REVIEWS IN THIS ISSUE:
Fruupp – Future Legends
Tracklist: Future Legends (1:27), Decision (6:21), As Day Breaks With Dawn (4:58), Graveyard Epistle (6:14), Lord Of The Incubus (6:20), Olde Tyme Future (5:33), Song For A Thought (7:25), Future Legends (0:47) Bonus Track: On A Clear Day (7:46)
Fruupp - Seven Secrets
Tracklist: Faced With Shekinah (8:23), Wise As Wisdom (7:07), White Eyes (7:16), Garden Lady (9:00), Three Spires (5:00), Elizabeth (7:45), The Seventh Secret (1:07)
Fruupp – The Prince Of Heaven’s Eyes
Tracklist: It's All Up Now (7:23), Prince Of Darkness (3:48), Jaunting Car (2:24), Annie Austere (5:17), Knowing You (2:47), Crystal Brook (8:01), Seaward Sunset (3:07), The Perfect Wish (9:56) Bonus Tracks: Prince Of Heaven (3:32), Jaunting Car [Single Version] (2:26)
Fruupp – Modern Masquerades
Tracklist: Misty Morning Way (6:58), Masquerading With Dawn (7:16), Gormenghast (10:47), Mystery Might (8:23), Why (4:10), Janet Planet (2:57), Sheba's Song (8:29)
Those of my generation whose teen years were played out during the early to mid 70’s will remember the music from this era with particular fondness. Prog bands like Yes, ELP, Pink Floyd, Jethro Tull and Genesis especially were riding the crest of creativity and popularity. Then there were the lesser known acts who in many cases I recall with even more affection. It was possible to develop a closer bond with these bands as they usually performed in smaller, more accessible venues and generally recorded more frequently. Several bands spring to mind including Greenslade, Jonesy, The Enid, Nectar, Druid and from Northern Ireland the bizarrely named quartet Fruupp. In a time span of less than 18 months they released four albums that have recently received a simultaneous CD release on the Esoteric label superbly re-mastered and repackaged.
The original line-up included Vince McCusker (guitar, vocals), Stephen Houston (keyboards, oboe and vocals), Peter Farrelly (bass, lead vocals) and Martin Foye (drums, percussion). They remained together long enough to record three albums with the intriguingly titled Future Legends debuting in October 1973. It followed a bout of intensive gigging around the UK after the bands arrival from Belfast two years earlier. All songs were written by McCusker with the bands manager Paul Charles assisting on one track. Charles incidentally is also responsible for the insightful and candid sleeve notes written especially to accompany these reissues. With arrangements by McCusker and Houston the band incorporated extensive use of strings (ala Barclay James Harvest), borrowed liberally from classical music (ala The Enid) and despite their quintessential English sound (ironic given that they were a bunch of lads from Ireland) they had the same appeal as Italian bands like PFM and Banco. Throughout their career they would often be compared with Genesis who they supported on several occasions.
Although the band could rock with the best of them, their classical influences (particularly from the baroque period) gave their sound an added gloss. That’s certainly the case with the title piece Future Legends a gentle instrumental theme for strings. That same theme appears at the end of the debut album only this time performed by a cappella voices. In between, the moody Decision, which became a stage favourite, colours heavy guitar volleys with string arrangements very similar to Yes’ Time And A Word album. From the outset, along with his distinctive vocal style, Farrelly’s bass lines were always a prominent feature of the Fruupp sound in much the same way as Tony Reeves’ role in Greenslade. Graveyard Epistle contrasts tricky King Crimson style guitar and synth interplay with a mellow acoustic lament that echoes Epitaph from the same band.
During Lord Of The Incubus, Olde Tyme Future and Song For A Thought they successfully incorporate elements of Ennio Morricone’s stirring Western film scores and Deep Purple’s epic song Child In Time. Only during Lord Of The Incubus does it sound contrived when they indulge in a boogie-woogie piano and rock and roll guitar section complete with Beethoven references ala ELO. Much better is the opening to Song For A Thought featuring a gritty guitar reel reminiscent of another legendary Irish band Horslips. It succumbs to a tranquil Floydian guitar section before concluding with a crescendo of violins. The bonus track On A Clear Day appeared on the first 100 pressings of the original album but sadly not my copy. It features a busy Yes like bass and organ riff before lifting the Jupiter middle theme from Holst’s The Planets which may explain why it was dropped from the album. I can still recall the legal wrangles endured by Manfred Mann’s Earth Band that very same year when they included Holst’s famous tune in their hit single Joybringer.
Flushed with critical acclaim Fruupp returned to the studio at the beginning of 1974 to record their second album Seven Secrets, released just six months after its predecessor. Bassist and vocalist Farrelly was responsible for the multicoloured artwork as he had been with the previous release. They were now established as a regular live act in the UK supporting the likes of Genesis and the Electric Light Orchestra as well as headlining in their own right. Possibly as a result of extensive gigging the rougher edges had been smoothed away resulting in a more refined album where the classical leanings are even more pronounced. To illustrate the point a string overture based on Handel’s Water Music opens the album and the song Faced With Shekinah. The classical composer’s contribution goes unacknowledged however with the song credited to Houston who also adds vintage keys and woodwind sounds that bring Gryphon to mind. It was a clear sign that the keyboardist was providing a viable challenge to McCusker’s dominance as the bands principle songwriter. For his part McCusker adds a lovely weeping guitar sound ala Jan Akkerman.
Wise As Wisdom is not the bands strongest song to date but it does benefit from a restless organ rhythm in the vein of Genesis’ Return Of The Giant Hogweed. In addition to a mellow vocal, acoustic guitar and strings interlude, White Eyes introduces a jaunty piano rhythm that would feature prominently in many Fruupp songs. If you’re familiar with Tony Banks’ title song to Genesis’ Trick Of The Tail then you’ll know where I’m coming from. Garden Lady is the bands longest offering to date providing a good balance between strident, up-tempo sections and melodic, ambient moments rounded off by one of McCusker’s finest guitar solos. The wistful Three Spires is easily one of the bands most exquisite tunes thus far with violin, acoustic guitar and piano (courtesy of guest David Lewis) evocative of early Ant Phillips. Elizabeth follows the tone of the opening track and remains probably the bands most successful attempt at blending classical and prog. Cascading strings and rippling piano lift the lyrical vocal melody with Farrelly performing at his best (both vocally and bass wise) with muscular support from drummer Martin Foye. The album ends with The Seventh Secret, a whimsical acoustic guitar and spoken ditty written as an afterthought to ensure the album had seven songs to match its title.
With two albums under their belt, each displaying a natural progression, and gaining a reputation as one of the most solid live acts around, Fruupp were back in the studio that same summer to produce The Prince Of Heaven’s Eyes. It was released on 8th November 1974 the very same day that I and a friend and fellow fan caught them live mid tour to promote the album. The third album is regarded by most (including yours truly) to be their strongest and most assured. Most surprisingly McCusker’s compositions take a backseat with Houston given credit for writing six out of the eight songs. The albums title and concept are taken from a mythical story written by Paul Charles which was included as a separate booklet with the original vinyl release and has been thoughtfully reproduced to accompany this CD.
