Friday, 24 February 2017

"The Albums" by BLACKFOOT SUE (2017 7T's/Cherry Red 3CD Mini Box Set of Remasters including "Standing In The Road" and "Nothing To Hide") - A Review by Mark Barry...







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"...Standing In The Road..."

'7t's' is a Cherry Red label and they've been steadily feeding the needs of Seventies Rock, Pop and Glam Rock fans for some time now. Their releases are always well annotated and the Remasters ace - making available again music that many still want but can't find anywhere else.

Birmingham's BLACKFOOT SUE is such a band. Their stop-start muddled career is centred about the monster single "Standing In The Road" which peaked at a deserving No. 4 in a 10-week run during the Pan's People summer of 1972 – and a lone album that arrived as an almost afterthought in the spring of 1973. Most of us who were young then remember with affection the fantastic "Standing In The Road" - its John Kongos/Nazareth stomping Rock vibe as well as that distinctive Jam Records logo and label bag. The debut album "Nothing To Hide" arrived 20 April 1973 - way too late to sustain any momentum the two preceding singles had built up. And worse - the album didn't feature either 45 "Standing In The Road" or "Sing Don't Speak" because of the band's deliberate policy of having the two separate (the "Sing Don't Speak" follow-up single had peaked at No. 36 in December 1972 – their final chart entry). The second album "Strangers" was recorded in 1974 but shelved - eventually turning up on Import Records in the USA in 1977 (not that anyone noticed). And the final platter "Gun Running" made it to a DJM catalogue number but naught else - it too shelved as the band disintegrated.

This beautifully presented and superb-sounding 3CD Mini Box Set from 7T’s aims to bring the lot together - and does so in style. That's the good news - unfortunately it's very easy to hear why albums number 2 and 3 were shelved and why all those non-album track singles were failing - they just weren't that good as their style of music veered from this to that without recapturing the magic of those initial issues. Stylistically the officially-released "Nothing To Hide" LP is a hard-to-nail-down hybrid – Rock one moment – vocal harmonies the next. Chart Pop ends Side 1 only to have monster Atomic Rooster Guitar riffage open Side 2. It's a sort of Hollies meets Budgie meets T.Rex meets The Moody Blues mash-up of genres and voices. But the good stuff is great and along with the better cuts on those rare B-sides is worth the purchase. I just wish the rest lived up to that initial flourish. Here are the in-depth details...

UK released 27 January 2017 (3 February 2017 in the USA)  - "The Albums" by BLACKFOOT SUE on 7T's/Cherry Red GLAMBOX163 (Barcode 5013929056305) is a 3CD Mini Box Set containing Three Albums and Eight Bonus Track Single-Sides - it plays out as follows:

Disc 1 "Nothing To Hide" (60:35 minutes):
1. Messiah
2. Country Home
3. Cry
4. My Oh My
5. Now We're Three
6. The Spring Of '69 [Side 2]
7. Glittery Obituary
8. On His Own
9. Too Soon
10. Gypsy Jam
Tracks 1 to 10 are their debut album "Nothing To Hide" - released 20 April 1973 in the UK on Jam Records JAL 104 (no US release). Produced by NOEL WALKER - it failed to chart.

BONUS TRACKS (all tracks non-album):
11. Standing In The Road
12. Celestial Plain
Tracks 11 and 12 are the A&B-sides of their debut UK 7" single on Jam Records JAM 13, released 2 June 1972
13. Sing Don't Speak
14. 2 B Free
Tracks 13 and 14 are the A&B-sides of their 2nd UK 7" single on Jam Records JAM 29, released 10 November 1972
15. Summer (From The Seasons Suite)
16. Morning Light
Tracks 15 and 16 are the A&B-sides of their 3rd UK 7" single on Jam Records JAM 44, released 20 April 1973
17. Get It All To Me
Track 17 is the A-side of their 4th UK 7" single on Jam Records JAM 53, released 14 September 1973
The "Nothing To Hide" album track "My Oh My" was its B-side

Disc 2 "Strangers" (38:46 minutes):
1. Care To Believe
2. Touch The Sky
3. Shoot All Strangers
4. Nostalgia Ain't (What It Used To Be)
5. Bye Bye Birmingham
6. Join Together
7. 1812
Tracks 1 to 7 are the aborted album "Strangers" recorded 1974 at CBS Studios in London, UK. It was eventually released 1977 in the USA on Import Records IMP 1007 as "Strangers".

