like from the audience, particularly given that the Marquee was not exactly famed for great acoustics. Having said that, given that the recording studio was a new endeavour, the sound of the album is not bad. You Can't Take It With You sets the scene with various horns each getting solos. The vocals are a bit lost with Anderson having to sing his lungs out to be heard. This has resulted in quite a bit of bleeding into other microphones resulting in a rather echoy delivery. Still, it is quite fun to hear the band leader counting in the horns at various stages throughout! The Anderson showcase of Me and My Woman as presented on the group's second album is transformed into a battle between the vocals, horns and organ (replacing the piano on the original). A decent guitar solo managed to make itself heard and the whole ensemble manage to create an authentic blues ending. Not Foolish, Not Wise omits the drum solo of the original but Chris Mercer takes the tenor sax solo and expands on what Jim Jewell laid down on the original. Strangely, the number ends with a brief snippet of the National Anthem, obviously an in-joke at the time, the meaning is somewhat lost 37 years later!

The Leg Overture is probably the best of the pieces, and not just because it contains some of the strongest material written by the band. The arrangement is clever and there is a lot more space in the numbers. For instance Dobson's flute solo in Leavin' Trunk is only accompanied by the faintest of guitar bass and organ with Hartley keeping time on the hi-hat. The band becomes more prominent on the segue into Halfbreed and when the horns come in they don't completely dominate the musical spectrum. Anderson is in fine voice on Just To Cry and his more measured vocal performance is counterbalanced by a superb sax solo, again by Mercer. A more 'free for all' horn section is followed by a drum solo which provides the perfect intro into Sinnin' For You. During this last number the horns get the opportunity to add some swing into the proceedings before ending up the medley in a very satisfactory manner.

Of the three Keef Hartley albums reviewed on these pages, this live album is the least worthy of attention. The technical aspects of fitting the large band into a small venue, recording them and putting out a live album obviously without the luxury of overdubbing is an accomplishment in itself. However, although an admirable endeavour to record for posterity something that would inevitably have a very limited lifespan, anyone interested in the Keef Hartley Band would be better served by the studio albums.

Conclusion: Unrated

MARK HUGHES



Quintessence - Self
Quintessence - Self
Country of Origin:UK
Format:CD
Record Label:Esoteric
Catalogue #:ECLEC 2076
Year of Release:1971/2008
Time:53:38
Info:Quintessence
Samples:Click here

Tracklist: Cosmic Surfer (3:49), Wonders Of The Universe (4:13), Vishnu Narain (6:26), Hallelujad (4:15), Celestial Procession (1:21), Self (3:08), Freedom (6:45), Water Goddess (14:27), You Never Stay The Same (6:16), Sweet Jesus (2:57)

In the tumultuous times of the late 1960s there was a musical revolution that spawned bands who naturally evolved into different styles giving rise to the various genres of music that we are mostly familiar with. As with all evolution, things can be traced back to a common point from which the various offspring developed. In the case of Quintessence that common point was Notting Hill Gate in London which, by 1968, had become the epicentre of Britain's freak and underground music scene. Whereas one set of musicians, collectively known as Hawkwind, launched themselves in to interstellar explorations and creating space rock in the process, another troop, the Quintessence collective, took a more spiritual route. Classically trained Australian flautist Ron Rothfield (Raja Ram) formed the group, like so many bands over the years, by advertising for musicians in Melody Maker. In came Englishman Dave Codling (Maha Dev) on guitar, Australian Phil Jones (Shiva) on vocals, American Richard Vaugh (Shambu Babaji) on bass, Mauritian Allan Mostert on lead guitar and Canadian Jake Milton on bass. Several members of the group adopted Indian identities after making the acquaintance of the Hindu religious teacher Swami Ambikananda and immersed themselves in the study of Hindu teachings. Signing to Island records the group released three albums (In Blissful Company in 1969, Quintessence and Dive Deep in 1970) before signing for RCA in 1971. A single, both sides of which are included on this release as bonus tracks, was issued in late 1971 to promote a small tour one date of which, at Exeter University, was recorded. The group entered the studio to start work on the next album, Self, in early 1971 and the six tracks that were to become the first side of the album were laid down. Two tracks from the Exeter concert comprised side two. A final album, Indweller was released at the end of 1972. After five albums in three years and with the original line-up still intact, the band decided to call it a day.

