Reviews in this issue:
- The Moody Blues - Timeless Flight
- Dark - Round the Edges
- Ginhouse - Ginhouse
- Henry Lowther Band - Child Song
- Cochise - Velvet Mountain ~ An Anthology 1970 - 1972
- Mountain - Go For Your Life
- Vanilla Fudge - Rock & Roll
- Juicy Lucy - Get A Whiff A This
The Moody Blues - Timeless Flight
Love And Beauty (2:24), Dawn Is A Feeling (2:35), Peak Hour (3:36), Tuesday Afternoon (4:49), The Night: Nights In White Satin (7:39), Departure (0:44), Ride My See-Saw (3:41), The Actor (Full Version) (4:40), Legend Of A Mind (6:38), Voices In The Sky (3:31), What Am I Doing Here (Alternate Mix) (3:53), A Simple Game (3:44), In The Beginning (2:08), Lovely To See You (2:34), Dear Diary (3:57), Never Comes The Day (4:44), Are You Sitting Comfortably (3:30), The Dream (0:58), Have You Heard (Part 1) (1:28), The Voyage (4:10), Have You Heard (Part 2) (Full Version) (2:25)
Higher And Higher (4:03), Gypsy (3:33), Eternity Road (4:19), Watching And Waiting (4:13), Question (Full Version) (5:44), And The Tide Rushes In (2:57), Don't You Feel Small (Original Mix) (3:00), Dawning Is The Day (4:22), Melancholy Man (Full Version) (5:46), It's Up to You (Tony Clarke Mix) (3:03), The Story In Your Eyes (2:57), After You Came (4:37), One More Time To Live (5:43), I'm Just A Singer (In A Rock And Roll Band) (4:12), New Horizons (5:10), For My Lady (3:58), You And Me (4:20), When You're A Free Man (Tony Clarke's Stereo Mix Edit) (5:03)
Isn't Life Strange (Original Version) (8:11), Island (4:30), I Dreamed Last Night (4:29), Blue Guitar (3:37), Who Are You Now (Live At Lancaster University 1975) (2:28), Driftwood (Edit Version) (4:26), Steppin' In A Slide Zone (Album Version) (5:29), The Day We Meet Again (6:17), Forever Autumn (4:29), The Voice (Full Version) (5:13), Gemini Dream (Full Version) (4:06), Veteran Cosmic Rocker (3:13), Blue World (5:18), Sitting At The Wheel (Album Version) (5:36), Running Water (Live At The Forum 1983) (3:28), The Other Side Of Life (Single Version) (4:57), Your Wildest Dreams (Single Edit) (3:49)
I Know You're Out There Somewhere (6:37), Lean On Me (Tonight) (4:55), Say It With Love (3:54), Highway (4:34), New Horizons (Live At Red Rocks 1992) (5:52), Emily's Song (Live At Red Rocks 1992) (4:12), Legend Of A Mind (Live At Red Rocks 1992) (9:02), This Is The Moment (4:38), Eternity Road (Live At The NEC 1997) (4:09), Question (Live At The NEC 1997) (6:19), English Sunset (5:04), Strange Times (4:29), The Swallow (4:57), December Snow (5:11)
After a career of almost half a century it is fitting that a band that has sold over 50 million albums, earned eighteen platinum discs plus many other awards (including 'Playboy Group of the Year') and appeared in an episode of The Simpsons should get the full boxset treatment. Known to just about everyone for the über-classic Nights in White Satin there is much more to the work of The Moody Blues and this set is a good entry point for anyone curious to find out more.
Available as either a mammoth 17-disc version or this 4-disc overview, Timeless Flight perhaps surprisingly (and perhaps not) ignores The Moodies first album entirely, picking things up in 1967 when the story really starts with the establishment of the classic line-up. The 4-disc retrospective is not simply a watering down of the full beast. There are certainly gaps here but this set is aimed at the interested bystander or more selective Moodies fan rather than the hardcore MB loons who will not think twice about forming an orderly queue for the full monty.
For me the selective set is more than good enough and as The Moodies have always passed me by to some extent I have enjoyed acquainting myself with more of their music and history. They have certainly been an ever present fixture throughout my life and their most famous moments will be engrained in the minds of most people of a certain age but I don't think I've ever actually heard a Moody Blues album all the way through. With this lack of previous knowledge I was keen to see what delights the set contained.
First up, the package itself is very good indeed. In a hardback book format, the discs housed in the covers, you get a 40 page history of the band, well laid out and full of quotes and photos, written by Mark Powell. You can immerse yourself in the history while listening to the music. As a chronological set all of the post 1966 albums are included and, while I initially expected the set to start with Go Now or one of the other early singles, nothing here predates the 'Mark Two' line-up that formed in November 1966 featuring originals Mike Pinder (keys), Ray Thomas (flute & percussion) and Graeme Edge (drums) with new recruits John Lodge (bass) and Justin Hayward (guitar), all members providing vocals. The first track in the set is the single A-side Love and Beauty, a classic slice of catchy late '60s pop with a psychedelic edge. The rest of the first disc comprises four previously unreleased on CD tracks from the original 1967 stereo mixes of Days of Future Passed, five tracks from In Search of the Lost Chord, the A and B-side of the What Am I Doing Here? single plus a large swathe of On the Threshold of a Dream.
What is immediately apparent from the earliest recordings is the quality of the bands ornate take on the pop music of the day with orchestral interludes, Thomas' flute and Pinder's whirring organ and Mellotron. Despite their previous focus on a more populist style Love and Beauty released in September 1967 was, although not a hit, a marked shift towards a more symphonic sound that the band could call their own. Ray Thomas' flute also grew in prominence and started to incorporate psychedelic influences.
Although The Moody Blues, as part of their deal with Decca subsidiary Deram, were due to produce a re-working of Dvorak's New World Symphony this never materialised and the band instead embarked on an album of their own material which became Days of Future Passed. The orchestral settings for their songs, produced with the help of Peter Knight who was originally due to work with them on the New World project, helped the song cycle of pieces set over the course of one day (in similarity to The Tangent's recent Le Sacre Du Travail album) become incredibly popular at the time and since, helped in a considerable way by the inclusion of Hayward's Nights in White Satin. Amazingly, Nights in White Satin wasn't a big hit initially but grew in stature over the years to become regarded as the classic of its era that it is today. The album was inspired by the work of The Beatles around the time of Sergeant Pepper and in fact Pinder had introduced The Fab Four to the Mellotron earlier in the year. Knight's orchestrations added a linking frameworks to the songs plus an overture and finale for the album so he was as much a contributor as the band but the orchestral and rock band elements remained separate, except for during the finale of Nights..., whilst Pinder's Mellotron is at the heart of everything, acting as a link between both worlds. The orchestrations work very well but occasionally sound a little too much of their time such as whilst backing Graham Edge's poetic coda to Nights... which is followed by a lonnnnng gong fade-out.
