Reviews in this issue:
- The Dog That Bit People - The Dog That Bit People
- Soft Machine – Softs
- Soft Machine – Land Of Cockayne
- Eela Craig – One Niter
- Peter Bardens – The Answer
- Peter Bardens – Peter Bardens
- Café Jacques - Round The Back
- Café Jacques - International
- Titus Groan - Titus Groan
- Jade Warrior – Floating World (Duo Review)
- Jade Warrior – Waves (Duo Review)
- Asgærd – In The Realm Of Asgærd
- Blonde On Blonde - Contrasts
- Juicy Lucy - Juicy Lucy
- Juicy Lucy - Lie Back And Enjoy It
The Dog That Bit People - The Dog That Bit People
Tracklist: Goodbye Country (3:41), The Monkey And The Sailor (5:09), Lovely Lady (3:10), Sound Of Thunder (4:22), Cover Me In Roses (5:21), Someone, Somewhere (1:29), A Snapshot Of Rex (3:36), Red Queen’s Dance (4:23), Mister Sunshine (2:57), Tin Soldier (4:13), Walking (2:04), Reptile Man (4:14) Bonus Track Merry Go Round (3:12)
In my recommended review of the sole album by Birmingham band Locomotive (which incidentally was also recently reissued on the Esoteric label [ECLEC 2228]), I ended by posing the question "Perhaps they [Eclectic] will get round to reissuing the Dog That Bit People album which featured Mick Hincks and Bob Lamb after the demise of Locomotive?" And I am happy to say that after only six years and a change of label name to Esoteric, my wish has come true! The recording of the Locomotive album was somewhat traumatic and resulted in the splintering of the group, leaving only bassist Hincks and drummer Lamb. The pair were determined to carry on recruiting keyboard and guitar player Keith Millar and guitarist John Caswell. It was this line-up that released the final Locomotive single Roll Over Mary b/w Movin' Down The Line both of which are included on the Eclectic/Esoteric reissues. A desire to move away from the "doomy prog-rock kind of sound" resulted in a somewhat bizarre name change to The Dog That Bit People, chosen randomly by dipping into a book of short stories by the American humorist James Thurber. Symptomatic of the faith that record labels had of their artists at that time, Parlophone keep the band on their roster, despite the poor sales of the Locomotive album. Following extensive, low budget, touring throughout Europe, the group entered Abbey Road Studios, rubbing shoulders with The Beatles who were busy with their final album, and started to lay down the tracks for their debut album.
Mostly recorded live with only essential overdubs added later, the album maintains a rather fresh feel, even after 40 years. The variety of the song styles also helps to give the album a diversity which adds to its enjoyment factor. Noticeably drawing on influences from the West Coast of America, the album successfully combines subtle acoustic passages with more rockier elements. A prime example of this is Sounds Of Thunder which could almost derive from the catalogue of Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young (although without the vocal harmonies) with the twin electric guitars intertwined with their acoustic relatives. The group do provide excellent harmony vocals on the opening track, Goodbye Country, a lovely summer ballad that makes one instantly forget that currently outside all is frozen and snowbound. Elsewhere the spirit of Neil Young, an artist Bob Lamb recalls the group were heavily into, infuses many of the instrumental passages, such as on The Monkey And The Sailor where Lamb's drumming is precise and enticing at the same time. Lovely Lady, the single taken from the album, is melodic, catchy and yet, bizarrely was nowhere near becoming a hit; the more progressive elements of the group are covered in the effortless Cover Me In Roses which does indeed, as the sleeve notes state, sound in places not dissimilar to early Barclay James Harvest.
The early '70s were a time of great musical experimentation and The Dog That People were not immune to such experiments. Take Reptile Man for instance, with its strangely treated vocals and heavy riff that might have found place on a Black Sabbath album. Or at the other extreme there is the brief Country and Western number Someone, Somewhere which, if nothing else, shows that the band were thoroughly enjoying themselves! The rest of the material is just as enticing and entertaining. Red Queen's Dance standing out with great harmonies, more twin guitars and even a jolly honky tonk piano part. Tin Soldier (not the same as the Small Faces song!) is majestic and once again plaudits go to Lamb for his interesting drum patterns. Finally, Walking another ballad, is lifted by the Mellotron parts that add to the warmth and sumptuousness of the piece. Bonus track, Merry Go Round, the b-side of Lovely Lady, bears resemblance to Badfinger and its inclusion on this reissue totally justifies the replacement of my current CD version of this album with the new Esoteric version. Of course, it is not just the bonus track that makes this version, the label's typically excellent re-mastering and the informative booklet all add up to an excellent reissue of an obscure but delightful album.
Conclusion: 8 out of 10
Soft Machine – Softs
Tracklist: Aubade (1:52), The Tale Of Taliesien (7:18), Ban-Ban Caliban (9:23), Song Of Aeolus (4:27), Out Of Season (5:31), Second Bundle (2:36), Kayoo (3:28), The Camden Tandem (2:01), Nexus (0:50), One Over The Eight (5:30), Etika (2:20)
Soft Machine – Land Of Cockayne
Tracklist: Over N’ Above (7:23), Lotus Groves (4:56), Isle Of The Blessed (1:56), Panoramania (7:05), Behind The Crystal Curtain (0:53), Palace Of Glass (3:22), Hot-Biscuit Slim (7:25), [Black] Velvet Mountain (5:09), Sly Monkey (4:59), A Lot Of What You Fancy (0:35)
The excellent Esoteric Recordings have made available on CD these two fine albums by Soft Machine: 1976’s Softs, and their final album, Land Of Cockayne (1981). Both albums have been re-mastered. As is customary with Esoteric Recordings releases, the CDs come complete with enjoyable and informative historical essays about the band. The CD booklets that these come in mean that it really is worth purchasing the disc (as opposed to downloading) version of the albums.
There’s a lot of prejudice against the later Soft Machine albums from fans who major on the band’s early period. I’ve always found this a bit strange as Soft Machine are by no means the only band to have undergone complete transformations in their line-up over the course of their history; in particular as the band’s line-up changes were evolutionary rather than revolutionary. Musically, these are fine albums of, primarily, jazz-rock fusion. If you don’t know the band’s history, if you were to listen to the music “blind” and without prejudice, there would be much for you to enjoy. This music is timeless, it hasn’t aged at all: it is fresh and enjoyable; were it to have been recorded today, we’d be more than happy to welcome it into the maelstrom. So, if you have ever been put off later Soft Machine albums by negative comparisons with their early work, then think again and perhaps give the music another chance.
