A Brief History
The group Aardvark remains one of those numerous bands who released a single album in the early seventies and subsequently sunk without a trace. However the band still retain a certain amount of interest amongst progressive rock enthusiasts because of their particular heavy styled progressive rock that was completely keyboard based with the band making do without the use of any guitar.
The band itself was a studio band with most compositions entrusted to the hand of Dave Skillin and were based in the Midlands. Strangely enough, though the band dispensed with any guitars, they had trouble with the recruitment of a keyboardists and one could say that they were mainly a studio band with very little live dates to their name.
Because of their very brief history, very little can be said about the band and it is their album that speaks volumes for what they were all about. However, there are a couple of interesting anecdotes related to this band and for those musos who try to connect musicians and bands through the ages, Aardvark had a number of musicians who would later go on to make names for themselves with various other outfits. The album was released in 1970 on the Deram Nova label in both mono and stereo versions as (S)DN 17 with a value on today's market of 50.00 British sterling. Though titled Aardvark, it is also known as Put It In Your Pipe And Smoke It. In all probability the title was withdrawn because of its obvious drug references, with the title track reduced to just Put It In You Pipe.
Steve Milliner previously played keyboards with Black Cat Bones, a London based blues-rock based band
who only released one album during their brief tenure together. The band is rather more well-known because both
Paul Kossof and Simon Kirke played in the band before leaving to form legendary band, Free.
Dave Skillin would eventually join prog-band Home, another Forgotten Sons candidate whilst I could not find anything related to Frank Clark. Stan Aldous is also known for the work he had done previously with garage band Odyssey.
Throughout the brief Aardvark history, the band also went through a number of keyboardists. Amongst these one finds Paddy Coulter, Dave Watts, who would later play with Jackson Heights and Affinity and the late Peter John Wood. Wood would go on to play with Quiver, The Sutherland Brothers, Al Stewart and Natural Gas.
The band Aardvark are also involved in one of the myths of British psychedelia. The group Tintern Abbey only released one single throughout their recording span, Beeside/Vacuum Cleaner, for Deram (DM 164) in 1967. Considered as one of the most collectable items from this particular musical period, it has long been rumoured that the band had recorded a second single, How Do I Feel Today which was never released yet which was supposedly circulated amongst collectors. In fact the single was never recorded and the name of the single was actually an unissued Aardvark single that was meant to be released on independent label as Rubble 12. However the tapes were lost by Deram and the band used the name of the Aardvark title, created a fictitious cover and thus deceived countless numbers of psychedelic fans all over the world!
Aardvark - Aardvark
Tracklist: Copper Sunset (3:17), Very Nice of You to Call (3:39), Many Things To Do (4:22), Greencap (6:04), I Can't Stop (5:28), Outing (9:50), Once Upon A Hill (3:03), Put That in Your Pipe (7:13)
Musicians: Stan Aldous (bass), Frank Clark (drums), Steve Milliner (keyboards, recorder, vibraphone), Dave Skillin (vocals)
Before going on to give details about the album, one should remark that though the album has never been released on CD in Europe, it is available on the Korean Si-Wan label and thus can be bought from a number of Internet dealers though it seems that this label tends to have a problem with stocks.
From the opening notes of the album, Copper Sunset, one immediately realises that the brunt of the music is to be carried by the fuzzed up Hammond organ which practically does the job of the distortion on a guitar. The heaviness that the music on the album portrays via the organ can only be compared to Jon Lord's style of Hammond organ playing, though there is one main difference, there is no Ritchie Blackmore to the band, and this is what probably was the main fault within the band structure. Vocals are extremely pleasant and the melodies are catchy though there seems to be a lack of variety in the overall sound of the album.
Very Nice Of You To Call is extremely ear-friendly with piano and keyboards intertwined though it fades out just as it seems to be picking up in terms of musical virtuosity! One of the problems that the album does face is that it sounds very outdated, possibly because of the dominant Hammond, an instrument that has not stood the test of time within the rock world. At least on Many Things To Do, Frank Clark comes to the fore with some exquisite percussive work though the music tends to fall within the general musical feeling of bands that emerged from those years such as Atomic Rooster and Deep Purple.
Greencap, with its muffled, distorted vocals starts to get things going with some shifting time signatures, though once again, it is only the organ that carries the brunt of the musical. To the band's credit the chorus is pleasing to listen to, reminding me at times of The Moody Blues, though once again there seems to be a certain lack of imagination when it comes to the instrumental sections. I Can't Stop picks up a distinctive rhythm and blues riff following a lengthy organ intro, with Skillin demonstrating that he has a great set of vocals. The bluesy style seems to really suit the musical setup Aardvark possess with the inclusion of the piano as a solo instrument creating a pleasant break in the monotony of the Hammond sound.
The Outing could be considered to be the highlight of the album. Starting off with a rowdy chorus and a distinct British accent, the track manages to incorporate within it the tongue in cheek nature that the band included in their music together with their strong R&B roots. Of interest on this track is the band's use of distortion during the instrumental section, giving The Outing a psychedelic flavour, almost Floydian in nature. It seems that Aardvark left the best of their material for the end as following the relatively experimental The Outing, one finds what could be possibly described as the most complex of tracks on the album, Once Upon A Hill. This track has what is essentially a medieval structure with the music strikingly subdued and the use of instruments such as the recorder which add an acoustic and folky flavour. This song on its own would lead to comparisons being made with other bands along the likes of Gryphon.
The album comes to close with what was essentially meant to be the title track of the album, Put That In Your Pipe (and smoke it). The closing track rekindles the flame of the album's initial tracks with a relatively fast paced organ and bass driven rhythm that persists incessantly throughout with even a pause for breathing. The main flaw, and this is something which afflicts a number of tracks on the album, is that in true fashion of the early seventies instrumentals, it drags on for too long a time. What initially sounds refreshing and interesting becomes repetitive after a short while and becomes somewhat unnerving.
Having heard the album, I could understand why the band did not persist. However the album does have it's interesting moments and should be of considerable interest to those rock fans who are especially enamoured of the use of the Hammond organ as a dominant instrument within the band framework. Comparisons are difficult to make, however one could attempt to describe the sound of Aardvark as being a cross between the power of Emerson, Lake And Powell and the R&B nature of bands such as The Moody Blues and Procol Harum.
There is as yet no official Aardvark website. However, should you have any further information regarding Aardvark that could be added to the site, do not hesitate to contact me.