The other tracks featured here from Days of Future Passed open with the bleak Mellotron of Dawn is a Feeling, the melancholy edge of the lyric coming across nicely in the instrumentation, which is at odds with the upbeat Peak Hour a more straightforward piece typical of its times. The mid-section takes some influences from the then current activities of The Beatles and Pink Floyd before returning to a Brit-pop mould with added Mellotron. Tuesday Afternoon is very evocative and one of my favourite Moody pieces, beautifully sung by Hayward, his unique voice shining amongst the chiming acoustic guitars and Mellotron. Again the mid-section takes the track somewhere new, almost like two different songs made into one, before the chorus refrain returns.
Poetry again opens the In Search of the Lost Chord section from 1968 with Departure sounding like a precursor of some of Hawkwind's spacier moments with Calvert and Moorcock. Ride My See Saw is fun (is it supposed to sound a bit suggestive or is that just me?) with choral vocals and containing enough drive to keep the foot tapping nicely. The Actor is a mellow diversion with a fine vocal and soaring chorus, the 'Tron again making the difference. Legend of a Mind is pure Summer of Love psychedelia, lyrically name-checking Timothy Leary and reeking of patchouli and velvet loons, Ray's flute adding much. This is about as whacked out as The Moody Blues ever got and Voices in the Sky is much more typical Moodies fare, a lyrical and sunny piece, acoustics and flute supporting Hayward, choral vocals and Mellotron giving colour. Overall the tracks from this second album sound more advanced and more clearly realised as the band honed their skills in the studio, the orchestra used on the previous album giving way to a whole host of instruments played by The Moodies themselves - 33 in total including Indian instruments, woodwind, brass and strings, and, of course, the Mellotron - which coupled with the acoustic accoutrements of their songs helped shape a sound all of their own.
After a couple of worthy single tracks from the same period which carry on the now familiar sound we get a healthy swathe from 1969's On the Threshold of a Dream from the spacey atmospherics and spoken word of In the Beginning through the groovy Lovely To See You acting as introduction. Thomas' trad jazz inflected Dear Diary is a side-step into a slightly earlier time, Lodge adding upright bass, the humorous anti-excitement of the diary extracts most entertaining - "Someone exploded an H Bomb today, but it wasn't anyone I knew" indeed! More melodic lyricism on Never Comes the Day, the band linking well to support Hayward's vocal as the song rises through some well-realised peaks while a folky mood encompasses Are You Sitting Comfortably, almost lullaby like, with thoughts of Camelot. Edge's The Dream preludes a trio of songs from Pinder, the two parts of Have You Heard bookending The Voyage. Probably the proggiest sections of the set, orchestral movements of Mellotron ebbing and flowing, sometimes hinting at glories to come from the likes of Genesis and Rick Wakeman. A fine way to end a brilliantly entertaining first disc that has certainly inspired me to visit the first few albums released during this period of eyes-wide-open experimentalism. At around this time The Moodies set up their own Threshold label, inspired by The Beatles' Apple, and only just failed to sign King Crimson for their debut album, although they did sign a number of other acts including Trapeze.
Prog is still very much the order of the day as disc two starts with tracks from To Our Children's Children's Children, also from 1969 and inspired by the first moon landing, the thundering 'blast off' introduction to Higher and Higher building to a crescendo from which the tune emerges as if from a chrysalis to support Edge's forthright poetry. Gypsy is more typical, Pinder's Mellotron raising what is a very good tune already and making it something special. Eternity Road again deploys some folk and is reminiscent of something that Pentangle might have recorded, also featuring some West Coast elements. Both of these tracks contain lashings of fast paced acoustic guitar but Watching and Waiting, in contrast, is laid back and subdued with Mellotron textures doing most of the work. Surprisingly, this Thomas and Hayward track was chosen as the single, a strange choice after hearing the previous couple of more upbeat songs, but it didn't chart.
A Question of Balance from 1970 is featured next with the excellent Question kicking off at a speedy tempo with fast strummed acoustic guitar and Lodge's bassline supporting the protest song lyrics influenced by the Vietnam War and the state of the world. Like some of the earlier songs the chorus section is so different that it sounds like it comes from another song, quiet and pastoral, but the two halves work together well and they're both good. After the lush textures of the previous album which The Moodies struggled to perform live, this album is more stripped down. And the Tide Rushes In is another folky number from Ray Thomas, as is Edge's Don't You Feel Small with four-part harmonies and flute, both tracks very typical of their time. A typically Hayward song, Dawning is the Day is light and upbeat with nice melodies, the Mellotron and flute again benefiting it greatly. Mike Pinder's Melancholy Man sounds like you might expect from the title, the choral backing well arranged, and ending this section is a previously unreleased version of It's Up To You, a foot-tapper with some nice electric guitar.
The lusher sound returned for their seventh album, 1971's Every Good Boy Deserves Favour, The Story In Your Eyes thundering out of the blocks - and very catchy it is too, piano deployed to good effect. After You Came features '60s harmonies coupled with something of a harder guitar edge than much of their work. One More Time to Live is driven by Mellotron chords and harmonies and is epic in feel coupled with gentler sounds and harp.
Having by now built a history that completely discounted their 1965 debut album, their eighth album - and last of what is known as the "Core Seven" - was christened Seventh Sojourn and released in 1972. Here the Mellotron is accompanied by the Chamberlain, a similar instrument which was actually a precursor to the mighty 'Tron. Another fast-paced live favourite appears in the form of Lodge's I'm Just A Singer (In a Rock and Roll Band) set against more classic Hayward in the serene New Horizons with string effects and a fine electric solo. Folk returns in Thomas' For My Lady, accordion adding a new element, followed by the more strident and '60s influenced You and Me with a nice Hayward guitar line. An unreleased version of When You're A Free Man ends the disc on a melancholic note.