Of course, by 1976 Soft Machine were dominated Karl Jenkins, who had joined the band in 1972 after Five. He was the major composer on Softs, and by 1981 they were, effectively, his band. His main interest as a young man was in classical music but he wanted to write music that people would enjoy and, at the time, the modernism in classical music composition meant that he could not see a satisfactory career for himself there, so he turned to the jazz arena in an effort to find a musical space that more suited his vision. It should come as no surprise, then, that both these albums are replete with melody and rhythms that are joyous to listen to. Sometimes I sense that this is part of the problem of acceptability of these later period Soft Machine albums – the “purists” find that they are too easy and enjoyable to listen to, they want something a bit more continuously avant-garde (and discordant!). However, it should be remembered that Jenkins was always fusing styles and this has continued into his modern classical compositional style. He is one of the most interesting musicians of the classic “progressive” generation and the tracing of his career through these two albums is fascinating. Softs is the rockier, the jazz fused with, mainly, elements of rock courtesy the electric guitar of John Etheridge, but by the time of Land Of Cockayne one can easily hear the classical element already beginning to displace the rock: Isle Of The Blessed and [Black] Velvet Mountain being prime examples of this.
On Softs, the band was formed by Jenkins (piano, electric piano, pianette, strings and Mini Moog synthesizers), Roy Babbington (bass), John Etheridge (acoustic and electric guitars), John Marshall (drums and percussion), Alan Wakeman (soprano and tenor saxes) and original member Mike Ratledge (synthesizer on Ban-Ban Caliban and Song Of Aeolus). Land Of Cockayne, their final studio album which followed Softs some five years later, saw the band as comprising Jenkins (synclavier synthesizer, Yamaha CS 80, Mini Moog and piano) and John Marshall (drums and percussion), with the occasional help of Jack Bruce (bass), Roy Warleigh (alto saxophone and bass flute), Dick Morrissey (tenor sax), Allan Holdsworth (lead guitar), Alan Parker (rhythm guitar), John Taylor (Fender Rhodes), and also with Tony Rivers, Stu Calvert and John Perry adding some background vocalisations. There are some real “heavyweights” in there, so it is no surprise that the music is so enjoyable.
So, whatever the name on the cover, these are two fine albums of instrumental jazz fusion music, that will additionally give you an insight into the development of one of the most intriguing musicians of the “progressive generation”. Well recommended!
Softs: 8 out of 10
Land of Cockayne: 8 out of 10
Eela Craig – One Niter
Tracklist: Circles: a) The Mighty b) The Nude c) The Curse d) The Blessed (13:55), Loner’s Rhyme (9:16), One Niter Medley: a) Benedictus b) Fuge c) V.A.T d) Morning e) One Niter (11:09), Venezuela (3:33), Way Down (7:20)
Austrian prog band Eela Craig originally recorded this little ditty One Niter in 1976, which Esoteric Recordings have deemed fit to remaster and reissue, and what a fine job they have done too.
Hubert Bognermayr (piano), Harald Zuschrader (guitar, recorder and saxophone), Gerhard Englisch (bass), Horst Waber (drums and percussion), Heinz Gerstmair (guitar) and Will Orthofer (vocals and saxophone) played their mix of symphonic prog which incorporated jazz, fusion and classical influences with some Christian lyrics thrown in for good measure. During their existence the band recorded six albums between 1971 and 1988, with One Niter being their second release. The band even recorded an ethereal version of Chris de Burgh’s A Spaceman Came A Travelling.
Eela Craig play a sophisticated and eloquent brand of prog which calls to mind bands such as Gentle Giant, E.L.P, The Enid, King Crimson, Pink Floyd and Grobschnitt, which sees the band packing the album with stunning polished keyboards, guitar work and wind instrumentation.
From the album opener and longest piece, Circles the band catch you unawares with their infectious and melodic passages, which is ethereal in approach, majestic and powerful. Circles has an almost religious feel to it, as it works its way through each section, building a story as it travels. A fanfare of Mellotron, harpsichord and choir opens the piece, the bass and drums adding their upbeat funky rhythms, before becoming a quieter piece with some very stated vocals from Orthofer. The layering of the music journeys slowly allowing depth and precision from all. The instrumentation just builds with Zuschrader and Gerstmair’ angelic guitar tones really contributing to the whole emotion of the piece. The crescendos are text book one minute high the next being re-built, with the distinct musical pattern being repeated as it closes. Waber and Englisch really work together well, really complimenting the style, tacking control and leading the way. Circles really sums up the whole ideology of Eela Craig. The Loner’s Rhyme is Eela Craig sounding like Pink Floyd, Wish You Were Here era featuring some really suave guitar tones and a Moog solo that can only be adored; the track as a whole is rather upbeat and funky in approach incorporating some impressive percussion work and Orthofer’ distinctive vocal offering.
One Niter Medley really showcases their graceful approach, with harpsichord akimbo on the opening segment, we see the band balance and integrate their prog approach with funk and fusion, working hand in hand symbiotically, again utilising the Floydian guitar tones to maximum effect perfectly. Venezuela is the shortest piece on the album a nice and composed acoustic piece which feels somewhat out of place within the whole structure of the album. Way Down opens dreamily, but it’s not long before the band drop into jam mode which incorporates those funky prog inflections that they perform so well. The whole approach of the instrumentation just drags you into their multidimensional world, swathing you with all its glory, leaving you begging for more.
This really is an album that should be in your, or in fact any serious proggers collection as it is a timeless masterpiece, which is both stunning and audacious. The production is excellent as is the supplied booklet, something that Esoteric takes pride in. Now that you have read the review, I think it maybe time to treat yourself.
Conclusion: 8 out of 10
Peter Bardens – The Answer
Tracklist: The Answer (5:26), Don't Goof With A Spook (7:21), I Can't Remember (10:43), I Don't Want To Go Home (5:14), Let's Get It On (6:37), Homage To The God Of Light (13:37) Bonus Tracks: Man In The Moon (4:15), Long Time Coming (2:34)
Peter Bardens – Peter Bardens
Tracklist: North End Road (1:25), Write My Name In The Dust (6:34), Down So Long (7:00), Sweet Home Wine (4:26), Tear Down The Wall (7:21), Simple Song (2:20), My House (6:17), Feeling High (5:08), Blueser (2:15)
When they formed towards the end of 1971 Camel were relatively late starters in the classic progressive rock stakes with contemporaries like Yes, Genesis and Jethro Tull having a three year head start on them. Whilst those bands were already releasing their second or third albums, Camel keyboardist in waiting Peter Bardens was embarking on a solo career with his debut recording The Answer. Having worked with several high profile artists like Van Morrison, Rod Stewart, Peter Green and Mick Fleetwood during the 60’s, he formed his own short lived band The Village in 1969. He put together a stellar line-up for the recording of The Answer where Bardens confidently assumed the role of band leader surrounded on the album sleeve by a trio of scantily clad women (this was the early 70’s after all).