The tuneful opening cut It's All Up Now has shades of Barclay James Harvest and remains to this day my favourite Fruupp song. Gone were the strings of previous recordings, replaced by Houston’s symphonic keys and McCusker’s lyrical guitar. The sinister vocals during Prince Of Darkness echo Peter Gabriel’s character led performances with Genesis and it also made a curious choice for the bands first single released in October 1974. Jaunting Car is a whimsical Mellotron led instrumental whilst Annie Austere literally burst from the speakers sounding very like The Who, returning to the punchy but melodic style of the first album. Farrelly’s vocals are particularly expressive here with more than a hint of an accent to reveal his Irish origins. He also adds his talents as flute player to the poignant Knowing You, the first of two McCusker penned songs that open what would have been side two of the original vinyl release. It segues into the mini-epic Crystal Brook which again brings BJH to mind especially their classic Mockingbird. The two tracks combine into one of the bands finest ever creations.
The piano opening to Seaward Sunset sounds distinctly Chopin and develops into a beautiful and delicate melody that would have sat very comfortably on Ant Phillips’ The Geese And The Ghost album. The Perfect Wish also features classical style piano together with a stately Andy Latimer flavoured guitar line. John Lees appears to be the role model for the guitar sound whilst the classical inspiration is Sibelius’ 5th Symphony with lush waves of synth strings providing a perfect, grandiose closer. The bonus track Prince Of Heaven is something of a rarity in that it was co-composed by the band and was left off the original release due to space constraints. A pity because it would have provided the perfect prologue to explain the story and with a strong piano and guitar led melody building to a rousing climax it’s a quintessential slice of Fruupp. The single version of Jaunting Car on the other hand is instantly disposable as to my ears it’s identical to the album version.
With their best album sales to date and sell out concerts Fruupp appeared to be on a roll as they went into Christmas 1974 unaware of the bombshell that (for three of them at least) was soon to come there way. On the 19th January 1975 Houston played his final gig with the band having announced he was leaving to follow his recently adopted Christian beliefs (where have you heard that story before!). It was an ironic turn of events given that Houston had just established a more prominent role as songwriter within the band. Undaunted the remaining trio returned to the studio that summer with a new keyboardist (John Mason) and producer (Ian MacDonald of King Crimson fame) resulting in their fourth and final album released almost exactly a year after its predecessor.
Modern Masquerades turned out to be a far better effort than I for one expected due in no small part to Mason’s musicianship and writing talents. It’s McCusker who is responsible for the two opening songs however leading with the guitar propelled Misty Morning Way with its stirring Hackett flavoured guitar sound. The rhythm partnership of Farrelly and Foye are on top form sounding as sure footed as ever. Masquerading With Dawn includes references to the traditional folk tune Greensleeves albeit disguised under strident guitar and pulsating keys. The vocals and harmonies have never sounded as smooth as they do here. Gormenghast represents Mason’s first compositional foray with a beautifully gentle tune and more modern sounding keyboards than on previous Fruupp albums. With the emphasis on electric piano and synth it presents a jazzier (and dare I say more Transatlantic) sound with unexpected sax embellishments courtesy of the producer. It seemed to bode well for the bands future which unfortunately wasn’t to be.
The explosive Mystery Might opens with a shimmering wall of keys very like Saga’s Don’t Be Late and contains a typical Fruupp galloping rhythm and a very untypical organ dominated jazzy instrumental workout. McCusker’s plaintive Why is an unashamed ballad which allows the guitarist to bare his soul through Farrelly’s sensitive vocal aided by Mason’s glossy piano. Another departure is the light hearted, trumpet led and rhythmic Janet Planet. Bringing The Beatles circa Magical Mystery Tour to mind it was obviously intended as a single and in that format was released three weeks before the album. The final Sheba's Song features a lively electric piano riff very reminiscent of Supertramp’s Dreamer and flawless CSN style harmonies. The searing guitar and horns coda provides a fittingly poignant and proggy ending to the album and the recording career of Fruupp.
During the tour that followed they were supported by a band that within months evolved into The Clash, symbolic of the future for Fruupp and prog in general. Although they recorded demos for the next intended release with a live album also on the cards the band dissolved in July 1976 with neither seeing the light of day. Given their reputation as a stage act is particularly unfortunate that the master tapes for the live album were lost in a fire at the bands London apartment. Since then, there has been little to report from the Fruupp camp until now of course with this Esoteric collection making all four albums readily available on CD for the first time. There was a recent rumour from Stephen Houston’s website of a possible reunion but given the circumstances of his abrupt departure that hardly seems likely. For now however there is the opportunity to wallow in nostalgia with at least one if not all four recordings from one of the great unsung bands of the ‘70’s.
Future Legends: 8 out of 10
Seven Secrets: 8.5 out of 10
The Prince Of Heaven’s Eyes: 9 out of 10
Modern Masquerades: 8 out of 10
Galliard - Strange Pleasure
Tracklist: Skillet (3:46), A Modern Day Fairy Tale (3:16), Pastorale (2:29), I Wrapped Her In Ribbons (3:52), Children Of The Sun (3:46), Got To Make It (4:00), Frog Galliard (3:22), Blood (3:47), Hear The Colours (3:48), I Wanna Be Back Home (4:54) Bonus Tracks: The Hermit And The Knight (2:42), I Wrapped Her In Ribbons [single version] (3:09)
Galliard - New Dawn
Tracklist: New Dawn Breaking (4:22), Ask For Nothing (9:01), Winter - Spring - Summer (5:57), Open Up Your Mind (3:14), And Smile Again (4:09), Something's Going On (4:55), Premonition (4:45), In Your Mind's Eyes (6:28)
Galliard were formed in England's second city of Birmingham in the middle of 1968. Whilst elsewhere in the city the likes of Black Sabbath were laying the groundwork that would see early progressive music branch off into a heavier direction, the Galliard band of merry musicians were evolving a more psychedelic approach to their prog. Unbelievably, the two bands shared the same stage on more than one occasion, along with other prominent groups of the era such as Led Zeppelin (whatever became of them I wonder?), Mott The Hoople and even The Groundhogs. The band featured the usual lead guitar (Richard Pannel), rhythm guitar (Geoff Brown), bass (Andy Abbott) and drums (Les Podraza) augmenting their sound with trumpet (Dave Caswell) and Sax (John Smith, later replaced by Lyle Jenkins). However, that is not the whole line up as throughout their existence the number of personnel could expand up to eleven members with addition of extra trumpet (Harold Beckett), trombone (John Hughes), sax (Tony Roberts), keyboards (John Morton) and percussion (Tommy Thomas).
Strange Pleasures, the 1970 debut album, was originally released on the Deram Nova label and perfectly encapsulates the musical freedom of that era. Jazzy without being jazz, psychedelic without being trippy, pop without being limp-wristed and progressive without being indulgent, the songs stand out for the ease of which the different styles blend together, carefully encased with perfectly executed brass arrangements. It is not surprising that the sound that the band were generating was quickly adopted by other groups, some going so far as to actually poach the Galliard musicians (stand up Ashton, Gardner and Dyke!).