Disc three opens with a couple more tracks from the Seventh Sojourn session; the catchy and Mellotron laden Isn't Life Strange and Islands, written for the abortive next Moodies album but since released as a bonus track on reissues of Seventh Sojourn (on this set they are erroneously credited as being from Hayward and Lodge's 1975 Blue Jays duo album). After the world tour to support Seventh Sojourn The Moodies needed a break, due in part to overblown adoration by their fans which had by this time reached a disturbing pitch but also due to the strain that the constant touring was putting on Mike Pinder and the stress of running their Threshold label. During the hiatus all of the members, like Yes, released solo albums. Hayward and Pinder were due to record together but Pinder pulled out and moved to California, Lodge stepping in to replace him for the Blue Jays album. A good chunk of the third disc of this set is made up of Blue Jays or Hayward solo material and it is the only disc to not feature any unreleased songs. I Dreamed Last Night is from Blue Jays and is a nice orchestral backed Hayward song. Next is the Blue Guitar single which is actually Hayward backed by 10CC, a lovely and elegant song worthy of inclusion on any compilation such as this. Who Are You Now is an acoustic number from a live Blue Jays show in 1975. Also included in this set is the quite wonderful Hayward solo song Forever Autumn from Jeff Wayne's classic The War of the Worlds from 1978. I hadn't heard this in ages and it's still great.
In 1978 The Moodies reformed to complete Octave and although Pinder participated in the sessions he soon departed, his place being taken by former Yes man Patrick Moraz for the 1979 world tour. The Mellotron was now sidelined in favour of synthesizers and the single version of Driftwood, another very nice song, features saxophone from guest R.A. Martin. Steppin' in a Slide Zone and The Day We Meet Again are all well and good, in fact the latter is quite satisfying, but the feel is completely different from the older material and much of the magic has gone as the band head towards the middle of the road and the no doubt lucrative but artistically unrewarding pastures of Dad Rock, much like many of their peers. This quest for a more modern sound has in almost every case proven to be an error and from here on in much of this set takes a downward turn in quality and enjoyment.
Three years later and for Long Distance Voyager Moraz is well ensconced behind the keys, his elaborate style far removed from Pinder's. Opening number The Voice is a good track, filled with melody and interest but Gemini Dream is disco gone mad and has not aged well. However, remove the turn of the '80s production values and I'm sure that it could be rescued. The same can be said for much of the rest of this disc; Thomas' Veteran Cosmic Rocker suffers but benefits from added Arabian sounds while for the tracks from 1983's The Present we go further into '80s production hell with synthetic rhythms on Blue World and Sitting at the Wheel, the latter being particularly annoying. A live version of Running Water is better but still bland and nothing to write home about. The disc closes with a couple of singles from 1986's The Other Side of Life - the title track (with its abhorrent synth drums) and Your Wildest Dreams. Thomas has now been sidelined in favour of a synthpop sound which is, again, heavily dated although Your Wildest Dreams is a nice little song. This is not the same band that gave us Nights in White Satin but many of these '80s songs would no doubt be less frustrating if recorded in a different era.
Disc 4 features the albums Sur La Mer, Keys of the Kingdom, Strange Times and December coupled with live tracks plus This Is the Moment from the 1994 U.S.A. World Cup album. I Know You're Out There Somewhere, the only song here from 1988's Sur La Mer, follows the template of the previous few tracks and the cheese factor is set to 'Gorgonzola' on a scale that runs from 'Mild Cheddar' to 'Camembert'. However Lodge's Lean on Me (Tonight) pushes the scale to its limit and the other track from 1991's Keys to the Kingdom, Say it With Love, isn't much better, buried as it is in Tony Visconti's annoyingly dated production, just like Highway from the same sessions which pushes towards 'Camembert' again when a bagpipe like thing appears at the end. Patrick Moraz left during the recording of this album and is listed as an additional player having previously appearing to have been a full member. He subsequently sued the rest of the band for royalties he felt were owed to him as a member for nearly 15 years but The Moody Blues denied that he was ever a full member of the band and just a hired musician, despite the fact that his name was listed with the band members on the original record sleeves. Moraz won a court judgment but only for a minor amount rather than the millions that he claimed.
The band regrouped and went on tour culminating in the Live At Red Rocks, 1992 album from which we get the "Core Seven" classics New Horizons, Emily's Song and Legend of a Mind backed by the Colorado Symphony Orchestra. These versions work very well - particularly the extended Legend... with a fine flute performance from Thomas - although the vocal on Lodge's Emily's Song, the only one of the trio not featured in studio form elsewhere in the set, sounds slightly off. There are also a couple of previously unreleased orchestral live songs from the U.K. in 1997 featuring fine versions of Eternity Road - Thomas again excelling with a rich vocal - and Question.
In between the two live sessions I had to get my cheese chart out again for the World Cup song, This is the Moment, and also considered a visit to the dentist due to the highly saccharine nature of the song. It doesn't sound like football to me - you won't catch them singing this on a wet Tuesday at Tranmere - and has much more to do with a Hollywood vision of America.
Back to the studio albums for the final stretch with 1999's Strange Times, the last album to feature Ray Thomas who retired from the band in 2002. English Sunset is an enjoyable slice of modern rock, the production, though still a bit suspect, does not hamper the material as much as for the '80s songs. The title track is inoffensive but not very exciting and The Swallow is pretty, light and airy. Finally we have December Snow from the 2003 Christmas themed album, December, the last Moodies studio album to date, the song sounding much as you'd expect it to - pleasant and inoffensive.
So there we have it; five hours plus and a good overview of the career arc of a particularly worthy band. If The Moodies had done a Gentle Giant and imploded around 1980 then they would no doubt be lauded as one of the great outfits from the progressive era but releases over the last 30 years have done little to enhance their reputation and, although still popular and successful with their audience many prog fans are sure to either disregard them out of hand or long for their late '60s/early '70s classic period output.