Musically The Answer provided little indication of the style that Camel would pursue on their debut release some three years later. Things begin on a promising note with the sparkling title song The Answer which features extremely tight but expressive playing from all concerned. Peter Green provides some excellent bluesy guitar soloing whilst Steve Ellis is in typical fine and soulful vocal form. During Don’t Goof With A Spook the lazy singing is curiously reminiscent of The Strangles Hugh Cornwall on what for me is a pretentiously drawn-out blues dirge. The lengthy I Can’t Remember is better with a full band sound that occupies the same territory as Redbone, Alexis Corner, Joe Cocker and Georgie Fame from the same era. Barden comes into his own here with some prominent fuzzed organ noodling.
Don’t Want To Go Home has a certain naïve charm with exquisite backing vocals courtesy of Linda Lewis plus some un-credited but lively flute playing (although very little keyboards). Bardens does however provide some spirited honky-tonk piano playing (ala Jools Holland) to liven up Let’s Get It On, an otherwise bland blues-rag. The final track of the album Homage To The God Of Light not only took up most of side two of the original vinyl release but would also be a staple of early Camel gigs. Given its length there is a suitably moody and majestic feel at the start before melting into a surging organ driven instrumental powered by a relentless rhythm from drummer Reg Isadore and congas player Rocky. It’s energetic and tuneful to begin with but for me it’s twice as long as it needs to be providing much space for Bardens and guitarist Andy Gee to indulge in some extended soloing.
To bolster this reissue Esoteric have added the A and B sides of the only single from The Village originally released in July 1969. Man In The Moon is pure phsycadelia with shades of mainstream-blues and features a memorable bass riff from Bruce Thomas who would also appear on The Answer album. The B side Long Time Coming is a lively instrumental with Bardens indulging in some bombastic organ pyrotechnics ala Keith Emerson in his days with The Nice. As such it’s also ironically the most proggy track here.
As 1971 came around Bardens reconvened to the studio to record his second solo album with a fresh line-up although he retained the services of Andy Gee and Reg Isadore. Released in July of that year it was probably more varied in style than its predecessor with Bardens assuming much of the vocal duties. After the silliness of the opening instrumental North End Road (complete with bar room piano) the album gets down to serious business with the brooding and Bob Dylan influenced Write My Name In The Dust. Bardens organ playing is tastefully understated here allowing the soulful vocal delivery to take centre stage. The superb massed female chorus is equally soulful. Down So Long is a stop-start affair with a tediously repetitive choral line but the engaging instrumental interplay that occupies the mid section does at least justify its existence.
In terms of melody Sweet Honey Wine is one of the stronger songs here sounding not unlike The Rolling Stones in playful mode. Similarly the vocals during the manic Tear Down The Wall have more than a hint of Mick Jagger about them. Bardens’ frenzied organ work here is some of the most inspired to feature on either of these two albums. In contracts the aptly titled Simple Song is a sunny little country style ditty that could have come from the Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band.
The mellow instrumental My House is for me the albums best track that would have not sounded out of place on a Camel album with Vic Linton’s tasteful guitar lines pre-empting the Latimer/Bardens partnership that would come later. Feeling High however returns to the unimaginative stoner blues-rock of the previous album leaving another aptly titled affair Blueser to bring things to a less than inspired conclusion.
I know it’s a clichéd thing to say but both of these albums are very much of their time in a blues-rock style which to be honest is not really my kind of music. Arguably you could say they were behind the times and certainly out of step with the more adventurous progressive rock that was sweeping the UK and elsewhere during the early 70’s. Bardens would of course make his own mark in that area when he teamed up with Andy Latimer, Doug Ferguson and Andy Ward in October 1971. He would eventually part company with Camel in 1978 and once again pursue a solo career as well as appearing in several other bands before his untimely death in January 2002. He may not have been one of the genres most high profile keyboardists but in terms of ability he was one of the best.
The Answer: 6 out of 10
Peter Bardens: 5.5 out of 10
Café Jacques - Round The Back
Tracklist: Meaningless (3:52), Ain't No Love In The Heart Of The City (4:02), Sands Of Singapore (4:20), Farewell My Lovely (4:36), Eberehtel (5:41), Dark Eyed Johnny (3:39), Sandra's A Phonie (3:08), None Of Your Business (3:23), Crime Passionelle (3:36), Lifeline (6:13) Bonus Track: Meaningless [single version] (3:47)
Café Jacques were formed in Scotland in the early 1970s and although they started out as a seven-piece band, by the time they came to sign with CBS Records they were down to a three-piece of Peter Veitch (keyboards, vocals), Chris Thomson (guitars, lead vocals) and Mike Ogletree (drums and lead vocals). For the album they were augmented by the bass playing of John G Perry (on loan from Quantum Jump, producer Rupert Hine's band), Caravan's Geoff Richardson (viola, violin and flute) and a certain Phil Collins on percussion. The CBS deal came about after the band gained second place in the 1975 National Battle of the Bands competition sponsored by Melody Maker. Good job they came second, as the deal stuck with CBS was far superior to that the winners of the contest, Deaf School, were offered.
CBS considered that their new signing could be the new Supertramp and were delighted when Round The Back was voted the UK's best debut album of 1977. And a jolly fine album it is too. A veritable mixture of styles from which can be identified similarities with the likes of 10cc, City Boy and even the other Café band, Sad Café. Meaningless (included as both album and single versions) is a great opener with a nice guitar sound; the cover of Bobby 'Blue' Bland's Ain't No Love In The Heart Of The City (recorded al fresco!) is very different to the version that became a staple of many a Whitesnake performance a few years later, this version slightly spoilt by the annoying drum sound. Sands Of Singapore is more progressive in nature, despite being a ballad, with Richardson adding some nice flute breaks throughout. Farewell My Lovely has Perry funking up the bass to underpin the electric piano, but on the whole the song is more in the 10cc camp of art rock than anything else. Enjoyable song none-the-less. The backwards titled Eberehtel, is a rather limp number that features too many synth lines without any bite. In complete contrast Dark Eyed Johnny features an aggressive guitar line, tons of backing vocals and even a reggae-ish break. Again, 10cc come to mind and the brief guitar solo is incisive and prominent. My favourite song on the album!