Skillet kicks things off with a funky beat and brass contributions that bear resemblance to bands over the pond such as Chicago Transit Authority and Blood Sweat & Tears. With fantastic trumpet / sax interplay embellished with extra brass the album is off and racing. A Modern Day Fairy Tale takes things down a peg with plenty of acoustic guitar and layered harmony vocals, bursting forth with a glorious sing-along chorus typical of the more pop orientated artists of the time. Pastorale displays the band's rockier edge with a faster number that shows off their arrangement capabilities. The rather twee spoken lyric section dates the song drastically but can be forgiven as being typical of the time. I Wrapped Her In Ribbons has an almost Moody Blues air and was the obvious choice as a single. The edited version (the original, at almost four minutes, was far too long for radio play!), with the more overt jazzy middle section excised is also included on this reissue as a bonus track. Not to be confused with the song of the same name by The Misunderstood, Children Of The Sun is of a gentle psychedelic nature with Pannel getting a chance to try out some of his effects pedals.
Side two of the original album began with Got To Make It, which to my ears is one of the weaker numbers, being rather too disjointed and places too much reliance on phased guitars. However, the folky Frog Galliard sets things back on a more even keel, with a great mixture of acoustic and brass, testing producer Phil Wainman's ability to capture the full dynamic range of the piece. Blood is more aggressive with a military snare driving things along and sound effects of gunfire and explosions emphasising that the late sixties and early seventies were not all peace and love. Hear The Colours has been compared with early King Crimson and, at a stretch, I suppose the acoustic elements may have fitted in with that group's dynamic at that time, although the Crims would not be the first band to spring to mind. Indeed, this is the only track where the brass proves to be a distraction from the song, the bursts of wind being too fussy for the elegant acoustic nature of the rest of the song. Closer I Wanna Be Back Home is a blues-tinged boogie rock and roll number. If I was hearing this song 'blind', after the first few bars I would be convinced that it was none other than Foghat! An unexpected way to close the album but one that shows the adaptability of the group. The other bonus track included is the rare single b-side The Hermit And The Knight which, as the title may suggest, has a more medieval grace to it. A wonderful song that I immediately fell in love with and left me lamenting the death of the old singles where bands were given free rein to experiment and explore their muse. It's been said many times before, but this only reinforces the opinion that some of the most interesting music can be found on obscure flip sides of 7" slabs of vinyl.
A very solid debut effort that incorporates a wide variety of styles and yet managed to maintain an inherent coherency. Not surprisingly, since the band was on a creative roll, it wasn't long before a follow-up album was embarked upon...
As was the necessity of the time, bands didn't hang about between albums and towards the end of 1970 New Dawn, the second Galliard album of the year was released on Deram Records. Considering there must have been very little time between the recording sessions for the two albums, indeed one suspects that there was even some overlap, it is surprising that the two albums display such unique characters. For sure, there is no doubting that it is the same band playing on both albums, yet the development and stylistic conformity that is evident on New Dawn is quite startling. This is immediately evident from the beginning of New Dawn Breaking which sees the band take on a much harder progressive approach, with multiple changes in time signature and a full blown improvisation sax solo in the middle. Unfortunately, after such a great opening we are plunged into Ask For Nothing, the opening of which is just the sound of a sitar tuning up. Gladly, although the Indian music does feature prominently throughout the track, there is plenty of other stuff going on, such as some great flute playing (by Tony Roberts), but it would still be my preference if the sitar had not been included at all and instead the natural talents of the band on Western instruments were allowed to shine through. Which is exactly what they do on the Winter - Spring - Summer suite, their prog masterpiece. Open Up Your Mind once again evokes the spirit of early Chicago, or Chicago Transit Authority as they were originally called. A melodious number that bursts forth with joy and hits all the right notes. A more European flavour, courtesy of an accordion, is presented on And Smile Again, an acoustic number that eschews the brass and focuses on vocal harmonies. Beautifully sung by Geoff Brown, it is proof that great music can be achieved with minimal instrumentation.
The brass section is back in place for the up-beat Something's Going On providing a more languid and smooth ambience. There are many depths to this tune with a lot more happening than is at first apparent, as is the case with Premonition, an instrumental number that takes an improvisational jazz basis and transplants it into rock setting. Proceedings are rounded off with In Your Mind's Eyes, one of the few numbers in the band's repertoire to feature keyboards, albeit not in a very prominent manner. A late take on sixties psychedelia with lyrics based on space travel, it is a good hybrid song that once again, displays the group's penchant for providing a diverse musical palate.
With the musical environment of the time starting to focus on albums and none of the material being really that suitable for release as a single, there are unfortunately no bonus tracks to accompany this release. The lack of outtakes is also not surprising given the fact that in 1970 Galliard commercially released over 80 minutes of music. Although they soon disbanded after the release of New Dawn, Galliard have an important place in English musical history, occupying a position on the cusp of musical digression that soon saw the bludgeoning development of a whole host of new musical genres.
Strange Pleasures: 7 out of 10
New Dawn: 7 out of 10
Keef Hartley Band - Seventy Second Brave
Track list: Heartbreakin' Woman (4:21), Marin County (3:58), Hard Pill To Swallow (5:43), Don't You Be Long (5:16), Nocturns (2:04), Don't Sign It (4:28), Always Thinkin' Of You (4:39), You Say You're Together Now (3:43), What It Is (1:18)
Seventy Second Brave was the fifth and last studio last album released by the Keef Hartley Band and saw some significant changes in the band line-up. Although bassist Gary Thain remained, guitarist and principal song writer Miller Anderson had departed for a solo career. Assembling a new group, Hartley recruited Junior Kerr on guitar and Pete Wingfield on keyboards then added two saxophonists in Chris Mercer (tenor and baritone) and Nick Newell (alto). With five different composers all writing individually, there is more diversity in style than on previous Hartley albums, although one thing that remained constant was that all of the tracks were recorded live with overdubs only being added to enhance performances.
Kerr provides two tracks to the album, Heartbreakin' Woman and Don't You Be Long. The first of these tracks, which opens the album, is lyrically rather repetitive but does feature some lovely dual sax playing and a guitar solo that makes good use of the effects board; perhaps Hartley's own sleeve notes that despite Kerr being very mellow, on stage his desire to be Jimi Hendrix is not far off the mark. Don't You Be Long is rather more funky than the normal blues rock associated with Hartley's albums. Initially the saxes are pushed further back with piano taking precedence, but midway through there is a subtle shift and the group get into a really solid groove, with guest organist Mick Weaver making his presence known. Mercer, who was in John Mayall's Blues Breakers at the same time as Hartley, contributes two tracks. Marin Country is an eminently enjoyable number that would only ever be found on an album from the seventies, electric piano blending nicely with a scorching guitar solo, while Don't Sign It again owes a nod to early funk bands, which might seem perverse unless one has actually heard the first three or four albums by Funkadelic featuring the amazing Eddie Hazel. Wingfield has one writing credit, the, predictably, piano dominant Hard Pill To Swallow. A great blues number with a terrific Mercer horn arrangement that is not overpowering but adds real depth. A great song that is wonderfully sung by the composer. Sadly, the same can't be said for Thain's sole contribution, You Say You're Together Now. Thain's insistence that he sing the song and Hartley's acquiescence was, as Hartley himself admits in the sleeve notes, was a wrong decision. An otherwise very good song is marred by Thain's weak vocal skills and very idiosyncratic voice. Rather bizarrely, and uncredited, this song features backing vocals from none other than Peter Gabriel and Phil Collins who were friendly with the co-producer of Seventy Second Brave, John Burns (who, of course, had engineered Foxtrot and was co-producer on Selling England By The Pound, Genesis Live and The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway).