BONUS TRACK:
8. You Need Love - Non-album Track issued as the A-side to DJM Records DJS 326, their 6th UK 7" single released 27 September 1974
(Their 5th UK 7" single was "Bye Bye Birmingham" from the aborted "Strangers" album as the A-side with the "Nothing To Hide" opener "Messiah" as it's B-side on DJM Records DJS 296 - released 8 March 1974)

Disc 3 "Gun Running" (36:41 minutes):
1. Care To Believe (Version 2)
2. Blue Eyes
3. Cruising The Highway
4. Wanted Gun
5. Moonshine
6. Taking The Fire
7. Pick me Up Put Me Down
8. Corrie
9. 4.40 Jive
Tracks 1 to 9 are their aborted 3rd album "Gun Running" recorded July 1975 in the UK. The original master tapes (minus harpsichord) were thought to be lost but have been located - this Remaster representing the first time the album is made available on CD as was intended.

BLACKFOOT SUE was:
TONY FARMER - Bass, Keyboards and Lead Vocals
DAVID FARMER - Drums and Vocals
EDDIE GOLGA - Lead Guitar, Keyboards and Vocals
ALAN JONES - Guitar and Vocals

The 20-page booklet is a gorgeous thing to look at - loads of repro 45s and all those rare Euro and Japanese picture sleeves on almost every page as well as concert posters and memorabilia montages of sheet music and trade paper reviews. Irritatingly the lyrics that were on the rear sleeve are AWOL - but other than that the PHIL HENDRICK liner notes are pleasingly thorough. JAMES BRAGG does the Remasters from original tapes and everything on here 'rocks'. The singles are the best I've ever heard them and the same applies to the albums.

The meat and potatoes here is the singles and debut album "Nothing To Hide". The five-minute "Messiah" thinks it’s the "Boston" debut album three years before the event - all thrashing guitars and big hair Rock - even if the 'messiah takin' me higha' lyrics are a tad cringeworthy. It's a damn shame they didn't thinking of using the Funky-Rock of "Country Home" as the follow-up to "Standing In The Road" - I could hear its hooky commercialism maybe making inroads into the radio of the day (very cool guitar work). The drums and rapid acoustic guitars of "Cry" come out of your speakers with a vengeance sounding not unlike The Hollies with Alan Clarke on Lead Vocals - those voices and clever melody changes. The catchy Boogie of "My Oh My" would have to wait until September 1973 to see a 7" single outing - and then as the B-side to the brilliant "Get It All To Me" - an equally strong A-side. Over on Side 2 I've always liked the Acoustic pretty "On His Own" (a tad hissy) where the band sounds like a grown-up Monkees or Rascals. "Too Soon" opens with guitar pings and space - Blackfoot Sue sounding like Blue Oyster Cult - while "Gypsy Jam" only compounds the style confusion with treated guitars that sound like violin notes - The Flock meets Love Sculpture doing a duet to the instrumental end.

I wish I could say that the two aborted albums represent some kind of treasure trove - despite moments - mostly they don't. The lack of a distinctive Blackfoot Sue sound afflicts "Strangers" where the ridiculous 11-minute "1812" is a re-working of Tchaikovsky's 1812 Overture - something already done by ELO in 1970. The sappy instrumental "Summer" with its washing waves and fay prettiness is trying to go after the "Albatross" vibe and failing - far better is the jaunty chug of "Morning Light" could easily have been a cool Hollies single.

Blackfoot Sue were like Ashton, Gardner & Dyke with "The Resurrection Shuffle" or Duncan Browne with "Journey" or Matthews Southern Comfort with Joni's "Woodstock - all artists with killer singles they didn't put on their UK albums and paid the price for it. They would shorten to the name to Blackfoot for MCA and thereafter morph into the Yacht Rock act Liner and have a few hits on Atlantic Records.

To sum up - "The Albums" by BLACKFOOT SUE is not quite the magic box you would want it to be - but there's enough hear to warrant purchase. And fans of the band will love the superb presentation and best-ever audio...

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