Sandra's A Phonie is another of those inoffensive songs that tends to blend in with the background, although, again, Thomson's lazy guitar solo is rather intuitive. Shades of Little Feat come through on None Of Your Business with Richardson contributing a somewhat 'dirty' viola solo. Sung partly in French, Crime Passionelle is a rather lovely, laid-back number with Veitch and Richardson adding pizzicato violin and viola, respectively. An aching melody and subtle yet engaging backing vocals add to the delight on this lovely song. Closing song Lifeline was influenced by a talk given by a member of the World Wildlife Fund for Nature, an organisation that Hine was working closely with at the time. Using extracts from some of their literature for the 'news report' section in the middle of the song, the piece is another delight, going a long way to justify the Supertramp comparisons. Exceptionally good end to an eclectic and highly interesting album.
Following its release, the band headed out on a three-month European tour supporting The Kinks and enjoyed reasonable international sales of the album. CBS were happy and decided to not change things too much and so at the end of the tour sent the same contributors to 'Round The Back', back into the studio...
Conclusion: 7 out of 10
Café Jacques - International
Tracklist: Boulevard Of Broken Dreams (3:06), How Easy (3:53), Waiting (3:47), Station Of Dreams (4:21), Chanting And Raving (5:02), Can't Stand Still (2:59), Man In The Meadow (4:35), Knife Edge (3:13), This Way Up (2:57), The Medley (6:09)
Following the modest success of Round The Back, Café Jacques and their host of musical assistants stuck with their producer Rupert Hine to record their sophomore effort, International. The trio of Christopher Thomson, Mike Ogletree and Peter Veitch were joined by their touring bass player Colin Nelson and ably assisted by the percussion skills of Phil Collins and the multi-instrumental talents of Geoffrey Richardson, who excelled himself by contributing clarinet, acoustic guitars, flute, fretless bass, viola, bass flute, mandolin and anything else that came to hand; no wonder he was becoming an integral part of the band. However, the rise of punk had changed the attitude of their record Label, CBS, who wanted the band to record material that was more in keeping with the times; not exactly punk but more energetic, visceral and lyrically more focused on 'everyday reality'.
And that is where things started to go wrong, compromise, never a comfortable word for an artist to live with, was the undoing of the album, and ultimately the band. Which is not to say International is a bad album, far from it, it just doesn't have the coherence of the, admittedly rather incoherent, debut album! Nevertheless, there are plenty of good songs on the album: Waiting is simply wonderful, Station Of Dreams harks back to the classic songs of the early 70s and Man In The Meadow is as far removed from punk as you can imagine featuring Richardson's exotic contributions throughout. The band even unleash some of their progressive leanings on the excellent Knife Edge.
As with the first album, a cover version is included amongst the track listing, and this time round it is Boulevard Of Broken Dreams. Although calling it a cover version is rather a misnomer as only the lyrics are maintained from the original. The musical accompaniment was totally original and made good use of the new polyphonic Moog synths. How Easy is largely forgettable as it doesn't seem to go anywhere, although, as with all of their songs, it has its moments. For me, Chanting And Raving does not work at all, the elementary drum machine (although undoubtedly called something like a rhythm box at the time) is a complete distraction, which is a shame as the sound of the electric piano, fretless bass and odd guitar interlude is rather encouraging. Can't Stand Still is an obvious pander to the record company wishes to be more contemporary, although it is still far removed from much of the punk and new wave material of the era. But the more earthy guitar and faster tempo are a nice variation in proceedings. Similarly, This Way Up has a very new wave pop sound similar to The Jags or The Vapors and, as a consequence, somewhat ahead of its time. Given a couple of years this song could conceivably have been a hit single, it certainly has the energy and originality to have made it so. Once more, the longest track is saved to close the album. The Medley is quite an apt title as there are several different tunes blended into one, including, quite bizarrely, a section that has Frank Zappa overtones. At first the whole thing seems like quite a confused mess but after a couple of hearings it reveals itself as something of a masterpiece; quite unique and very progressive.
Reaching the Top 10 in the US Billboard charts should have been encouraging and had the band been supported for a US tour the future could have been quite different for Café Jacques. However, as it was, they lost their manager, Geoffrey Richardson decided to end his association with the band and go solo and CBS Records underwent a short sighted change of heart and decided to drop the band from its roster. Each of their two albums holds a certain charm and a degree of originality that is hard to match, particularly these days when so much is homogenous. Although the two albums have their own character, I find it difficult to determine which is the better as I like each equally. Well worth getting your ears round if you fancy something different every now and then.
Conclusion: 7 out of 10
Titus Groan - Titus Groan
Tracklist: It Wasn't For You (5:33), Hall Of Bright Carvings [Theme, Dusty High-Value Hall, The Burning, Theme] (11:38), I Can't Change (5:43), It's All Up With Us (6:08), Fuschia (6:20) Bonus Tracks: Open The Door Homer (3:30), Woman Of The World (4:31), Liverpool (6:00)
The early 1970s saw major labels rushing to be at the forefront of the latest music scene by scooping up bands, plonking them in the studio and seeing what they could come up with. Invariably the results were issued on 'specialist' subsidiary labels set up specifically to distance the new scenesters from mainstream acts signed to the parent imprint. The explosion in new bands releasing albums was, inevitably, not sustainable and many of the groups split after being dropped by the label following poor album sales. Although the attrition rate was high, this approach did launch the careers of many artists that went on to become household names, whilst many of the less fortunate groups produced a wide range of music much of which was of a very high quality. Titus Groan is one such band. Signed to Pye's subsidiary Dawn, the group comprised Stuart Cowell (guitars, organ, piano), Tony Priestland (saxes, flutes, oboe), John Lee (bass) and Jim Toomey (drums) and had evolved out of a band called simply Jon who had released two very obscure singles on the Parlophone label in the mid 1960s. A UK tour, appearance on Radio 1's Sunday Concert (alongside other Dawn acts Heron, Comus and Demon Fuzz), a bit part in the 'groupie' film Permissive (also featuring Comus) and a support slot to ELP at a gig in Hull did nothing to stimulate sales of a three-track single (included here as bonus tracks) or the self-titled album.