The final three tracks on the album were written by a certain C. Crowe, about whom nothing is mentioned in the booklet, nor can I find anything about the writer on the internet. Only one of the three numbers features vocals, Always Thinkin' Of You. This song doesn't grab me at all, mainly because of the vocals and the guitar part. Some sleazy sax and a decent organ solo are not enough to pull the song up to the level of the other tracks on the album. The two instrumentals are both very brief numbers. Nocturns features Newell on flute throughout with only organ and some heavily treated guitar, sounding like it is being played from the depths of a dry well, for accompaniment. An altogether quite eerie effect but one that works well. Final track What It Is barely lasts 80 seconds but has a lot crammed into it. I really can't imagine how the band could have cut it so short, or rather why such a harsh fade has been applied, as it is a rather joyous number and the band sound as if they were in their element. Given the rather short running time of the album it wasn't as if they were short of space on the old vinyl!
So a rather diverse and slightly different collection of songs from the previous releases. With six albums released in a little over four years, Hartley was tired and, following an invitation to join John Mayall on a European tour, decided to take a busman's holiday from his own band. Although the next Hartley album was released the following year, given the opportunities available for decent, hard working musicians in the 1970s, a lot of water had passed under the bridge by then and even more significant changes were to have taken place by the time
Lancashire Hustler came to be recorded.
Conclusion: 6 out of 10
Keef Hartley - Lancashire Hustler
Tracklist: Circles (5:24), You & Me (3:57), Shovel A Minor (4:20), Australian Lady (5:41), Action (5:53), Know Something (4:00), Jennie's Father (3:12), Dance To The Music (6:13)
If the last Keef Hartley Band album, 1972's Seventy Second Brave, had seen some changes in musical direction, then the following year's Lancashire Hustler saw a greater shift away from the blues rock origins of the band. After the last KHB album, Hartley had rejoined John Mayall for a European tour and when he returned to the UK, became involved in a number of different musical projects, including playing on a few tracks by Vinegar Joe. Not having the time to run and organise the band, the group had drifted apart with main musical foil, bassist Gary Thain, heading off into new musical territories by joining heavy rockers Uriah Heep. Decca, Hartley's label, were hustling for a new album which was owed to the label under the drummer's contract so the only option was to get together a studio band comprised of friends and colleagues purely to record the album. Hence, the sole attribute to Keef Hartley. And what a combination of friends and colleagues Hartley was able to call on! Junior Kerr (guitar, vocal) and Mick Weaver (organ, Moog) were recalled from the last incarnation of the KHB and a suitable replacement for Thain was found in Philip Chen, who John Burns, the album's producer, had come across at a Rod Stewart session. Jim Mullen, the jazz-rock guitarist, was also enticed along through some mutual contacts. However, it was in the vocal department that Hartley really hit big time. Having long admired Jess Roden, who Hartley had known since the time he was a member of The Artwoods (one of the earliest bands to feature Deep Purple's Jon Lord) and Roden had sang with The Alan Bown Set, a quick phone call and an initial get together to run through some ideas, secured Roden's commitment to the album. Then, in return for playing on the Vinegar Joe albums, both Robert Palmer and Elkie Brooks agreed to provide backing vocals and brought with them pianist Jean Rouselle.
The Vinegar Joe connection didn't end with having Brooks and Palmer adding their magnificent voices to the album, but went further with the opening track, Circles, being a fine cover of the Palmer-penned song from the debut VJ album. Jess Roden steals the show on this fabulous, gospel tinged version that is a real 'feel good' track. Throughout the whole album Brook and Palmer make a significant contribution adding tremendous power to tracks like Circles and You & Me. Shovel A Minor was based on a jam with Mullen providing some tasty guitar licks before a terrifically funky brass middle section takes over which Hartley rightly opines "could be from an American cop show"! Australian Lady, as with the two previous tracks, were composed by Hartley, although John Mayall gets a co-credit on the antipodean female song as Hartley had stolen the main riff from Mayall during a tour of Australia where the titular female was encountered (so maybe Mayall should also be credited for putting Hartley in a position where he could meet the lady that became the muse!). The song is quite beautiful but is raised to something a bit special by the trombone playing of Don Lusher and Derek Wadsworth.
Action and Know Something were both written by John Burns, presumably the producer and engineer of the album, but that is not confirmed in the reissue. Both tracks fit in well with the rest of the album with fine band performances. Chen proves that he was an apt replacement for Thain providing a fine rhythm section along with Hartley, particularly on the instrumental section of Action, and Kerr gets to flex his fingers throughout Know Something. Jennie's Father is rather unique for Hartley as it is the only song that he decided to add a string accompaniment to. Arranged by Pete Gage, husband of Elkie Brooks and guitarist in Vinegar Joe, the string section is not overpowering but simply adds a lot of colour to the track, particularly the use of pizzicato. Again, it is a lovely song, exceedingly well played and sung. The big surprise is the cover of the Sly And The Family Stone's big hit Dance To The Music. It's a real tour de force, with Weaver having a field day on organ and Moog, Miller Anderson making a welcome return to the fold, Brooks providing the perfect vocal foil to Roden's lead, some over the top brass and Mullen enjoying himself so much wailing away on his six string that at the end of the song you can hear him say "Got any tape left? I'll carry on"!
I was pleasantly surprised by this album as it is completely different from any of the albums that were released by the Keef Hartley Band. There is an immense feeling of the musicians having great fun and really enjoying the sessions and playing music for music's sake. I suppose as the album was a contractual obligation and there were no plans, or need, to go out and tour to promote the release that took a lot of pressure off. What is ironic is that a further album was recorded with essentially the same players pretty soon after
Lancashire Hustler. However, Hartley went off on another tour with Mayall shortly after recording was complete and by the time he returned the album had been forgotten about. What is a great pity, and symptomatic of the attitude of some record companies, is that despite intensive searching, the album has been completely lost with the master tapes in all probability having been erased. Easily the most enjoyable of the Hartley albums and a great re-release, recommended album for when you want to dance to the music!!
Conclusion: 8 out of 10
Neil Ardley – Harmony Of The Spheres
Tracklist: Upstarts All (3:39), Leap In The Dark (5:58), Glittering Circles (6:29), Fair Mirage (7:22), Soft Stillness And The Night (7:26), Headstrong, Headlong (7:10), Towards Tranquillity (8:44)
Neil Ardley (1937-2004) was a highly acclaimed non-fiction author (Dorling Kindersley’s The Way Things Work being one of his many successful books), but he was also an accomplished jazz composer. He worked with the New Jazz Orchestra, Ian Carr, Jon Hiseman and many others.
His mid to late 70’s works (released under his own name) saw him shift to playing synthesisers and introduce acoustic, symphonic and rock elements into his unique jazz fusion blend. My favourite album of his is A Kaleidoscope Of Rainbows (reissued on CD in 2005 and well worth tracking down), but Harmony Of The Spheres runs it a close second and I was delighted to receive this smart CD reissue from Esoteric Records. Though undoubtedly influenced by big band jazz and fusion, Harmony should interest a much wider audience than the hardcore fusion freaks and jazz fans.