As a boxset the four discs of Timeless Flight come highly recommended. I know that I'll never need nor get through the whole 17-disc shebang so this is fine for me, containing as it does much fine material. Most of the skippers are on discs 3 and 4 whereas discs 1 and 2 are pretty essential which creates a bit of a rating problem. If I may return to another football analogy not encompassed within the lyrics of This is the Moment, this is very much a game of two halves but sadly lacking the slice of orange in the middle (although cheese and whine does feature late on). By a process of deduction I'd give the first two discs 8.5 out of 10 and the last two 6 which does not make for a recommended score. However, as a set it is more than worthy, due in no small part to the accompanying booklet, and a recommended tag is deserved.
Conclusion: 8 out of 10
Dark - Round the Edges
Back in the late '60s and early '70s there were many U.K. bands without record labels who made private pressings of albums, primarily to get the attention of record companies and secondly to give to family and friends. Last on the list and usually an afterthought was to make back some of the recording costs by selling copies to fans.
The print runs were never more than 99 copies to avoid Purchase Tax, the forerunner of VAT. The copies that were neither given away or sold to their usually very localised and therefore relatively small fan bases probably ended up in lofts up and down the country, forgotten until the record collecting boom of the '90s took hold.
Private pressings covered every conceivable genre of music, and all of them have been sought after over the years, but the jewel in the crown as far as collectors of prog and psych rock are concerned, for no discernible logical reason, other than it looked and sounded great, is Round The Edges (also known as Dark Round The Edges) by Dark, who just happen to hail from my hometown.
Formed by guitarist Steve Giles in 1968, Dark built up a loyal local fanbase here in Shoesville, U.K., but they had to wait until 1972 before recording their one and only LP at S.I.S. Recording Studios. The building is long demolished, the site now occupied by a terrace of houses that stands almost opposite our old pub quiz venue of many years, meaning there I was attempting to drag long forgotten snippets of useless info from my addled synapses just yards from where record collecting history was being unwittingly forged nearly 40 years earlier.
Although websites like Discogs claim to know the number of copies made, Steve tells me otherwise:
"Always take these kind of 'facts' with a pinch of salt. Nobody - but nobody - knows exactly the quantities of each version. Crikey - even I can't remember, and I made them. If I had known at the time there was going to be all this furore over them all these years later, maybe I'd have made a note.
All I know for sure is that there were 2 pressing runs of 30 albums each + 2 test pressings with each run meaning there were only ever 64 originals in existence.
I know that 12 of the first run were colour gatefolds. The rest were either single sleeve or gatefold B&W - but I do not know what the ratios were. At a guess I'd say 20 were single sleeve B&W on the first run and the 2nd run were 12 B&W gatefold and 20 single sleeve B&W - but that IS ONLY a guess. It won't be far wrong though. Expense was a governing factor over why there weren't more colour versions. I'm sure I didn't do any single sleeve colour versions."
However, as an example of the record's collectability, these are some known sales of the record, info garnered from Steve:
- A B&W Gatefold was sold from France via eBay in March 2010 for 9999.00 euros.
- A B&W Single sleeve sold in Northampton (of all places) on eBay for £6,600 on 28th Feb 2011 - 2 days after Carly died.
- and April 22 this year, again on eBay, another B&W single sleeve version sold for 3499.00 euros, once again in France.
Lord knows what an original colour gatefold with the booklet, and with the record in at least VG+ would fetch, but given that there does not seem to have been a copy of any sort put up for sale in two years, the likelihood of one ever coming up for auction is remote. On the plus side, a collector would probably pay you £250 for that "warped so bad it's unplayable" copy buried in the junk box in your damp cellar!
Although the band continued to gig after the album's release, and some studio sessions were laid down, which many years later would see release on various LPs and CDs, both official and unofficial, the need to earn enough to eat meant that the group sadly fizzled out.
It might be that had they sent out their record to the likes of Vertigo, Harvest, Island, say in 1968 instead of 1972 they may well have been given a deal. Being a former Vertigo "spiral" collector I can easily see them fitting into that roster, alongside the likes of Clear Blue Sky, May Blitz and Still Life, for example.
As drummer Clive Thorneycroft puts it, "We often wonder what might have happened if we had met the right people, but we missed the boat". Incidentally, Clive is the only band member who still has a copy of the original colour gatefold edition, and he insists it is not for sale, unless an "astronomical" offer is forthcoming!
This new reissue, from equally new American reprint specialists Machu Picchu, features improved artwork courtesy of Steve and Photoshop, restoring the colour to the rather washed out look of the earlier band approved Akarma version. The gatefold cover now replicates the original in that the band name and album title are not on the front cover, and the black border, the "dark round the edges" that was strangely omitted from the Akarma issue, is now fully restored. The labels on the actual record are reproductions of the originals too, all unlike the previous version. The Akarma vinyl might be slightly heavier, but it is difficult to tell, there isn't much in it for sure.
The lyric booklet has been expanded to include a potted history and previously unseen photos including recording logs and invoices from S.I.S. Recording Studios. The album cost the princely sum of £121.85½p to record and produce! That might not sound like a lot, but don't forget that was over 40 years ago, and as Steve was the only one working, he seems to have paid it all, a band whip round garnering enough tobacco for a couple of roll-ups. I may have made that last bit up, but it probably isn't far from the truth. The CD faithfully reproduces the gatefold sleeve, and the booklet in...err...CD size! You'll see all this on the video above.
The sound has been cleaned up too, and gone are the previous clicks from the rhythm track that occasionally showed up. The remastering has evened out the sometimes lopsided stereo image of before, and the whole thing is a great little package.
The music is an amalgam of psych and hard rock, with a '60s U.S. acid rock influence always just below the surface. Opening with the seven and a half minute Darkside, we are taken on a languid trip through hard rock's dusty back pages, and I can well imagine the band being on a bill with May Blitz in particular, being a less frenetic and more laid back take on a similar sound. Steve tends to play the more melodic solos, while second guitarist Martin Weaver contributes the "raucous" plank spanking, as the sleeve notes accurately tell it.
Live For Today would not sound out of place on a Man album, and R. C. 8 features some humorous loo flushing as a rhythmic counterpoint. Heavily featured throughout the album is the good old fuzz pedal, a staple of hard rock bands of the time, used sensibly rather than drowning everything in grunge, and it works a treat. Of course wah-wah is also present and correct, placing the album firmly in its time.
This record is a must for collectors who want a more faithful repro than has previously been offered, and the sound on this new one is much better than on any previous issue. Fans of late '60s and early '70s hard rock/psych who have not come across this before should dig it, too.