Who knows why they should have failed as the music on Titus Groan not only possesses a distinct flair of originality, largely helped by Preiestland's inventive use of his wind and brass instruments, but is engagingly played throughout. I have seen the music described as jazz rock but this is misleading as the song structures and style are distinctively progressive rock. None more so than on the extended and largely instrumental Hall Of Bright Carvings, which like the band's name derives from Mervyn Peake's Gormenghast books. As I wrote in my review of the Esoteric Cave Of Clear Light compilation (on which this song also appears), the track is: "a marvellous piece of early progressive rock" bearing some similarities to both Gryphon and Fruup but arguably better than both. The band contains several vocalists who combine to create some good harmonies on several of the tracks, in particular on It's All Up With Us with great twin lead vocals and a killer melody. Lee is a lovely fluid bass player providing unobtrusive runs and prominent bass lines throughout but particularly excels on I Can't Change. Cowell's organ is let loose in restrained quantities so it never dominates and he takes the same approach with his guitar playing. The original album ended on a high with Fuschia with plenty of harmonies, fanciful flute and guitar playing that is so tasty you almost want to eat it.
As previously mentioned, the bonus tracks are taken from the single that preceded the album. The lead track, a cover of Bob Dylan's Open The Door Homer, sticks out like a sore thumb against their own material despite the band doing their best to stamp their mark on the song. Never the best of Dylan's songs it is better appreciated in versions by Fairport Convention. Woman Of The World is obviously an early group composition when they hadn't really grasped the direction they were heading in. The harmonies are not as focused, the playing somewhat lose and the acoustic guitar doesn't blend in with the oboe as well as the electric. However, Liverpool is a great song that greatly compliments the album material and provides a rousing end to the CD.
Ultimately the lack of success resulted the band calling it a day towards the end of 1971. Cowell stayed on the Dawn label by joining Paul Brett's Sage in time to appear on their second and third albums (Jubilation Foundry and Schizophrenia, respectively). He later became a session musician working across the musical spectrum with artists ranging from Alexis Korner to Val Doonican! Toomey eventually achieved chart success with the wonderful Tourists, featuring among their members Dave Stewart and Annie Lennox. Once again Esoteric have breathed new life into an obscure gem of an album that will hopefully be more widely appreciated this time around.
Conclusion: 7 out of 10
Jade Warrior – Floating World
Tracklist: Clouds (2:54), Mountain Of Fruit And Flowers (3:17), Waterfall (5:59), Red Lotus (4:34), Clouds (1:38), Rainflower (2:46), Easty (5:26), Monkey Chant (2:23), Memories Of A Distant Sea (3:38), Quba (4:14)
Bob Mulvey's Review
The story of Jade Warrior dates back to the early 60s when two co-workers in a transport company realised a common musical bond. For not only did both Jon Field and Tony Duhig share a passion for jazz music but they also enjoyed both African and Latin American music - elements that would be present throughout the bands history. Into this seemingly disparate mixture of musics, certainly at the time, we should also add a fascination for music from Japan as well as ancient cultures and traditions. All of these elements are clearly represented in the four Island era albums recently re-issued by Esoteric Recordings. Click the album title links to read Geoff Feakes' reviews of: Kites and Way Of The Sun.
Prior to the formation of Jade Warrior Jon Field and Tony Duhig had played together, briefly in Second Thoughts and then with The Tomcats, with the latter recording four EPs before a changing their name to July. July produced one album before disbanding in 1968 and from there Field and Duhig parted ways, career wise. The two were musically reunited following the demise of Unit Four Plus Two which saw Unit Four, less two - Duhig and bassist/vocalist Glyn Havard continued their association and contacted Field to work on some new material. I apologise here for this rather simplistic view of events - a more detailed history can be found in the sleeve notes, (which I did not wish to paraphrase), or on the Jade Warrior website (link above).
You will read in the review below of Waves that I came to the music of Jade Warrior somewhat by accident. I was reintroduced to JW via Eclectic Discs re-issues in 2006 but sadly Eclectic closed down shortly after these discs came out. At that time I had started a Jade Warrior Forgotten Sons feature, however as the discs became unavailable once again, I shelved the project. As it was Jade Warrior resurfaced in 2008 with the release of Now and are again working on new material...
As mentioned above Floating World combines many musical elements to create a rather unique sound. We have jazzy sections, far Eastern textures, African rhythms and ambient soundscapes - all of which have been combined with progressive overview. So on the surface this diversity of influences might lead you to think of a rather disjointed or haphazzard sound. But on the contrary these diverse elements combine very well. What coalesces it all together is Jon Fields' lyrical and atmospheric flutes with Tony Duhig's rippling acoustic guitar and his more aggressive electric work.
The album title captures the spirit of the music as we are taken on drifting journey, (albeit with a few bumps along the way), across the globe...
Menno Von Brucken Fock's Review
Jade Warrior were a band founded in the late sixties and made three albums before the one reviewed here. In 1974 they were reduced to a duo consisting of multi-instrumentalists Jon Field (main instrument flute) and Tony Duhig (main instrument guitar). Both musicians were known to have roots in jazz music and African music. Together with some psychedelic, pop and rock elements, these two came up with a very strange mixture of different styles. Esoteric is a label renowned for re-releasing extraordinary albums with a superb sound quality and this release is no exception. No bonus tracks or DVD however, 'just' the plain album with restored artwork.
The album opens with Clouds. Atmospheric, almost an ambient type of music but after two minutes a somewhat rude awakening followed by gentle sounds by foremost flutes. The music continues on to track two, a jazzy pieces with fretless bass, flutes and both acoustic as well as electric guitars. Waterfall features several guitars in a gentle mood, a bit like Fleetwood Mac's Albatross. Halfway the music changes: lots of percussion, different rhythms and mainly flutes - all a bit experimental for my tastes. The last minute is ambient again.
Red Lotus is totally different, an instrumental rock song with rather heavy guitars, considering the year of recording. Additional drums and bass are added, whilst in the second part, multiple flutes take over in a much more relaxed atmosphere. This is followed by a similar track to the first one named Clouds - subtle choir singing is added in the last bit. Rainflower is also a nice gentle track, carried by electric guitars, again in the vein of both Fleetwood Mac's Albatross, as well as some of the more soft-rock orientated works by the Enid.
In Easty there's accompaniment by bass and guitars whilst both the flutes and electric guitars play melodies and solo's. There are folk influences but also some Latin-American grooves. Monkey Chant has evident African feel with a native chant, which are strangely combined with electric guitars playing solo's - they sound rather harsh. A beautiful folk-tune with several flutes, the harp and acoustic guitar. Relaxation all around with the smooth, slightly Japanese orientated music of Quba. Just guitars and some flutes and a few Japanese words.
Although Jade Warrior certainly crossed borders and would prove to be a ground breaking band, the music on this album is too diverse for my taste. Some of the tracks I like, others I don't, but the quality of the musicians, the overall sound and the originality of the compositions is superb. Some of the sounds, especially the electric guitars are a bit harsh for my ears.