In keeping with their spiritual outlook, a lot of Indian rhythms and chanting is infused into the music on the album, which depending on if you think George Harrison was on to a good thing when he started blending East with West, may affect your opinion of the album. Personally I sit somewhere on the fence, it is all right in small doses but faced with nearly a quarter of an hour on incessant chanting (as on Water Goddess) I tend to turn off. I'm sure that at the concert it was quite a treat, getting into the repetition and clapping along but on the album it becomes rather a bore. Although an essential part of their belief system, it is a shame that this track dominates the album as elsewhere they display considerable talent in writing more Western style music but maintaining elements of Eastern influences. Indeed, on the other live track, Freedom, is a great number that flows directly into Water Goddess which begins sounding like something straight out of a Grateful Dead jam. The studio tracks also display a different side to the band with Cosmic Rider being a superb pop-rock song. Wonders Of The Universe is delicate and graceful, the melodious flute, piano and acoustic guitar backing a fine vocal performance by Shiva. The Hindu chant sits comfortably within the structure of the song and the great melody is instantly memorable. Vishnu Narain is identical, save for the title, as the bonus cut You Never Stay The Same, or at least if there are any differences between the two (save for the 10 second shorter running time on the single version) I can't spot them. Fortunately, it's duplication is not such a bad thing as it is a wonderful song with another fine melody building to a proggy section led by the electric guitar. Hallelujad is another acoustic guitar and flute number which reminds me of It's A Beautiful Day in many ways. Ending with another chant, this one is spiced up by layers of vocals with the (uncredited) female 'choir' adding a new dimension. On Celestial Procession we get a drone over which the flute flows merrily along accompanied only by the bleating of sheep! As for the title track, well a hymn, a chant, a prayer, a track I won't be too displeased if I never hear again! Ditto the A side of the single, Sweet Jesus, it is not just my religious opposition that makes these songs a torment to listen to, it is just that they are simply not that good, or more likely, my brain is not receptive to their musical message.

Fans of the band will no doubt be very pleased that, finally, Self is available on CD. Also, appreciators of cross-over music will find a lot on offer from this group of fine musicians. Even for those like me, with no interest in the spiritual, the good songs are very good and are certainly worth hearing. But ultimately, Quintessence are a band of their time.

Conclusion: 6 out of 10

MARK HUGHES



Claire Hamill - Touchpaper
Claire Hamill - Touchpaper
Country of Origin:UK
Format:CD
Record Label:Esoteric
Catalogue #:ECLEC 2077
Year of Release:1983/2008
Time:56:48
Info:Yesterdays
Samples:Click here

Tracklist: Play With Fire (5:04), Denmark (3:25), Two Fools In A Storm (3:47), First Night In New York (4:26), Come Along Brave Lads (3:42), Jump (4:06), In The Palm Of My Hand (3:28), Gonna Be The One (4:08), Ultraviolet Light (2:42), Once Is Not Enough (3:32), Bonus Tracks: 24 Hours From Tulsa (4:17), Jump (12" Club Mix) (6:53), If You'd Only Talk To Me (3:25), Don't Prolong The Agony (3:46)

Esoteric seem to have gone into overdrive recently unearthing a continuous stream of recordings from the vaults freshly remastered and re-released. The quality of the source material can be a hit and miss affair however with this recent reissue from Claire Hamill being a prime example. I reviewed Claire’s excellent 1973 album October back in May of this year, originally released when she was still in her teens. Two further albums appeared in the 70’s followed by Touchpaper, her first release of the 80’s. In the interim period she sang on Steve Howe’s second solo album as well as Jon & Vangelis’ The Friends Of Mr. Cairo and was briefly a member of Wishbone Ash. Despite these proggy credentials and Alan White drumming on one track, this album is anything but. The cover artwork which depicts a very different looking Claire fashioned on 80’s pop diva Sheena Easton provides an early indication (or should I say warning) of what’s in store.

