Friday, 3 July 2020

BOB PEGG, CAROLANNE PEGG [both ex MR. FOX] and NICK STRUTT - "Bob Pegg & Nick Strut/Carolanne Pegg/The Shipbuilder/Ancient Maps" – Four Albums from April 1973 (two), May 1974 and August 1975 on Transatlantic Records – featured guests BJ Cole of Cochise and Albert Lee of Heads, Hands and Feet (guitars), Alan Eden (ex Mr. Fox and Drummer with Magna Carta in 1973), Dave Peacock of Chas and Dave, Mike Yarrow, Steve Simpson of Meal Ticket and Ronnie Lane & Slim Chance, Richard Bull of The Kursaal Flyers with Keyboards and Production from Graham Field of Rare Bird and Fields (29 May 2020 UK Beat Goes On Reissue – 4LPs onto 2CDs – Andrew Thompson Remasters) - A Review by Mark Barry...

"...In The Land Of The Snow Queen..."

After two well-received Transatlantic Records albums as part of the British Folk/Acid Folk cult group MR. FOX (the debut "Mr. Fox" in 1970 and its follow-up "The Gipsy" in 1971) - it was time for the recently separated Derbyshire duo of Bob and Carol Pegg to go solo. In the case of Bob Pegg – across two years and two albums, BP buddied up with someone else of like mind - Great Yarmouth's finest purveyor of Folk and Mandolin playing - Nick Strutt. Carolanne went her own way in 1973 and Bob would too eventually in 1975.

And that's where this chunky gathering of four rare British Folk-ish LPs newly remastered onto two CDs in 2020 by England's BGO comes a-strumming in. Like their former band, the Pegg and Strutt solo material mixes traditional ye olde Dales narrative-driven historical stories with contemporary Folk influences - arriving at a musical place both grounded in the old but knocking on the mushroom-stoned door of the new. You get all sorts of characters in here - Jesus Christ on top of a hill in the Lake District, a witch's guide to the underground, shipbuilders tormented by lizards and kings and snow queens, dark riders and one-eyed merchants with ancient maps (as Anthony Hopkins would say, very tasty my dear). Let's have at it all - you wild and fertile men and woman of the hills...

UK released 29 May 2020 - "Bob Pegg and Nick Strut/Carolanne Pegg/The Shipbuilder/Ancient Maps" by BOB PEGG and CAROLANNE PEGG with NICK STRUTT on Beat Goes On BGOCD 1413 (Barcode 5017261214133) offers Four Albums Remastered Onto Two CDs and plays outs as follows:

CD1 (79:40 minutes):
1. King Dog [Side 1]
2. Starchild
3. Wildman
4. Baroques Off
5. The Headrow Song
6. Kirkstall Forge [Side 2]
7. Jesus Christ Sitting On Top Of A Hill In The Lake District
8. Gypsy Romp
9. Entr'acte From "The Shipbuilder"
10. The Cows And The Sheep 
Tracks 1 to 10 are the debut album "Bob Pegg & Nick Strut" by BOB PEGG and NICK STRUTT – released April 1973 in the UK on Transatlantic Records TRA 265 (no US issue).

11. Open The Door [Side 1]
12. A Witch's Guide To The Underground
13. Mouse And The Crow
14. The Sapphire
15. Fair Fortune's Star
16. Clancy's Song [Side 2]
17. The Lady And The Well
18. Wycoller
19. The Lizard
Tracks 11 to 19 and Tracks 1 and 2 on CD2 are the continuous album "Carolanne Pegg" by CAROLANNE PEGG – released April 1973 in the UK on Transatlantic TRA 266 (no US issue). Note: all songs by CP except "Open The Door" which is a Judy Collins cover version

CD2 (79:44 minutes):
1. Man Of War
2. Winter People
Tracks 11 to 19 on CD1 and Tracks 1 and 2 on CD2 are the continuous album "Carolanne Pegg" by CAROLANNE PEGG – released April 1973 in the UK on Transatlantic TRA 266 (no US issue)

3. The Shipbuilder Part 1 [Side 1]
4. The Shipbuilder Part 2 [Side 2]
Tracks 3 and 4 are the album "The Shipbuilder” by BOB PEGG and NICK STRUTT  – released May 1974 in the UK on Transatlantic Records TRA 280 (no US issue). Note: the front cover artwork credits the title of the album as "The Ship Builder” but the label runs both words together as one

5. The One-Eyed Merchant [Side 1]
6. The Map
7. In The Wood
8. The Woman On The Road
9. Darkrider's Song
10. In The Land Of The Snow Queen
11. The River
12. Gipsies' Song [Side 2]
13. Love Song
14. The Wild Man Appears
15. The Wild Man Of The Hills
16. The Beacon
17. The Keeper Of The Fire
18. The Waste Land
19. The Golden valley
Tracks 5 to 19 are the album "Ancient Maps" by BOB PEGG – released August 1975 in the UK on Transatlantic Records TRA 299 (no US issue)

The outer card slipcase adds these BGO reissues a distinctive classy look and the accompanying 24-page booklet is certainly substantial including the foldout story/lyric insert that came with original copies of the 1974 album "The Shipbuilder", the photo of Carolanne with fiddle that adorned the rear gatefold of her solo LP - but not unfortunately the lavish foldout poster/insert of photos and lyrics that came with the 1975 album "Ancient Maps". It looked not unlike a large version of those finger-fold origami paper games we used to make in the schoolyard and was always an impressive thing to see when we bought in a used copy of the album in Reckless (shame it isn't here).