With all those nice packages on the market with extended booklets, bonus CD's or DVD's, this release is rather feeble, because there could have been two albums on this one CD. Of special interest to Jade Warrior fans and prog-heads with an eye for more experimental 'multi -cultural' music leaning towards 'ambient' at times.
Jade Warrior – Waves
Tracklist: Waves (19:52), Waves (24:44)
Menno Von Brucken Fock's Review
The successor to the rather experimental album Floating by the duo Duhig & Field was this album, Waves. With guest performances by David Duhig, Graham Morgan (drums), Maggie Thomas (alto recorder), Suzi (vocals) and no one less than Stevie Winwood (Moog and piano solos). Waves contains only two tracks but these are divided in many parts, representing many styles.
The opening intro of Waves are sounds that remind me of an airliner: just the harsh sounds of the jet engines becoming louder very slowly but not too a level that is disturbing. These sounds make way for Field's flutes on a simple layer of keyboard sounds in an ambient atmosphere. Some guitars and piano are added. The second quarter of the track begins with piano and percussion. Then a fretless bass, flutes and acoustic guitar in a rather smooth jazzy style. Halfway through the track Duhig's electric guitar comes along and the style is very close to Lee Ritenour's 'soft jazz'. The third quarter of the track consists of two chords with echoing flutes and the melodies played by electric guitar. Probably the most 'progressive' part of the album with a short experimental interlude. The last quarter of this first track is a soft rather poppy tune, almost a ballad: accessible melodies by guitars and flutes. The addition of 'twin guitar' playing and some electronics reminded me of some works by the Enid.
The second track features bird sounds leading towards an ambient meditative piece, mainly around Duhig's acoustic guitars and Field's flutes. After some five minutes an echoing electric guitar embedded in all kinds of twinkling percussion before the guitar starts to play a sort of riff. Introducing a rather funky piece with drums and forceful soloing by another electric guitar, alternated by two flutes played by Field and a long saxophone like sounding Moog solo by Winwood. Pure funk when the bass comes along too. Some may think: this is a nice variation, whilst others, (like me), may be inclined to say this piece is totally non-fitting. Halfway the track it's the more gentle flowing music by Jade Warrior again concentrated around acoustic guitars and several flutes. The first part is concentrated around two chords, the second part is more varied with excellent acoustic guitar by Duhig. The last section of the track is built around sounds of whales plus electronics and flutes. The lovely voice of Suzi is hard to distinguish. The track ends with the sole sounds made by different whales.
In conclusion an interesting album from the mid seventies. In this era lots of styles were developing, ranging from pop to folk, from electronic music to the exploration of non-western music from continents like Asia and Africa. Ground breaking Jade Warrior has been in the sense of taking their music to the level of being multicultural, with all kinds of flutes and recorder playing a key role. Purely instrumental, Jade Warrior helped to define a style we refer to as 'ambient' and 'chill out' although for 'chill out' the music on this particular album contains just too many elements from rock related music. Excellent sound quality and an informative booklet make this classic album a nice addition for all those who missed out on getting to know this peculiar sidestep from progressive, smooth jazz and electronic music.
Bob Mulvey's Review
Waves was in fact my only Jade Warrior purchase, prior to this re-issue and I must admit that when I originally purchased the LP, (around the time of its release), from my local record shop the name Jade Warrior had suggested to me music of a very different kind. So back then my initial reaction to Waves was one of disappointment, to put it mildly. Remember this was pre-internet and with radio and television coverage of rock and progressive rock confined to all but a very few late night programmes. So word of mouth and music newspapers were about the only source of information. No tasty MP3 files to wet your appetite then. Over the next few years I did revisit this LP from time to time, but by which time I had become a hifi nut and the gentle tranquil sounds of Waves found new irritations for me in the form of crackles, clicks and thumps.
2010 however sees the album re-mastered onto CD and a much better medium for such a recording. For those not familiar (I suspect there are many) with Waves this is a album full of quite, delicate moments and all the more enjoyable without any extraneous noises. So some thirty five years later the experience is now one of enjoyment both sonically and musically.
Although only two tracks are listed these pieces are sub-divided into Side One: The Whale, The Sea, See Section, Caves. Side Two: Wave Birth, River To The Sea, Groover, Breeze, Sea Part Two. Waves part one rises from silence depicting the quiet of the ocean's depth gradually building to "a crescendo as 'The Whale' rises and then breaches the surface of the water". In contrast the instrumentation for The Sea and See Section suggest a much more tranquil setting... blue skies and gentle waves. Gentle guitar and drifting flute give way to a percussive jazz-lite jam with Steve Winwood on piano.
Waves part two opens atmospherically with layered flutes and acoustic guitar which segues gradually into Groover, which in many respects is musically akin to the mid section of Pink Floyd's Echoes. Basically a driving jam with solos from David Duhig (guitar) and Steve Winwood (Moog). Again this descends into Breeze with it's lilting multi-layered flutes and acoustic guitar. The subtle mixing of classical guitar, light electric guitar and flute is captivating. The beautiful Caves concludes the album - again delicate but rich in themes and melody.
Today this album may well adopt an "ambient music" tag and certainly this would well befit the music. But this is ambient music of the highest calibre - full of subtleties, careful interweaving of instruments and textures. Revisting this album has been an absolute joy - which sadly I didn't appreciate first time around.
Credit to Esoteric Recordings who with Floating World and Waves have painstakingly undertaken the task of re-issuing the Island Records' period of a band, considered by many to be one of the UKs relatively undiscovered treasures. This latest re-release is by far the most lovingly assembled collection, done more one would assume from a desire to bring the music of Jade Warrior back to the public eye, rather than the promissory of any major financial gain. This collection sees the albums with the original artwork/sleeve notes taken from the original LPs along with the dedicated and informative new liner notes from David Platt. The re-mastering is expertly done and considering the dates of these recordings the clarity of the sound is excellent, making the listening experience one to savour and enjoy.
Asgærd – In The Realm Of Asgærd
Tracklist: In The Realm Of Asgærd (4:28), Friends (4:41), Town Crier (4:01), Austin Osmanspare (4:16), Children Of A New Born Age (3:15), Time (5:10), Lorraine (4:46), Starquest (5:16)
In addition to the obvious task of listening to and writing about an album, the reviewing process can often involve extensive research particularly when the act in question is relatively unknown. In the case of Asgærd part of that research surprisingly involved the spelling of the band’s name! Faced with conflicting variations I finally settled on the ‘æ’ grapheme as contained in the album artwork. The man responsible for the name, along with the songs themselves is guitarist and vocalist Rodney Harrison who formed the band in the late 60’s following a spell in the UK psychedelic outfit Bulldog Breed. Asgærd then came to the attention of The Moody Blues’ keyboardist Mike Pinder, eventually being signed to the Moodies own label Threshold Records in 1971.