This reissue is dedicated to Steve's daughter Carly who died suddenly and unexpectedly a couple of years ago, prompting a one-off reunion gig raising £3000 for the local hospital. They even managed to get second guitarist Martin to come over from Bulgaria, to where he had emigrated. A great time was had by all, and good things were born of tragedy, on what must have been a highly emotional evening for Steve and his family and friends.
That, unfortunately, will be the last we will probably see of the original line up, but Steve and Clive still play together in a new band, so you never know what may come of that.
Conclusion: 8 out of 10
Ginhouse - Ginhouse
From the title of the opening track it should be obvious, to English people at least, that Ginhouse hailed from Newcastle Upon Tyne and were another band that were overlooked amongst the huge number of bands that materialised, and just as quickly disappeared, in the late 1960's and early 1970's. Of course, a lot of said bands were only worthy of footnotes in musical history, either being musically non-descript or the stepping stone of one or more members onto greater glories. But there were an alarming number of perfectly good bands that offered up something more tangible and arguably deserved much more than the fates bequeathed them. Ginhouse were one such band.
Evolving from several local bands, guitarist, vocalist and principal song writer Geoff Sharkey was asked by bassist and vocalist Stewart Burlison if he wanted to join him and drummer Dave Whitaker in a new musical venture. As the three musicians knew each other from the local scene and all had a thing for three-piece bands as it meant all three got to "play a lot and had to use imagination, dynamics and vocal harmonies to make it sound bigger". The foundations were set for a new musical venture. Taking their name from Gin House Blues by The Animals, the group gigged frantically and became the local go-to support band when more established bands such as Yes, Deep Purple, The Who, Led Zeppelin, Jethro Tull, Free and Fleetwood Mac came calling. The diversity of the bands who relied on the services of Ginhouse is testament to their live act and the appeal they held with a variety of audiences. Winning the 1970 Melody Maker 'Battle of the Bands' competition (beating a certain David Bowie in the process) earned them a production deal with the George Martin co-owned Air London, the group being confident enough to turn down the competition prize of a deal with Decca Records in the process.
The Martin connection gave them access to Abbey Road Studios and the trio set about recording their album with producer and keyboardist Anders Henrikksson who had played guitar for both Steamhammer and Quartermass, even producing the latter group's album. The extensive gigging enabled the band to essentially record the album live with only a few overdubs and the backing of the production company allowed them the luxury of being able to complete the album before they searched for a deal. Eventually it came down to a choice between Charisma and B&C Records with the group, perhaps in hindsight, mistakenly opting for the latter. Unfortunately, on release the album virtually sank without trace. Maybe the move to London didn't do them any favours as the support they had accumulated from their high profile live exposure didn't spread much further than the Newcastle area; perhaps a full support tour, or even, had they signed with Charisma, a spot on the infamous 'Six Bob Tour' with Genesis, Lindisfarne and Van der Graaf Generator, the timing would have been perfect and may have pushed them further up the national music consciousness. Alas, it was not to be and when the band did return to Newcastle they struggled to re-establish themselves in the local scene, splitting shortly after.
The Ginhouse album has stood the test of time with there having been at least one other CD release to my knowledge; a sumptuously packaged affair on an off-shoot of the Repertoire label that was not remastered and limited to only 300 copies. Both releases feature the 10 tracks of the original album - as far as I can determine no singles were released so no bonus b-sides - but I am somewhat disappointed, from a collector/completist point of view, that the bands first demos recorded at Focus Studios in Wallsend, North Tyneside, and overseen by Alan Price of The Animals, were not available, presumably lost forever, for this latest re-issue. Although, at 46 minutes the album is exceedingly long for the era where many album were 10+ minutes shorter.
The music is a fine mixture of early seventies hard rock laced with progressively inclined arrangements that cover a wide dynamic spectrum. The rocking I Cannot Understand as well as Life have an early Yes feel while The Journey mixes an acoustic introduction with an arrangement that certainly nods in the direction of Quartermass's Peter Robinson. All three musicians provide solid performances and gel well together with Sharkey's guitar playing varied and occasionally bearing a resemblance to Peter Banks. Rather uniquely for the time, each of the songs stands alone as an individual composition outside of the context of the album, and it is the song writing - all but one of the tracks was written by Sharkey - that gives the album it's coherence. The one non-Starkey song is a version of The Beatles' And I Love Her. Removed from soft ballad territory of the original, Ginhouse have put their own spin on things ratcheting up the tempo giving the familiar song a new lease of life. Banks' Yes comes to mind again on the excellent The Morning After. However, it is The House that gains the plaudits from this reviewer with its great use of keyboard effects engendering the song with a slightly ethereal, at times psychedelic, feel with the drums, bass and guitar providing individual brilliance in a restrained yet powerful manner.
After Ginhouse folded, Sharkey went on to form a new band that originally featured Free's Paul Rodgers on vocals. Alas, that didn't last but formed the basis for his next band Sammy, another lost seventies album worthy or reissue, which featured Mick Underwood who had previously drummed with Deep Purple pre-cursors The Outlaws with Richie Blackmore and Episode Six with Ian Gillan and Roger Glover, as well as The Herd and Quatermass. He has continued to write, play, perform and teach to this day. Despite a long and varied career, it may just be that Ginhouse was his, Burlison and Whittaker's finest hour.
Conclusion: 8 out of 10
Henry Lowther Band - Child Song
Esoteric Recordings is a label aimed at prog fans but, to my delight, they don't limit themselves to just progressive rock music. While prog is their bread and butter, they won't hesitate to reissue a non-prog album that prog fans may enjoy, be it folk, psychedelic, or even AOR. Child Song by the Henry Lowther Band is a no-nonsense jazz record with folky undertones; not a drop of prog to be seen, but I don't see that as a bad thing here.
Long-time readers may recognise the name Henry Lowther from his 1969 appearance on the two Keef Hartley Band albums Halfbreed and The Battle of North West Six. Like myself, Lowther was fascinated by Miles Davis and purchased In a Silent Way shortly before recording the album. Also a jazz trumpeter, Lowther's style approaches and almost mimics Davis' in the opening track, Introduction. The gong you hear at the beginning was actually borrowed from a Pink Floyd recording; "an early example of sampling" Lowther admits.