I first encountered the work through a South Bank Show (U.K. TV arts programme) special in 1979. I was intrigued by the fact that Ardley had composed a suite of music based on the Ancient Greek notion of the Harmony Of The Spheres - to quote the sleeve notes “a Celestial music that… was given out by the planets as they float through space”. Ardley “converted the orbit times of the planets of our solar system into musical notes” and, with the chord produced, composed a suite of recurring motifs, themes and variations, performed by a tight band, comprising much of Ian Carr’s Nucleus (including Carr himself), but also soloists Barbara Thompson (saxes/flute), Tony Coe (clarinet/soprano sax) and John Martyn (electric guitars).
Though mostly known as a folk artist (with jazz leanings), Martyn’s stunning electric guitar work provides the rock element of the CD, as well as strong rhythm guitar on all but one track, he also contributes excellent solos to Upstarts All, Glittering Circles, Headstrong, Headlong and Towards Tranquillity. If you like Steve Hillage, you’ll love what Martyn does here. Much as I like his solo records, it’s a great shame that he didn’t explore this direction further. (Anyone who knows of other recordings where he does are welcome to let me know).
Ardley composes very strong and pleasant melodies but leaves room for improvisation from the soloists, though things never get too noodly, and aside from one track, the album has a beautifully flowing feel. The odd track out is Soft Stillness And The Night, an ethereal cosmic synth solo, which can be seen as a reflective interlude, and which contains, at its conclusion, the actual “Harmony” of the album’s title.Leap In The Dark is a sprightly funk number, featuring a soprano sax duet; Headstrong Headlong injects a chamber music twist with flute and clarinet, before a trumpet solo erupts over a twanging bass line and Towards Tranquillity has a delightful spacey atmosphere.
The bass of Billy Kristian and drums of Richard Burgess (of Landscape) provide a vital, thrusting impetus to the music and rich layers of keyboards from Ardley and Geoff Castle complete the picture. I certainly hear Nucleus in the mix, but there are also similarities to Colosseum II, Camel, and Stomu Yamash’ta’s Go to name but three of the disparate influences at work.
The only weak point for me is the wordless vocals of Norma Winstone and Pepi Lemer on Fair Mirage, which sound a little cheesy and remind me of the Star Trek theme.
I own a battered second-hand vinyl copy of the album, so it’s great to hear this terrific re-mastered version, which really brings a new life to the piece. It still sounds fresh and exciting after all these years. With Ardley, Martyn and now Ian Carr all sadly departed, we are left with this superb, timeless recording as a magnificent legacy. I wholeheartedly recommend it to any prog fans with a taste for melodic fusion or a yen for something a little bit different than song based prog rock.
Conclusion: 8 out of 10
Arc - ...At This
Tracklist: Let Your Love Run Through (4:56), It's Gonna Rain (4:10), Four Times Eight (3:17), An Ear Ago (4:31), Great Lager Street (3:57), Hello, Hello Monday (7:13), Perfectly Happy Man (5:58), Sophie's Cat (3:08), You're In The Garden (4:51)
Esoteric Recordings continue their fine work in unearthing long forgotten early prog gems by giving the sole album by Arc a long-awaited CD release. Well, I say sole album, they did actually record another album, the marginally more famous Bell+Arc with vocalist Graham Bell, which completed a circle begun in the mid 1960s. Bell had been vocalist with the excellent psychedelic band Skip Bifferty which also featured piano/organ/guitar player Mick Gallagher and guitarist John Turnbull. When that band split Gallagher and Turnbull became resident songwriters for Robbins Music Publishers and played on the soundtrack to the classic Get Carter gangster film, before recruiting bassist Tom Duffy and David Montgomery, who filled the drum stool after two other incumbents bailed out prior to recording began on the debut album. Signed to Decca records in 1970, the album Arc At This was released early in 1971 but failed to sell in significant quantities, resulting in the band being dropped. Although neither Skip Bifferty or Arc gave Turnbull or Gallagher any great measure of success, they did achieve greater recognition in the late seventies and early eighties as members of Ian Dury's Blockheads.
But back to Arc. The group had a fine handle on harmony as evidenced on opening track Let Your Love Run Through. Spiced up with a great twin lead guitar solo and some impressive percussive elements the album is off to a racing start. Considering that Turnbull was a mere 20 years old at the time of the recording, he has a mature musical head on him, adding some great fills. It's Gonna Rain also features twin lead guitars but also has some organ backing adding musical colour. Impressively soulful and impassioned vocals with at least two of the group's three vocalists (Gallagher, Turnbull and Duffy) singing joint lead add real gusto. Quality drops a bit with Four Times Eight, a whimsical number based around a boogie piano motif that has not really stood the test of time, particularly in terms of the rather daft lyrics. Still, faith redeemed with the melodic and acoustic An Ear Ago, which although definitely rooted in the early 70s is still quite a lovely number. Great Lager Street has the most progressive beginning thus far combined with some expressive keyboard work but it is on the extended Hello, Hello Monday that the full prog credentials shine forth. Mixing acoustic and electric six strings with a variety of keyboards and the ever present vocal harmonies, this is a gently impressive number that builds to a great climax with Hammond wailing and guitars flailing in unison. Wonderful stuff for fans of the era such as myself.
Turnbull again takes the credits of Perfectly Happy Man for some sharp playing, sounding not unlike Paul Kossof at times. We are back in acoustic mode for Sophie's Cat (which may be a typo on the original album as it is definitely sung as Sophia's Cat!) and more whimsical lyrics, which are labelled as a fantasy in the sleeve notes. Unlike Four Times Eight, the feline tale does not sound so dated and provides a good contrast to the heavier songs. Final song You're In The Garden has an a cappella opening before expanding out into a marvellously strong song that I'm surprised has never been included on any compilation and until now has been left languishing in the archives.
So another fine album rescued from obscurity and brought up to date with exemplary re-mastering and packaging. Although
Arc At This may sound a little dated in places, it is no more so than the earliest albums by many of the bands that became household names. It just goes to show that the musical fairy of fortune is pretty indiscriminate as to where she sprinkles her favours as in a different universe Arc may very well have gone on to be megastars.
Conclusion: 7 out of 10
CMU - Space Cabaret
Tracklist: Space Cabaret (1:56), Archway 272 (6:18), Song From The 4th Era (2:21), A Distant Thought, A Point Of Light (6:50), Doctor, Am I Normal? (4:57), Dream (9:42), Lightshine (10:26). Bonus Tracks: Heart Of The Sun (3:10), Doctor, Am I Normal? [single version] (4:56)
CMU, short for 'Contemporary Music Unit', had a brief career at the start of the 1970s and although they released two albums on the Transatlantic label, they were both very different affairs, recorded by almost completely different bands. The first album, Open Spaces was a distillation of a wide range of musical influences that was quite unique for the time, but would largely be considered as jazz-rock these days, although strangely enough, contemporary reviews of that album invariably don't mention the 'J' word. Progressive leanings could be heard on the 11-minute title track but the album failed to sell, a fact that can't have been helped by the band disbanding within a few months of the album's release. Despite a lack of commercial success, the group was popular on the live circuit, so original drummer and singer, husband and wife Roger and Larraine Odell, put together a new line-up with Ian Hamlett (guitar and flute), recruiting Steve Cook (bass), Larry Hasson (keyboards) and Richard Joseph (guitar and vocals). The new material, mostly penned by Joseph, was a more focused effort and tried to incorporate the more diverse elements of the debut into a cohesive whole.
