Tuesday, 9 September 2014

"Ahead Rings Out" by BLODWYN PIG [feat Mick Abrahams] (2006 EMI 'Expanded Edition' CD Reissue - Peter Mew Remasters) - A Review by Mark Barry...


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"...Nicking Handbags And All That..." 

Jethro Tull's first album "This Was" was released on the now legendary Island label in October of 1968 with MICK ABRAHAMS on lead guitar. Dissatisfied with the result, Abrahams left and was replaced by the brilliant MARTIN BARRIE. Abrahams then roped in JACK LANCASTER on Sax, Flute & Violin, ANDY PYLE on Bass and RON BERG on Drums and formed the delightfully named and much revered BLODWYN PIG (Abrahams himself handling lead guitar, vocals and all the principal song writing).

In the middle of 1969 - they popped into Morden Studios in Willesden in London and with Producer Andy Johns (brother of the famous Glyn Johns) promptly produced this much-loved gem. The "Blods" or The "Pig" as they're affectionately known over here in Blighty made only two albums before Abrahams finally went solo. 

Blodwyn Pig's "Ahead Rings Out" was their UK debut album in August 1969 on Island Records ILPS 9101 (Stereo Only). The America equivalent went out on A&M Records SP-4210 on their famous Tan label but with a different track line up on Side 2. 

This 'Expanded Edition' EMI CD Reissue and Remaster (as I outline below) will allow fans to finally sequence either configuration (64:44 minutes total playing time). The original vinyl album was housed in the now famous and revered 'head and headphones' gatefold sleeve on both sides of the pond (slight variant in the USA) and the album's witty and detailed liner notes are also reproduced in the excellent booklet of this June 2006 EMI Reissue CD (Catalogue No: 357 6852 - Barcode 094635768527).

Vinyl Versus CD:
Initial runs of the record were on the hugely desirable "Pink" Island Label Design here in the UK - followed by a second press on the "Pink Rim" Label. Both have been difficult to find across the years ("Ahead" was followed in the UK in April 1970 by their second and last proper album, "Getting To This" on Chrysalis Records ILPS 9122). "Ahead" was pressed up on a slab of a record for the time - I'd say about 200 grams. And while that felt meaty, unfortunately, like the mottled effect label, the vinyl here in the UK reflected the same. It’s an album (like Crimson, Traffic and Tull) that is notoriously difficult to find a good pressing of - pits in the surface etc... So to hear it after all these years in this stunning remastered CD sound quality is a genuine thrill.

UK LP track List with CD track numbers:
Side 1: It's Only Love (1), Dear Jill (2), Sing Me A Song That I Know (3), The Modern Alchemist (4)
Side 2: Up And Coming (5), Leave It With Me (6), Change Song (7), Backwash (16), Ain't Ya Comin' Home, Babe? (9)

USA LP track list with CD track numbers:
Side 1: It's Only Love (1), Dear Jill (2), Sing Me A Song That I Know (3), The Modern Alchemist (4)
Side 2: See My Way (8), Summer Day (12), Change Song (7), Backwash (16), Ain't Ya Comin' Home, Babe? (9)
Note: "See My Way" was released on their 2nd album in the UK "Getting To This" in April 1970

If I were to categorise how they sound, it would be early Tull but with a jazzier feel provided by Lancaster's superb sax playing. As a gangly teenager in Dublin, I was suckered into buying the album by the bluesy feel of their initial single "Dear Jill", but that song doesn't actually reflect what most of the album sounds like - rocking Tull with a jazz tint. I was a bit disappointed at first, but on replays their unique sound grew on me - to a point where I wore the record out - and would replace it sporadically through the years with VG copies - just to have a copy to play. The 2006 remaster is glorious - HUGE SOUND without ever being overbearing - just in your face and rocking. PETER MEW did the remaster at Abbey Road and his work here is fabulous. The Cockney Thief dialogue at the beginning of "Change Song" still makes me laugh (title above).

Track 10 is "Sweet Caroline", the non-album B-side to "Dear Jill" - their first UK 7" single on Island WIP 6059 in May 1969. Tracks 11 and 12 are "Walk On The Water" and "Summer Day", their 2nd 7" single in the UK on Island WIP 6069 in October 1969 and both were non-album tracks for UK buyers. Tracks 13 and 14 are "Same Old Story" and "Slow Down", their 3rd 7" single on Chrysalis/Island WIP 6078 from January 1970 and again are non-album tracks ("Slow Down" is a Larry Williams cover version). Track 15 is "Meanie Mornay" - a fantastic inclusion - it's a previously unreleased outtake from the "Getting To This" sessions while track 16 is the short "Backwash" (explained above). I'd have to say that ALL of the bonus tracks are just that - genuine bonuses - and for collectors - a thrill to hear after all these years languishing in obscurity.

The booklet has liner notes by the now 65 year-old Mick Abrahams - they're witty, humble and very informative. The artwork of the original album is faithfully reproduced along with some tasty European picture sleeves of rare 7" singles. There's even a photo beneath the see-through tray.

Abrahams made 3 solo albums immediately after Blodwyn Pig folded - first up was "A Musical Evening With Mick Abrahams" on Chrysalis Records in 1971 (ILPS 9147, often just referred to as "Mick Abrahams"), followed by "At Last" in 1972 (Chrysalis CHR 1005) and finally "Have Fun Learning Guitar With Mick Abrahams" on the privately pressed SRT Records in 1975. "Evening" and "At Last" are available on CD as are subsequent releases through the years. Of note to this re-issue is the excellent 2CD mini box set in 2004 which is called "All Said & Done" where he re-visits several tracks on "Ahead" with superb rocking results, including the great "Dear Jill".

Like Taste's "On The Boards" (1970), Free's "Fire And Water" (1970) and Fleetwood Mac's "Then Play On" (1969) - "Ahead Rings Out" is a classically great ROCK album of the period with tints of blues and jazz thrown in for good measure. I only have to see the cover and I get mushy. Buy this superb and alarmingly cheap reissue with confidence - and a top-notch job done PETER MEW and EMI.

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