While he may sound like Davis in track one, Lowther changes the mood entirely in Trav'lling Song where he plays violin. There's less melody here, instead lots of sustained notes on the stringed instruments. I actually find this piece rather unrewarding, although it is at least rather calm. Calmer still is the experimental Plaything. Playful in its approach, this is an experimental piece that seems to wander from place to place without really getting anywhere.
Things get back on track with ¾ Skip where the fraction denotes the time signature. While its pace remains constant, this piece seems to bulge with energy at times before lapsing back into being simple and pleasant. Mike McNaught's electric piano and Tony Roberts' sax give the track a heady atmosphere while Daryl Runswick's bass guitar and Mike Travis' drums underpin the proceedings. After the brief Between, Puppet Song turns out to be the meatiest track on the album at nearly twelve minutes in length. The folk influences go and once more we are left with pure melodic jazz from here on in.
Music Now wrote of this album "Henry Lowther is a musician who lives for his chosen career." Written in a much less ambiguous way, Sid Smith's notes for this reissue offer an insightful and informative look at this rather overlooked album, complemented by pictures, contemporary reviews and original artwork, including Richard Williams' original liner notes.
While this is not an album I would have thought to buy myself, I'm very grateful that it managed to land in my hands. I don't often think to buy relaxing music, although there are times when I definitely need to chill out rather than rock out. This has been the perfect accompaniment to essay writing and puzzle solving and is also good music for trying to catch forty winks. Though some moments are weaker than others, this is nonetheless a solid album.
Conclusion: 6.5 out of 10
Cochise - Velvet Mountain ~ An Anthology 1970 - 1972
CD 1: Velvet Mountain (3:25), China (3:53), Trafalgar Day (5:09), Moment And The End (5:53), Watch This Space (3:54), 59th Street Bridge Song (Feelin' Groovy) (3:38), Past Loves (3:38), Painted Lady (7:02), Black Is The Colour (0:57), Love's Made A Fool Of You (2:50), Jed Collder (3:18), Down Country Girls (1:49), Home Again (3:41), Lost Hearts (3:25), Strange Images (2:02), Why I Sing The Blues (4:07)
CD 2: Another Day (5:14), Axiom Of Maria (6:59), Can I Break Your Heart (5:00), O Come All Ye Faithful (1:16), Words Of A Dying Man (4:22), Cajun Girl (3:28), Blind Love (4:39), Dance, Dance, Dance (3:58), So Many Times (3:15), Diamonds (3:23), Thunder In The Crib (3:56), Up And Down (5:39), Wishing Well (3:02), Midnight Moonshine (6:12)
A little known band from the early '70s, Cochise is often unfairly cited as little more than a stopping-off point for the individual band members whose greater glories lie elsewhere. That's because singer Stewart Brown once fronted Bluesology along with childhood friend Reg Dwight (aka Elton John), lead guitarist Mick Grabham became a member of Procol Harum, pedal steel guitarist B.J. Cole a famed session musician whilst bassist Rick Wills and drummer John Wilson the rhythm section for David Gilmour's debut solo album.
Before going their separate ways, Cochise released three albums on the United Artists label - Cochise (1970), Swallow Tales (1971) and So Far (1972). Although all three have been previously available on CD, this new anthology collects the band's entire catalogue together into one two disc set. The titillating artwork (inspired by the opening song title, Velvet Mountain) is reproduced from the self-titled debut album and is one of the earliest designs by the legendary Hipgnosis team. The album tracks are sequenced in chronological order as they original appeared making it possible to chart the band's development (or lack of development depending upon your viewpoint).
Cochise were noted for their American influences but the songs on their 1970 debut (written individually by Grabham, Cole and Brown) are more diverse and adventurous than that label would suggest. Grabham's opener Velvet Mountain for example rocks along nicely in a mid-tempo vein with a catchy vocal refrain, first rate harmonies and solid musicianship especially Wilson's drumming. Cole's always excellent pedal steel guitar playing is particularly inventive during China bringing Floyd's Breathe to mind whilst his own composition Trafalgar Day is another strong offering with Grabham's rippling guitar motif contrasting with the heavier riffs. Cole was obviously feeling festive during the recording sessions because he concludes another of his songs, Moment And The End with a sublime rendition of Silent Night.
Brown's Watch This Space is the most overtly American West-Coast influenced offering with Cole adopting a twangy country and western sound that would become more prevalent on later recordings. 59th Street Bridge Song is a shambolic arrangement of Paul Simon's famous tune that's barely recognisable save for the familiar "Feelin' Groovy" chorus. The mellow Past Loves once again displays Brown's love of Americana with a particularly soulful performance from the man himself whilst the lengthy Painted Lady allows for some welcome twin lead guitar duelling in the vein of Wishbone Ash.
The debut album was Cochise's strongest in my opinion, let down only by that misguided Simon and Garfunkel cover and the muddy production courtesy of former Pretty Things guitarist Dick Taylor. Following its release Stewart Brown deserted the band and the U.K. for warmer climes with singer John Gilbert recruited as a replacement, and a fine job he does to. The resulting and all important second album, Swallow Tales, begins with a strong cover of Buddy Holly's Love's Made A Fool Of You with its a cappella harmonies and familiar hand jive rhythm providing a lively introduction.
Grabham's tunes Jed Collder and Down Country Girls reveal that he too has caught the American bug in a big way albeit here with a Lindisfarne sing-along twist. Thankfully Home Again is in a more standard rock vein with a strong vocal melody and superb bass playing from Wills. Cole's tuneful Lost Hearts would have not sounded out of place in the '60s singles chart with excellent acoustic guitar picking and a distinct Yardbirds' Shapes Of Things flavour. The dirge like Strange Images gives way to Grabham's Why I Sing The Blues to conclude disc 1 on a rocking Free inspired note.
Disc 2 opens with four more songs from 1971's Swallow Tales. These include the melancholic CSN&Y influenced Another Day (with a surprisingly hard riffing end), Cole's rambling (despite Wills' memorable bass pattern) Axiom Of Maria and the wistful Can I Break Your Heart. To conclude, Cole is once again in Christmas mode with a country version of O Come All Ye Faithful. Although not in the same league as the debut, Swallow Tales was another good effort from Cochise with the advantage of improved production over its predecessor. Before the final album, Grabham's Words Of A Dying Man provides a brief respite, originally released as a single B-side and once again owing a significant debt to Crosby, Nash and co.