Joseph makes his mark from the beginning by writing four and co-writing one of the five tracks on the original first side of the album. The first four songs are really a 17-minute suite based around the title track, which begins the album gently with some lovely, soft vocals from Joseph over acoustic guitar and electric piano, eventually joined in vocal counterpoint by Larraine Odell who even on a more spacey number manages to impart some jazz inflections to her singing. Archway 272 continues with the electric piano and gently meanders along with a fine chorus that gradually becomes more strident as the song progresses. Hasson's keyboard contributions at the end of each chorus has a definite Hatfield And The North air whilst the ending of the song rises to a strong climax passing, via a disconnected telephone, into the vibrant acoustic number Song From The 4th Era. Joseph's and Odell's voices combine nicely, as they do throughout the album, with neither vocalist dominating. A Distant Thought, A Point Of Light is best defined as acoustic space rock, with a more dominant chorus interspersed with laid back interludes. Of all the tracks on the album, this is the one that sounds most dated, having an almost hippyish vibe about it. Not to imply that it is all joss sticks and patchouli oil, just that it is definitely of an era. On a completely different tack is the acoustic, Doctor, Am I Normal? Joseph takes sole lead vocal and his acoustic guitar is also prominent throughout. Some nice backing vocals from Odell, a confident bass line and some tasty electric guitar licks complete a rather wonderful love song.
The second side of the original vinyl album comprised two long tracks completely filling the standard 20-minute running time. Dream has a rather sombre beginning building the atmosphere before a lighter tone takes over with electric piano, wah-wah guitar and a groovy back beat. However, before long the dark side takes over again with threatening organ and female vocals generating a questioning environment. The dominant organ, heavy bass and slow tempo makes one think of Vanilla Fudge before the speed begins to ramp up before ending with the warning You Can't Go Back. Lightshine is a great slab of early progressive rock with Hasson having plenty of space to demonstrate the various sounds that the latest electronic keyboards could generate. This is blended with plenty of piano and acoustic guitars and characteristically fine vocal performances from the two lead singers. The final four minutes sees Hasson's organ and Hamlett's guitar battling it out, taking alternating solos and trying to gain dominance. It would be interesting to know if the band ever managed to come close to repeating this track live as there are so many layers it would need more than the six band members to do the song justice. The only weak point is that it does have a bit of a limp ending, rather than rising to a climatic crescendo, it just sort of fades away. With expected Esoteric completeness, two bonus tracks are included: the non-album track, Heart Of The Sun, which was released as a single combined with a different recording of Doctor, Am I Normal?. I think the single was accidentally pressed up incorrectly as although the
Heart Of The Sun A-side is a pretty good track, it doesn't hold a candle to the much more commercial, and in my opinion better song, that was placed on the
B-side. Having said that, the A side was rather more representative of the album so maybe that was part of the decision (ummm, an ethical record label?...Couldn't be!).
Despite an appearance at the 1973 Reading Festival (and to think, I might well have heard them from my bedroom window as in those days the festival could be heard from pretty much anywhere in a three-mile radius of the site) and a tour of Holland, the album failed to sell and with the arrival of a baby Odell the group ground to a halt. Some of the musicians went on to have varied musical careers: Richard Joseph became a leading composer of computer game music, even contributing to a BAFTA award winning soundtrack; Steve Cook joined various bands including Gilgamesh, Seventh Wave, Mirage and the last incarnation of Soft Machine before becoming a computer science researcher; while Roger and Larraine Odell are still performing and recording jazz musicians, even occasionally hooking up with Cook. Even though the CMU career was brief, and the second line-up only managed one album, it was a fine album, and typical of the experimentations in musical styles during that time. Another great quality reissue from Esoteric and one that will satisfy 70s prog freaks like me!
Conclusion: 7 out of 10
Tom Newman – Faerie Symphony
|Country of Origin:||UK|
|Record Label:||Esoteric Recordings|
|Catalogue #:||ECLEC 2109|
|Year of Release:||1977/2009|
Tracklist: The Woods Of… (2:13), Fordin Seachrain (1:42), Bean Si (0:21), Little Voices Of Tarans (1:48), The Fluter (3:00), The Seelie Court (4:27), The Spell Breaks (4:04), The Fairy Song (1:17), Dance Of The Daonhe Sidhe (3:35), Memories Of Culchvlainn (1:31), Aillen Mac Midna (1:16), The Unseelie Court (4:50), The Woods Of... (1:56)
Although this was the third album recorded by Tom Newman as composer and musician he will be forever remembered as the engineer and producer of Tubular Bells, together with several other Mike Oldfield albums. I have to confess that I was unfamiliar with Newman’s solo work until this release arrived on CD courtesy of Esoteric. It goes without saying that it boasts their usual fine attention to sound re-mastering. In the booklet that accompanies this release Newman’s first album Fine Old Tom released two years earlier is described as “an interesting mix of styles almost impossible to categories”. That same description could be easily applied to this album.
When Newman approached the recording of this album it’s claimed that he was influenced by his work with Oldfield. That’s certainly true in places, hearing the opening piece The Woods Of… for example with its mellow but tuneful acoustic guitar and flute is rather like discovering a lost outtake from Hergest Ridge. And the aptly titled The Spell Breaks features a lovely high whistle theme joined by pipes, fiddle and (yes) tubular bells. The massed woodwind finale would have sounded very much at home on Ommadawn.
Unfortunately the majority of the album is not as good as this. In true Oldfield style Newman recorded and overdubbed a number of instruments himself including acoustic and electric guitars, string synth, percussion and the flageolet. The end result is stream of mostly tranquil, ambient and rather dull pieces that sound a tad disjointed arrangement wise even though they are often connected without a break. Jon Field from Jade Warrior who is no stranger to this type of music adds his talents as flautist to tracks like The Fairy Song and Memories Of Culchvlainn, injecting a haunting quality that would otherwise be missing.
The penultimate piece The Unseelie Court sounds like Newman’s take on the ‘Piltdown Man’ section from Tubular Bells. It starts promisingly enough with Oldfield flavoured satacco guitar and flute but develops around the halfway point into a barrage of distortion and warped voices making the whole thing barely listenable. Better is the closing reprise of The Woods Of... providing a gentle acoustic lament with a very similar feel to the ending of Tubular Bells.
I’ve saved the best until last with Dance Of The Daonhe Sidhe. It’s a stirring march with rolling snare drums, bagpipes and majestic Mike Oldfield guitar. This is a clever piece of deception however, the ‘bagpipes’ are in fact Jon Field’s oboe and the electric guitar which sounds as close to Oldfield as you can possibly get is played by Newman himself. It also goes to show that the influences are not all one way. A very similar piece entitled
Tattoo turned up on Tubular Bells II fifteen years later which Newman co-produced after reuniting with Oldfield.
So an interesting if not completely satisfying album from Newman that’s very much of its time. Unfortunately, on the evidence here, he doesn’t have Oldfield’s knack for creating consistently strong melodies or the ability to string them together into a cohesive whole. Also, even allowing for the fact that it was originally released on vinyl, at thirty two minutes it is a little on the short side. The end result is more of a curio than an essential release. But hats off to Esoteric for uncovering another work from the prog related archives and giving it a shiny new coat both sound and packaging wise.