The tuneful In The Realm Of Asgærd that opens the album is appropriately one of the stronger efforts with its memorable chorus. The instrumental focus is provided by the fine violin playing of Peter Orgil along with above average guitar work from Harrison. The second song Friends has a greater sense of urgency with its insistent riff but already the bands limitations begin to appear. I may be speaking with the benefit of 38 years of hindsight but even by 1972 standards the sound to my ears is a tad dated leaning towards 60’s vocal bands with a psychedelic flavour. Also given that there are three vocalists in the band (Harrison plus James Smith and Ted Bartlett) the harmonies are disappointingly unadventurous being mostly limited to the unison singing of each verse. Bassist Dave Cook and drummer Ian Snow provide a simplistic but lilting 4/4 swing time for Town Crier that brings to mind the excellent Fruupp, another 70’s band that has recently received the Esoteric makeover. The catchy Austin Osmanspare is driven by a compelling walking violin line whilst Children Of A New Born Age sounds like something from a 60’s hippy musical. This is born out by the naivety of lines like “Keep you boots and tunic suits, ‘cos fashion ain’t my jam.” It does at least contain a solid guitar chord (lifted from The Who’s Pinball Wizard). Likewise Time is the albums most ballsy (and successful) song sounding like a combination of early (Look At Yourself era) Uriah Heep and even earlier Yes. There’s even an unexpected but welcome folky violin jig at the midway point.
The penultimate Lorraine with its chugging guitar riff sounds like the band marking time before Starquest which brings proceedings to a close on a more bombastic note. Some of the best guitar work is found here but sadly the spacey sound effects are straight out of a 60’s TV episode of Dr Who. The dramatic bolero riff at the end was very popular at the time having already been widely used by countless acts including Genesis and Deep Purple.
Asgærd lasted for one album on Threshold which is not entirely surprising given the limitations displayed here. The song writing and arrangements fall well short of the many excellent albums around in 1972 and the songs are disappointingly disciplined, all averaging around the four plus minute mark. That said the extensive use of violin as a lead instrument was relatively original at the time and the album benefits from a good clean sound thanks to the original involvement of The Moody Blues producer Tony Clarke. The re-mastering by Esoteric obviously enhances that sound and with this reissue free from bonus tracks it clocks in at a lean thirty-six minutes and is none the worse for that.
Conclusion: 6 out of 10
Blonde On Blonde - Contrasts
Tracklist: Ride With Captain Max (5:23), Spinning wheel (2:48), No Sleep Blues (3:23), Goodbye (2:13), I Need My Friend (3:14), Mother Earth (5:04), Eleanor Rigby (3:19), Conversationally Making The Grade (4:15), Regency (1:58), Island On An Island (3:03), Don't Be Too Long (2:38), Jeanette Isabelle (3:56) Bonus Tracks: All Day, All Night (3:36), Country Life (3:37)
Blonde On Blonde, despite their name, were no Dylan-influenced folk act but a rather innovative group that were instrumental in forging the template at the origins of progressive rock. Originally from South Wales, the trio of Gareth Johnson (guitar), Richard Hopkins (bass) and Les Hicks (drums) had formed a blues rock group but frustrated by the limitations of the genre opted to try a more progressive direction which would require the help of additional musicians. Enter two guitarists from London, where the trio had relocated to try and get noticed, Ralph Denyer and Simon Lawrence (who had been a folk artist, rubbing shoulders with the like of a young Roy Harper).
Supporting artists such as Traffic and the Pretty Things at celebrated underground clubs like Middle Earth, performing at the 1968 Isle of Wight festival and being the opening act on the first UK tours by both Jefferson Airplane and The Doors did the job of getting them a production and record deal, the latter with Pye Records. The first recorded fruits was the single All Day, All Night backed with Country Life. The A side of the single was a rather Traffic influenced light psychedelic number whilst the b-side was a more acoustic based number, although it does possess an underlying menace as if a more aggressive beast was aching to get out. The single flopped but the group was encouraged to record an album, although only four of the musicians embarked on the album sessions - Lawrence being 'let go' to eliminate the folk influences.
Recorded on 8-track, the band certainly crammed as many instruments as possible into the recording as a read through the tracking sheet included in the informative booklet of this reissue demonstrates. A plethora of guitars (acoustic, rhythm, lead, Hawaiian, fuzz, 6-, 12- and 18-string), drums, bass, organ, whistles, cornet, harpsichord, piano, sitar, maracas, lute, celeste and bongos are all included, although obviously not on every track! This wide selection of instruments results in a diversity of musical styles that would not be acceptable on an album these days. Opener Ride With Captain Max was the prime progressive rocker of the album although is closely followed by the excellent combination of fuzz guitar and piano on I Need My Friend and the Hammond organ, sharp electric guitar and astute political lyrical content of Conversationally Making The Grade (the two tracks also issued as a single) were also highlights of the album. Spinning Wheel bears some resemblance to the All Day, All Night single with bongos, sitar and whistles to the fore and the acoustic side of the band gets further airings on Island On An Island, a rather twee, hippyish number replete with thigh slaps (although whose thighs are not mentioned!) and the rather delightful Don't Be Too Long, with echoes of Donovan. Harpsichords feature on Goodbye where it combines nicely with a Hammond mixture and the more classical instrumental Regency where the only additional instrument is a lute, and is all the better for it.
Two covers are included within the grooves (or in modern terms, pits, although that terminology just doesn't seem to be as glamorous!): the Incredible String Band's No Sleep Blues and Eleanor Rigby by, well I guess that particular song shouldn't need further introduction! Both are very enjoyable interpretations although The Beatles number has the edge for me, with its funky cornets, acoustic guitar picking and a faster tempo than the original. I suppose it is an indication of the quality of McCartney's writing that no matter how the song is interpreted (listen to versions by Twelfth Night, Hardin And York and indeed this one) it never fails to impress. The remaining two tracks are also quite a treat. Jeanette Isabella was an odd choice for a closing number but the four different guitars, lute and organ combine gracefully with almost lament-like quality to end the album in a completely opposite manner to how it was started. Mother Earth is full of atmosphere with a brooding lyric full of questions, although unfortunately not too many answers.