1972's So Far album finds Wilson relinquishing the drum stool to make way for Roy O'Temro. The new drummer also supplies the opening song, the rather monotonous Cajun Girl. The equally laidback Blind Love is more memorable thanks to the hypnotic chorus and Cole's ringing pedal steel whilst a live version of Neil Young's Dance, Dance, Dance feels like album filler. Bassist Wills gets his first compositional credit in the shape of So Many Times but sadly he too displays an unhealthy fondness for country and western music although the band demonstrates their hard rock credentials admirably with the storming Diamonds.
Although taken at a measured pace, both Thunder In The Crib and Up And Down have an edge thanks to Gilbert's vocals which veer from plain gritty in the former to authentically soulful in the latter. Cochise's third album and this collection concludes with two Grabham tunes; Wishing Well which owes a significant debt to The Band's The Weight and the dull blues-rock of Midnight Moonshine, not the most auspicious ending to the band's career.
It's perhaps not surprising that Cochise never rose above lukewarm album sales and the support band slot. Despite some excellent songs and impeccable musicianship, they lacked consistency and a clear direction. True, all things Americana including West Coast and Southern rock was popular in the U.K. in the early '70s but Cochise however were not an American band despite their musical aspirations suggesting otherwise. Whilst many of their U.K. contemporaries were progressing at an accelerated rate with each new release, Cochise were in a musical backwater. Following the band's demise, the two guitarists Grabham and Cole each released solo albums on United Artists before moving on to greater things. In the meantime, this is a superbly compiled anthology from Esoteric although my enthusiasm and final rating is tempered somewhat by the band's all too often displays of dubious musical tastes.
Conclusion: 6.5 out of 10
Mountain - Go For Your Life
Hard rock (or heavy metal if you prefer) has a long history that dates back almost 50 years to The Kinks' You Really Got Me, a song that is generally acknowledged as one of the genres earliest examples. Fast forward to 1970 and the debut album from U.S. power trio Mountain who took The Kinks' decidedly British template and gave it a full blown American makeover. The line-up included bassist Felix Pappalardi, drummer Corky Laing and bonafide guitar hero Leslie West. The larger than life West was not only a master of the power chord he also pioneered the shredding solo.
In 1974 after four albums the band fell apart and would not resurface until 1981 when West and Laing revived the Mountain name, minus Pappalardi. His replacement was ex-Savoy Brown and Keef Hartley bassist Miller Anderson who in 1984 made way for Mark Clarke who, as a former member of Colosseum, Uriah Heep and Rainbow came with impressive credentials. The resulting 1985 West, Laing and Clarke album Go For Your Life was the band's first in over ten years and was dedicated to Pappalardi who had died in tragic circumstances the previous year. Later that same decade West paid an emotional tribute to his departed friend with a stunning live version of Theme For An Imaginary Western during the Night Of The Guitars shows which also featured Steve Howe amongst others as part of the all-star line-up.
Back to Go For Your Life, however, which would prove to be the band's only release of the 1980's. Although West was not entirely happy with the recording process, it remains a solid slice of hard rock albeit tempered with a slick '80s commercial sensibility. His blistering guitar work and strident vocals are anchored by Laing's solid drumming and Clarke's workmanlike bass lines with a resulting sound that's as tight as the proverbial duck's behind. Producer Pete Solley has a significant part to play here ensuring that every aspect is loud and clear in the mix especially the big, repetitive choruses centred around West's impassioned rasp bringing Bryan Adams and Jon Bon Jovi to mind.
Whilst no one particular track stands out, the songs have a tuneful, radio friendly charm and it's surprising that Go For Your Life sold so poorly on its initial release. It certainly compares favourably with (and sounds very similar to) the likes of AC/DC, ZZ Top, Def Leppard, Whitesnake and Aerosmith who all enjoyed considerable success at the time. She Loves Her Rock (And She Loves It Hard) for example could have been lifted from ZZ Top's mega selling Eliminator album whilst Bardot Damage is pure 'hair metal'. Things do take a mellower tone for I Love Young Girls and the melancholic Little Bit Of Insanity (dedicated to Pappalardi) but overall this is macho rock for the MTV generation in all its simplistic glory.
Whilst West's compositions are thankfully free from the usual mid-'80s synth-pop clichés, sadly the same cannot be said for his questionable and very politically incorrect song titles and lyrics. In his defence, the same could be said of the bands I've mentioned above being very much part of the macho rock posturing '80s image. Lyrical content aside, for me with its bedrock of guitar, bass and drums Mountain and Solley produced a solid album that if not for the sterling efforts of Esoteric would have remained an all but forgotten entry in the lengthy (and patchy) history of hard rock.
Conclusion: 6 out of 10
|From the DPRP Archives...
previous Mountain CD Reviews:-
|Crossroader | An Anthology 1970-1974|
|"Hats off again to Esoteric Recordings ... a good introduction to the music of Mountain and by far the best compilation available."|
(Bob Mulvey, 8/10)
Vanilla Fudge - Rock & Roll
Bonus Tracks: All in Your Mind (3:05), Need Love [mono single version] (2:40), I Can't Make It Alone [single version] (3:37), Lord in the Country [single version] (3:02)
By the time the psychedelic band Vanilla Fudge had started recording their fifth album in 1969, tensions had risen in the group. Bassist Tim Bogert and drummer Carmine Appice had decided they wanted to quit the band, but were contractually obliged to produce another album. Whenever a group implodes like this you cannot expect the best from them, but stalwart Esoteric liner notes writer Malcolm Dome once again sees things through rose-tinted glasses:
"In the annals of rock, there are some bands who simply can do no wrong. Even under impossible conditions, they will always somehow manage to ensure than [sic] any album released under their name reaches a certain, credible standard. Such is the case of Vanilla Fudge and their fifth album Rock & Roll, released in September 1969."
Personally, I don't really see that any sort of standard is met on this album. While the band may choose to deny it in the liner notes, there is a lack of unity that manifests itself as a musical messiness that can be heard throughout the album. An incredibly prominent example of this is I Can't Make It Alone - originally recorded by P.J. Proby - which, on this album, alternates between being quite moving and sounding like a train crash. Appice, in particular, seems rather apathetic on the drums, as if he doesn't really care about what he's playing. He stays in time, of course, but there's no passion here. With half the band waiting to quit, Vanilla Fudge seems to tear itself apart sometimes in the music, which is rather tragic on this recording.