Conclusion: 6.5 out of 10
Quintessence - Indweller
Tracklist: Jesus My life (3:38), Butterfly Music (1:02), It's All The Same (7:04), Indweller (2:29), Holy Roller (4:12), Portable Realm (1:29), Sai Baba (3:24), On The Other Side Of The Wall (3:35), Dedication (2:44), Bliss Trip (6:19), Mother Of The Universe (1:45)
The 1972 release Indweller marked the final recorded output of Notting Hill based Quintessence, who between 1969 and 1972 recorded five albums. The first three released through the Island label - In Blissful Company (1969), Quintessence and Dive Deep (1970) and following the move to RCA in 1971 the band recorded Self (1971) and as already mentioned, their final album Indweller (1972). In his review of Quintessence previous release DPRP's Mark Hughes gave a brief insight into the band's history and origins and therefore I will refer you to his review of Self for this information.
For my part I actually got to see Quintessence around the time of the release of Self, 18th September 1971 to be precise. Not that I spent much time in Notting Hill Gate, but more as a young teenager I trooped down to London to the first of two concerts held at the Kennington Oval Cricket Ground. The first of these was the "Goodbye Summer" benefit concert, (to raise funds for famine struck Bangladesh peoples). And if truth be known in terms of the line-up, Quintessence were not the main attraction for me as the bill, amongst others, included Atomic Rooster, Mott The Hoople, Lindisfarne, Beck Bogart and Appice, Rod Stewart & The Faces and The Who. As a side note the following years' Kennington Oval Concert, "The Melody Maker Poll Awards", was a veritable who's who of progressive rock with ELP, Genesis, Focus, Argent and Wishbone Ash all performing - and all for the princely sum of £1:00. But back to '71 and the combination of the journey down, the rather warm weather on the day and the lengthy and drifting nature of Quintessence's music saw me nodding off here and there. My memories, albeit faded now, revolve much around the magical flute work of Raja Jam.
Whereas much of the band's live performances revolved around long and timeless jams and improvisations, the tracks on their recorded output remained fairly short and concise. This is the case on Indweller, with only one track crossing the five minute barrier. So as such the songs seldom stray further than the three minute pop song, and in Quintessence's case without the strong hook lines. So the songs (ie those pieces that include words) form the less interesting sections of the album, with the possible exception of It's All The Same, which is a pleasant acoustic guitar driven song, with a percussive backdrop and relatively infectious chorus. This is nicely complimented by both flute and then a jazzy guitar solo. Although not without their moments the remaining songs are perhaps a little to simplistic and direct in their religious preachings and in general left me fairly cold.
However the the instrumentals and in particular Butterfly Music, Indweller and Bliss Trip are far more colourful and interesting. The first two feature some nifty flute, complimentary guitar and jazzy arrangements. Although note that both tracks fade in and out not to convincingly I might add, making you wonder how much more of this material fell to the cutting room floor. The lengthiest piece on the album is the haunting Bliss Trip (and much can be read into the title) - which features an incessant low drone, layered and ethereal flutes along with subtle percussion and sound effects. Reminiscent in many ways of Jade Warrior.
Quintessence never quite captured my imagination and although there are some special moments within the music, on the whole their albums fall into the interesting but not essential category. As Mark remarked in his review "Quintessence are a band of their time" and I have say I agree.
So it may appear on the surface that these Esoteric re-masters will serve as the only testament to the musicians from Quintessence. However not so and founder member Ron Rothfield (who still retains his Hindu namesake Raja Jam) is still active within music circles (notably with psychedelic trancers Shpongle. Guitarist Dave Codling can still can be found playing with Maha Dev's Quintessence (linked above). So if you wish you can follow the links above to their respective websites and find out what they are up to in 2009.
Conclusion: 6 out of 10
Jimmy Campbell - Son Of Anastasia
Tracklist: When I Sit Down To Reason (1:22), Mothers Boy (2:59), Another Vincent Van Gogh (2:07), Penny In My Pocket (2:35), Bright Side Of The Hill (1:57), Dear Marge (1:28), Lyanna (2:19), They All Came Marching Home (2:20), On A Monday (3:26), Lovely Elisa Cope Is Dead (2:41), You'll Break My Heart In Two (2:18), Tremendous Commercial Potential (2:04), Adrian Henri's Party Night (3:02), Another Springtime's Passed Me By (1:57), Michelangelo (2:57), Painting A Song (1:19), Frankie Joe (3:14)
Jimmy Campbell - Half Baked
Tracklist: Green Eyed American Actress (2:47), Loving You Is All I Do (3:16), So Lonely Without You (2:56), In My Room (4:21), That's Right, That's Me (3:51), I Will Not Mind (3:21), Dulcie
[It's December] (2:48), Forever Grateful (2:35), Half Baked (4:37), Closing Down The Shop (2:40), Don't Leave Me Now (5:54), Lonely Norman (3:23)
Jimmy Campbell - Jimmy Campbell's Album
Tracklist: By The Light Of A Lamp (2:40), Salvation Army Citadel (3:04), Snow Covered Street (3:41), Paris, You're In Paris (2:18), Darling Sweetheart (3:11), April Morning (2:41), Something In The Wind (3:04), Maudie (3:13), Baby, Walk Out With Your Darling Man (4:29), It's Just Like A Girl (3:03), It Never Rains But It Pours (2:10), When You're Coming Home (3:51)
Jimmy Campbell, born during the second world war in Liverpool, was, as were many others, inspired to learn to play the guitar and form a band after seeing The Beatles perform in 1961, despite being less than a year younger than George Harrison. A mere ten months later, his band, The Pulsating Panthers, were supporting The Fab Four and before long, following a name change to The Kirbys, were headlining gigs in their own right. Another change in name, to the more psychedelic 23rd Turnoff, came in 1966 and was accompanied by the release of a single for Deram Records, the wonderful Michelangelo which is seemingly a compulsory addition to any decent compilation of late sixties UK psychedelic music. However, success eluded the group and they disbanded in late 1967. Campbell continued writing and stockpiled an impressive number of songs although had to take gainful employment in a factory in order to survive. A friendship with Billy Kinsley resulted in his band, The Merseys, recording two of Campbell's songs, Penny In My Pocket and Dreaming, and releasing them as the a-side and b-side of singles on the Fontana label in 1968. Impressed with his song writing, Fontana A&R man Dick Leahy signed Campbell to a three album deal with Phillips/Fontana and rushed him into a studio to start recording the debut album.
Son Of Anastasia was very quickly recorded, with most of the songs being captured in one or two live takes. The haste with which the songs were laid down is evidenced on Adrian Henri's Party Night when, after messing up a lyric, Campbell starts a second take. Unbelievably, both the flawed first take and second take were included on the album. Considering himself more of a songwriter than a singer-songwriter, Campbell was not all that confident and hated his vocal performance on the first album. However, the acoustic numbers, featuring just Campbell and a (borrowed) acoustic guitar, hold a naive charm and demonstrate how good a writer Campbell actually was. Tracks such as When I Sit Down To Reason, Mother's Boy, Lovely Elisa Cope Is Dead, You'll Break My Heart In Two and Another Springtime's Passed Me By are as good as songs by much more famous artists. Quite a few of the songs on the album were actually quite old by the time it came to recording them and included numbers written during the time of The Kirbys and 23rd Turnoff. Hence the very good acoustic reworking of Michelangelo and another artist based song, Another Vincent Van Gogh which had once been considered as the follow-up to Michelangelo. Both are solid classics. Penny In My Pocket was once recorded, but not released, by The Kirbys before being given to The Merseys. However, the version on Campbell's solo album is marred by the inclusion of a Kazoo, an instrument that has never had, nor never will do, a sound that pleases even the most indiscriminate ears. The Kazoo is also used to disastrous effect of the somewhat wry Tremendous Commercial Potential and the dig at celebrity Adrian Henri's Party Night.