This is without doubt an album that crosses the line between the sublime and the ridiculous. The first half features some very respectable songs but in the second half it goes from good to bad and with the bonus tracks it turns downright ugly. The Moon Is A Powerful Lover is an atmospheric opener although the synthesised voice effects (ala Laurie Anderson’s O Superman) and bass synth sound a tad dated. Claire’s stunning vocals however more than compensate with more than hint of Barbara Streisand. The dramatic Denmark finds Claire in Kate Bush storyteller mode but the highlight for me is Mitch Dalton’s weeping Hackett flavoured guitar. Two Fools In A Storm is beautifully evocative song with a sultry, late night sax lead from Dave Roach and Claire sounding at her most romantic and seductive. Gorgeous! The memorable First Night In New York is another standout track due in no small part to the sterling session players. There’s a typically warm bass line from John Giblin, crisp drumming from Simon Phillips and rhythmic piano work from Ronnie Leahy. The melodramatic Come Along Brave Lads combines traditional folk influences with the contemporary vocal and keys style of Jon & Vangelis but it works nonetheless.

It’s at this point that the album makes a sharp turn for the worse headed by the overtly commercialised Jump. The riff and male backing vocals are courtesy of Ian Dury’s Reasons To Be Cheerful Part 3, the funk rhythm and splashy keys sound owe a debt to Prince whilst the fat bass and overloud drums (minus cymbals of course) are lifted from the string of Trevor Horn produced singles by ABC and Dollar in 1982. In The Palm Of My Hand is worse still, being a prime example of superficial, white female soul-pop made popular by the likes of Sheena Easton, Kelly Marie and The Nolans. Gonna Be The One finds Claire jumping on the then popular electro-pop bandwagon with the bubbly synth sound of Yazoo and early Depeche Mode. Could that be Vince Clarke on synths? No it’s Claire’s producer Andy Stennett. The moody Ultraviolet Light features low key synth drones from Gary Numan and ‘drums’ from Alan White although his contribution appears to be restricted to hi-hat. And contrary to claims that appear on other web sites, Chris Squire did not play bass on this track with ex-Rare Bird bass man Steve Gould being responsible. The final track of the original album Once Is Not Enough returns to Vince Clarke territory, flavoured with a hint of Blancmange.

I was looking forward to the first of the bonus tracks 24 Hours From Tulsa as the original version sung by Gene Pitney was a firm family favourite in my youth. Blissful memories were shattered however by one of the worst covers I have ever heard. It vainly attempts to recreate the modernist approach of Dave Stewart and Barbara Gaskin who excelled with their updates of 60’s songs. It includes an almost laughable over the top performance from Claire with limp strings and trite brass car horn effects. At 6 minutes and 53 seconds the “12" club mix” of Jump follows and is 6 minutes and 53 seconds too long in my view. In contrast the introspective If You'd Only Talk To Me is a pleasant outing with a light country feel and a memorable chorus. The concluding Don't Prolong The Agony is however a fairly bland MOR excursion.

Due to its inconsistencies I really found it difficult to listen to this release repeatedly. In fact each time I arrived at the final track Don't Prolong The Agony, the song’s title pretty well summed up my feelings at that point. It’s not that I have anything against early 80’s electro-pop; I recall many of the acts mentioned above with fondness. It’s just that the songs here are so blatantly derivative and even by 1983 the sound had reached its peak and beginning to wear a little thin. Also Claire’s otherwise superb voice doesn’t always seem at ease with the style. This is not one of Esoteric’s most distinguished releases and they certainly don’t score any points for uncovering tracks like 24 Hours From Tulsa which should have been left gathering dust on the shelf. The good news is that Claire made better records before and after this album which are available from the Esoteric website.

Conclusion: 4.5 out of 10

GEOFF FEAKES




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