The band still manage to pull out one rather interesting cover; the brief poetic number The Windmills of Your Mind is extended and distended to nearly nine minutes in length. In fact, the opening segment is perhaps the most interesting part of the album: an instrumental using radically dark and gritty sound effects. Despite having listened to over 40 years worth of prog music, I've never heard anything quite like it before! It's a fascinating, brooding beast which truly awards them the 'proto-prog' label that the Republic of ProgArchives has so readily deemed them. However, the actual 'song' bit really lets them down. The instrumental was just a prelude, nothing more. The song, which was originally two minutes, is now stretched out to six minutes without the addition of new parts or instrumentals. The pace is laboured and the structure is repetitive and uninteresting. Once again, the band seem to lose all interest in playing properly towards the end by which time I've lost all my patience so that I skip the repeated Uriah Heep-like 'aaah's that the band choose to finish with.
To its credit, the album does have one unmitigated success: the opening track and lead single Need Love. The song begins with an inconspicuous theme on the organ, but quickly evolves into a brash, primal hard-rock-meets-blues number with direct lyrics. The band are at each other's throats once more, but this time they seem to pull it off, each band member trying to outdo each other. The Fudge definitely hit the nail on the head here and Appice believes this song may have influenced Led Zeppelin's Whole Lotta Love from their second album. If true, this would make the song worth a listen just for historical significance.
However, the rest of the album doesn't hold much water. Lord in the Country seems rather out of place with religious lyrics, but has some jolly moments. However the biggest offender is Church Bells of St. Martins, composed by lead vocalist and keys man Mark Stein. Every part of this song is awkward and painful, from the fanfare at the beginning, to the loosely-paced verses, to the cringe-inducing lyrics to the singing of all the band members. It's as if they tried to write a sweet song but horribly failed.
Vanilla Fudge were an important band of their time, creating intricate psychedelic covers of Beatles songs long before Yes were. They clearly influenced many bands; indeed, Uriah Heep seemed to borrow their organ sound and penchant for high-pitched backing vocals. However, Rock & Roll is simply not the album to introduce the new listener with, and I hope Esoteric will be looking to reissue some of the band's previous efforts. If you're a Fudge fan however, you'll be pleased to know that this reissue comes with reproduced artwork from the album and posters, contains a fairly informative essay and also a demo of All in Your Mind as well as three single versions of album tracks. A fine package for what is ultimately a rather sticky mess.
Conclusion: 5 out of 10
Juicy Lucy - Get A Whiff A This
For an impressionable teenager still in my final year at school, Juicy Lucy's version of Who Do You Love was a welcome injection of energetic blues-rock when it entered the U.K. singles chart. This was the dawning of the '70s however and for me the more adventurous sounds of King Crimson, Yes and Gentle Giant beckoned with my hard-rock cravings satisfied by the likes of Deep Purple and Uriah Heep. Juicy Lucy in the meantime followed the success of the single and their 1969 self-titled debut album with Lie Back And Enjoy It (1970), Get A Whiff A This (1971) and Pieces (1972).
By the time they came to record the third album, Get A Whiff A This, the band was all but unrecognisable from the one that had impressed the 15 year-old schoolboy less than two years earlier. Chris Mercer (saxophone, piano, organ) and Glenn Campbell (steel guitar) remained but along the way Paul Williams (vocals), Micky Moody (guitar), Rod Coombes (drums) and Jim Leverton (bass) had come on-board. Whilst these names may not carry the same weight now, back in the early '70s this was a formidable line-up by anyone's standards.
Singer Williams had a hand in most of the song-writing with a couple of cover versions thrown in to make up the numbers. Of these, it's Mr. Skin by American band Spirit that opens the album in fine style. With strong dynamics, this psychedelic proto-prog workout features a catchy introductory riff similar to Jan Ackerman's stumbling guitar bridge from Focus' Sylvia which this predates by a year. Juicy Lucy's version of The Allman Brothers' county-rock standard Midnight Rider on the other hand benefits from Williams' soulful vocal and Leverton's pumping bass line.
Of the original songs, the R&B rocker Midnight Sun stands out thanks to a gutsy vocal and Coombes' intelligent drumming. The song's structure (if not the riff) is reminiscent of Deep Purple's Smoke On The Water which again did not appear until the following year. After this encouraging start however Juicy Lucy begin to run out of steam. Despite some superb guitar and bass interplay and another sold riff, Harvest is nothing to write home about whilst Mr. A. Jones is the first of three laidback country-rock tunes. With its pedal steel and acoustic guitar sound (in the style of The Faces) Mr. A. Jones sits comfortably alongside Sunday Morning with its Dr. Hook flavoured vocal and restrained guitar picking.
With sparse vocals, Big Lil is little more than an excuse for a lengthy and showy guitar jam with the occasional blast of sax whilst Jessica is sadly not The Allman Brothers classic of the same name. Future Days brings the set to a lacklustre close although it does at least have some redeeming qualities in the shape of Mercer's smooth sax solo and Williams' earthy Joe Cocker-ish lead vocal.
Whilst not as successful as its predecessors, sales for Get A Whiff A This were not unreasonable but it failed to consolidate the band. Following its release Campbell, Mercer, Coombes and Leverton all bailed out leaving Williams and Moody to soldier on. After one more album they too called it a day although the band did eventually resurface in 1995. Although Juicy Lucy are still around today none of the original members (or the Get A Whiff A This personnel for that matter) are involved.
There is no doubt that the musicianship here is consistently excellent but sadly the original material is not up to the same standard. For my money Juicy Lucy were victims of mostly poor taste. Whilst the U.K. was leading the way musically in the early '70s, Williams, Moody and company were looking to the U.S. for their influences. Not a good omen. Also, decking their albums in probably the sleaziest (and ugliest) artwork of the 1970's surely could not have helped their cause.
Conclusion: 5 out of 10
|From the DPRP Archives...
previous Juicy Lucy CD Reviews:-
|"...it has a place in musical history, although probably not in most prog fan's collections."|
(Mark Hughes, 5.5/10)
|Lie Back and Enjoy It|
|"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 ... Fine performances but only minimal prog interest."|
(Mark Hughes, 6/10)