The album was not all acoustic as top session musicians Danny Thompson (bass), Colin Green (guitar) and Ray Carr (drums) were drafted in to provide live accompaniment on several numbers. Other musicians included flautist Harold McNair, who provides a haunting accompaniment to the wonderful Lyanna (inspired by a German prostitute), and Yvonne and Heather Wheatman, who sing backing vocals on the somewhat over-orchestrated On A Monday which perfectly described the all too familiar beginning of the week feeling and was a surprising choice as the first single from the album. The very rare Frankie Joe (the b-side to second single Lyanna) is included as a bonus track. Performed by Campbell, Billy Kinsley and Dave Harrison, the song was recorded and released well over a year after the original album and actually sounded rather like an early Badfinger, a trait that was continued on Campbell's second solo album, Half Baked.
Half Baked is probably the most well known of Campbell's solo albums, which can be partly attributed to its release on the highly collectable Vertigo label, Phillips' answer to EMI's Harvest and Decca's Deram 'progressive' subsidiaries. Indeed, Half Baked was the first Vertigo album released in the US. In contrast to the debut, the sophomore release featured a band, namely the Merseybeats: bassist Billy Kinsley, guitarist Tony Crane and drummer Pete Clarke (subsequently replaced, in both the band and at later recording sessions, by Phil Chittick). However, the inclusion of the band didn't mean that the largely acoustic nature of Son Of Anastasia was completely abandoned, as about half of the songs were, with varying degrees of orchestration, based on initial recordings of Campbell and his nylon-strung guitar. In My Room was a descriptive song of the possessions he kept in his old bedroom in Kirby name checking works of art, literature and music that had been great influences on him (although the inclusion of Hitler in the list was not because he was an inspiration, more of a fascination as to how a "sane and civilised race" had gone so spectacularly off the rails). With an impressive and extended orchestral accompaniment the song is quite a gem, as is Loving You Is All I Do. Campbell intensely disliked a lot of the orchestrations, considering them too overpowering, and he has a point as on songs such as Forever Grateful the strings are really too sugary sweet. Similarly, Closing Down The Shop, seems like the arranger has tried to make his contribution dominate the song without due reverence to the composer. Better is Dulcie [It's December] where the arrangement lifts one of the weaker songs on the album. Harking back to the debut, I Will Not Mind is just Campbell and his guitar, although the vocals are laden with echo, but the effect is intriguing. Indeed, Mojo magazine recently hailed the album as a 'buried treasure', high praise indeed.
The rockier songs show another side to Campbell. Green Eyed American Actress, based on a true encounter with the flirtatious female of the title, is a harmonica infused slab of southern Americana whilst So Lonely Without You is pure John Lennon both in style and vocal delivery. Ironically, it contains the lyric "Another cigarette, smoking myself to death" perhaps a premonition of the future as Campbell's death in 2007 was from emphysema brought on by his excessive cigarette smoking. That's Right, That's Me is rather plodding and not a patch on the title track which also features Badfinger's Joey Molland, yet another musician who had passed through the ranks of the Merseybeats! Starting with just an acoustic guitar and a plaintive vocal, it seems like it will be another acoustic number until the chorus kicks in, joyous stuff. Of a similar nature is original album closer Don't Leave Me Now. Guitar and vocals are first joined by strings and then stabs of brass before the intensity is racked up and the rest of the band join in. At almost six minutes long it is certainly the longest song Campbell ever recorded and up there with the best. Again, another rare track has been appended to this re-release with the inclusion of Lonely Norman, originally included on the Vertigo compilation album Heads Together, First Round. A great song that surpasses a lot of stuff included on his own albums. A reluctance to tour as a solo artist (he only played one gig to support the album, an appearance at The Marquee) hampered successful promotion and limited sales. As the solo career wasn't taking off, Campbell's next move was to form a group with good friend Billy Kinsey and record an album under the name Rockin' Horse, a cult success, particularly in America where bands such as The Raspberries and, later, The Ramones were to write Campbell and Kinsley fan letters. However, his original solo contract was for three albums and before long Phillips were asking when he would fulfil the terms of his contract and deliver the final album.
That final album was the 1972 release Jimmy Campbell's Album, and if ever there was an ironic title for an album then that was it. Never happy to be away from his home town ensconced within a studio, Campbell viewed the final album as purely one to fulfil a contractual obligation. To say he didn't put a lot of effort into the album would be overstating the mark. He recorded acoustic and guitar renditions of his songs in a single day, not bothering about maintaining tempo or even keeping his guitar in tune. On finishing for the day, he handed the tapes over to his manager and departed back to Liverpool, considering that his obligation to the label was now complete. Enter Michael Snow, an established session musician who had worked for artists as diverse as John Lennon and Dusty Springfield, who had first encountered Campbell when he was employed to contribute to the Rockin' Horse album. Taking the bare recordings, Snow set about deconstructing and reconstructing the songs replacing virtually all of Campbell's original guitar playing with his own. He also employed the services of arranger Ron Carthy, drummer Stan Gorman and, inevitably, bassist Billy Kinsley to flesh out the recordings, adding piano organ, accordion and occasional electric guitar himself. Following a call from Campbell, during which he begged Snow not to add a lot of "bells and whistles" to the songs (obviously a reference to the often over-elaborate orchestrations on Half Baked), the arrangements were provided by trios or quartets of musicians rather than larger orchestral ensembles.
Campbell's lack of effort and apparent disinterest in the album is not to suggest that he didn't believe in the material. Indeed, Baby, Walk Out With Your Darling Man was Campbell's favourite song written for his wife had been previously recorded by Rockin' Horse, although Campbell had not been entirely satisfied with the results. Salvation Army Citadel also had quite a heritage having been written back in 1968 and recorded by both Don Charles and the rather more well known Rolf Harris. There are some good songs on the album, although nothing of the calibre of the previous two albums. Whether this than can be attributed to Campbell's apathetic attitude or the fact that the songs could largely be considered to be just as much the work of Snow, is a somewhat moot point at this time. In many ways if Campbell had recorded the songs properly with decent guitar playing, a more considered vocal approach and the stipulation that nothing else be added, the album may have not only been more worthy of the title but might also be considered alongside Nick Drake's final Pink Moon album as a great final statement by the 'pure' artist.
After 1972, Campbell never finished another song, although had started writing again just prior to his death in 2007. In the intervening period, drinking became a problem as did the heavy smoking that would eventually claim his life. There have been many covers over the years, with Billy Fury having recorded several of Campbell's songs. However, inevitably, it is the originals that are best. Campbell is highly regarded as a lost Liverpool legend, and although not quite reaching the heights of Nick Drake or the marvellous Bill Fay, still has a lot to offer to the fan of slightly off beat English singer-songwriters. Fans of the two artists mentioned would undoubtedly find plenty to tickle their fancy, particularly in the first two albums.
Son Of Anastasia: 6 out of 10
Half Baked: 7 out of 10
Jimmy Campbell's Album: 5 out of 10