Overall, Contrasts is a fine reminder of one of the most exciting musical periods were the possibilities appeared endless. Sadly, the album did not gain much commercial success and the band disintegrated shortly after its release with Denyer forming the harder rocking Aquilla and Hicks and Johnson keeping the name but assembling a new group which subsequently issued two further albums. A decent and enjoyable album although perhaps not essential for the majority.
Conclusion: 6 out of 10
Juicy Lucy - Juicy Lucy
Tracklist: Mississippi Woman (3:50), Who Do You Love? (3:02), She's Mine, She's Yours (5:43), Just One Time (4:40), Chicago North-Western (4:04), Train (5:50), Nadine (2:48), Are You Satisfied? (6:19) Bonus Track: Walking Down The Highway (4:43)
Juicy Lucy were formed out of the ashes of The Misunderstood whose Children Of The Sun single has stood the test of time as one of the preeminent freakbeat singles of the late '60s with guitarist Glenn Ross Campbell scorching across the grooves. As The Misunderstood crumbled under immigration issues and Vietnam call-up papers, Campbell put together Juicy Lucy with Ray Owen (vocals), Chris Mercer (sax, piano, organ), Neil Hubbard (guitar), Pete Dobson (drums) and original Van der Graaf Generator bassist Keith Ellis. From the start, Campbell wanted to get away from the freakier elements of his previous band, preferring a more funky, Dr John type vibe. Their debut album, the second release on the famous Vertigo 'swirl' label, was notorious for its cover, featuring the somewhat unglamorous and less than svelte Zelda Plum covered in fruit!
The Dr John influence is evident from the first notes of Mississippi Woman with Owen's somewhat gruff voice emphasising the blues and Campbell's steel guitar blending nicely with the rather more acerbic tones generated by Hubbard. The classic Ellis McDaniels Who Do You Love? continues in grand style, even gaining a number 14 chart position in early 1970, with the final solo from Campbell coming the closest to the sound and fury he had achieved in The Misunderstood, not surprising as they had released their own version of the song a few years earlier. Ellis takes lead vocals on his composition She's Mine, She's Yours which also features some excellent twin guitar work combined with subliminal sax and all rounded out with plenty of organ fills. Just when you think the song has come to a natural end, the faders are pushed up again adding another 60 seconds or so of solo, culminating in a triumphant and grand ending. Campbell picks at a mandolin on Just One Time, a lazy number that almost obscene in its loucheness, while Chicago North-Western tinges on country rock with Owen delivering his weakest vocal performance on the album.
In contrast, the singing on Buddy Rich's Train is top notch and the rockier number is a clear stand-out with Mercer in particular providing a significant contribution. The third, and final, cover version on the album is another classic song, Chuck Berry's Nadine, presented in a looser and funkier style than the original and all the better for it in my opinion. The final track on the LP release was Are You Satisfied? which takes a while to build and for some inexplicable reason never fails to remind me of the Stones' Sympathy For The Devil, although the songs are very dissimilar, must be the incessant groove! With typical Esoteric completeness, the b-side of the Who Do You Love? single, Walking Down The Highway, has been included as a bonus track. Although no forgotten masterpiece, it is a reasonable enough song that fits in well with the rest of the album.
Within five months of the album's release, Owen had been sacked, Hubbard had joined Joe cocker's Grease Band and Dobson had tapped his last rhythms for Lucy, yet the band continued writing and released a second album before the year was out. As for the debut, well it has a place in musical history, although probably not in most prog fan's collections.
Conclusion: 5.5 out of 10
Juicy Lucy - Lie Back And Enjoy It
Tracklist: Thinking Of My Life (4:31), Built For Comfort (6:02), Pretty Woman (3:13), Whisky In My Jar (4:00), Hello LA, Goodbye Birmingham (4:15), Changed My Mind (3:09), That Woman's Got Something (2:53), Willie The Pimp - Lie Back And Enjoy It (7:09) Bonus Track: I'm A Thief (3:50)
The second Juicy Lucy album was released a mere 10 months after their debut, a feat all the more remarkable when one considers that half the band who had recorded the first album had departed and been replaced. Guitarist Glenn Ross Campbell, bassist Keith Ellis and saxophonist/keyboard player Chris Mercer were joined by former Zoot Money/Aynsley Dunbar vocalist Paul Williams, drummer Rod Coombes and a young slide guitarist named Michael 'Micky' Moody, who despite only being 20 years of age had already release two albums with his previous band, Tramline. However, it was the recruitment of Williams that had the biggest impact on the group with the new vocalist contributing to the writing of five of the album's eight songs, three of which were solo efforts, the first of which, Thinking Of My Life opens the album. A strong beginning, the combination of Campbell and Moody is quite electrifying and Williams' Cocker-like vocals emphasise the bluesier direction the band were heading in, confirmed by the very sympathetic cover of Willie Dixon's Built For Comfort. Pretty Woman, another Williams solo composition, was the single released from the album and features an interesting mixture of Campbell's lap steel guitar and Moody's bottleneck guitar. The single's b-side, I'm A Thief has been added to the CD as a bonus track and it's quite a corker! Simple piano riff, scorching sax and lots of female backing vocals make it a great addition.
Back at the album proper, Whisky In My Jar (not the song covered by Thin Lizzy!) is a pleasant enough song enhanced by a great acoustic guitar solo by Moody but it is the cover of Delaney Bramlett's Hello LA, Goodbye Birmingham that takes things to a new level. Even though the title undoubtedly refers to Birmingham, Alabama, one can't help thinking the band had Birmingham, England on their mind as they recorded the song! Again, Moody's guitar playing is a highlight of the song. Changed My Mind, a hangover from the first incarnation of the band, should perhaps have replaced I'm A Thief as the non-album b-side, being a country-ish throwaway that pales in comparison with the rest of the album. A deeper and more 'traditional' blues is found on That Woman's Got Something, with the two guitarists employing a variety of instruments and Coombes adding a mixture of percussion effects. However, it is the next number that has, over the years, really divided people in relation to this album - a version of Zappa's Willie The Pimp. Personally I think it is better than the original, from Williams' Beefheart-like vocals to Moody's searing solos and Mercer's faultless sax it is a wonderful interpretation, particularly the coda following a brief drum interlude. The Williams penned title track Lie Back And Enjoy It, a brief piano instrumental calms things down bringing the album to completion.
A more cohesive effort than the debut album, Lie Back And Enjoy It is another good reissue from the Esoteric label from an era when anything went and artists were free to express themselves in any way they wanted and even occasionally came up with a hit single. Fine performances but only minimal prog interest, I enjoyed it though!
Conclusion: 6 out of 10