JOHN O'REGAN has provided the liner notes and lifted heavily from named websites (accredited on Page 23) giving a potted history from their mid twenties beginnings in 1965 Nottingham Folk Festivals, via Mr. Fox in the early Seventies and on to a 1996 solo album for Bob (reissued in 2018 with Bonus Tracks) and a 2001 band project called Goshawk for historian and Cambridge University musicologist Carolanne – a group named after her own song on the debut Mr. Fox LP from 1970 - "The Gay Goshawk”. The background filling-in story is amazingly detailed and will be welcomed by newcomers - these three artists being obscure to most except those in deep Folk/Folk Rock circles.

In October 2006 (reissued February 2008) – Castle Music/Sanctuary issued the superb "Keeper Of The Fire" 2CD Anthology for Bob Pegg which containing three of the albums reissued here (but no Carolanne) and also had unreleased Seventies Tracks. But its been deleted years and is upwards of thirty quid on the open market. So with four vinyl rarities in the one place (maximum playing time on each CD) and cracking new 2020 sound from BGO's resident Audio Engineer ANDREW THOMPSON – its time to return to this World of Folk music.

The April 1973 Bob Pegg and Nick Strutt self-titled debut saw both men play a huge range of instruments – Pegg on Whistles, Recorder, Oboe, Guitars, Percussion and Lead Vocals with Strutt on Acoustic and Electric Guitars, Bass and Mandolin. That array was augmented by legendary Pedal Steel Guitar player B.J.Cole (from the Country Rock band Cochise on United Artists) adding his distinctive moaning sound to "Starchild", "Wildman", "The Headrow Song" and "Kirkstall Forge" (he also played Dobro on "Gypsy Stomp"). But what smacks you in the jaw is the gorgeous sound – original Chipping Norton Studios production values giving us acoustic guitars and doubled-vocals on the opener "King Dog". The pretty continues with the rocket-man story "Starchild" – a terrestrial creature needing loving and sanctuary from the bars on Mercury. "Wildman" gives us an unhappy Duke returned from war hiding in his castle waiting for a sign of sorts. We go Amazing Blondel and ye olde England with the whistle-driven dance "Baroques Off" (a not so subtle in joke).

Cars and high street traffic open "The Headrow Song" where a lone busker tries to be heard – his whistling soon segueing into huge acoustic guitar strums – wind blowing cold on the Headrow as our hero waits for the 47 bus. Mary from Ireland tries to comfort him with sugar in his coffee but the curmudgeon is having none of it. Gorgeous Oboe and clever guitar fills make this Pegg and Strutt song a genuine melodic stand out on the album in the manner of Mellow Candle or Criss and Cross (both of their Folk/Rock gem albums reissued by Esoteric – "Swaddling Songs" and "Bored Civilians" - see my reviews). Jesus contemplates his father's fate for him in the Lake District – wondering which of the six-strong choir will roll away the stone. The album tries an ill-advised bit of Folk Boogie with "Gypsy Stomp" followed by a very Planxty-sounding mandolin on "The Shipbuilder" extract – a theme he would return to for a whole album in 1974. The debut ends of the smiling prettiness of "The Cows And The Sheep" – a young woman advised to not be afraid of the life she is carrying inside her and all it will bring.

Cult reissue label Grapefruit Records smartly used the Side 1 Carolanne Pegg opener "Open The Door" on the excellent "Across The Great Divide: Getting It Together In The Country 1968-74" Box Set in 2019. Her Melanie meets Marianne Faithful voice combines with guitars and banjos as she enthuses about her man's face and being free. The band on her solo LP (she dubbed The Wags) featured some cool names – Albert Lee of Heads, Hands and Feet on Guitar with Dave Peacock of Chas and Dave fame on Acoustic and Bass with her old mucker from Mr. Fox – Alan Eden on Drums and Percussion. A fruity maid talks about the man she fancies in "A Witch's Guide To The Underground" while "The Mouse And The Crow" feels like Fairport Convention Folk-Rock from their mighty "Liege & Lief". A lady needs her aching soul and troubled mind soothed in "The Sapphire" by placing the same on her clothes – hoping it will work as the tomcats howl outside her door.

The gorgeous audio and accomplished Folk-Rock continues with the strummed electric guitars of the Side 2 biggie on Carolanne's debut – the near ten minutes of "Fair Fortune's Star". Voices of the dead – the wind whispering softly in her ear – a kindly old man in the trees with an outstretched hand. I would imagine both Folk-Rock and Acid-Folk aficionados tap into this song on occasion. Softly softly for "The Lady And The Well" while trees bow down for the ancient place of "Wycoller" and it all ends on the jaunty "The Lizard". For sure Carolanne Pegg is no Sandy Denny nor will her voice and mixture of Rock with Folk appeal to everyone – but it's an accomplished album and it sounds amazing.

Over on Disc 2 we get the two lengthy Sides of "The Shipbuilder" LP from 1974 - Bob Pegg and Nick Strutt augmented by Mike Yarrow on Keyboards, Steve Simpson of Meal Ticket and Ronnie Lane & Slim Chance on Guitars and Violin, Richard Bull of The Kursaal Flyers on Bass and Dave Hammel on Drums. For sure side-long pieces of music (18:38 and 19:14 minutes) are not everyone's cup of Darjeeling - especially a fantasy folk epic that opens its backdrop insert with "The story begins on a spring evening..." It then goes on to have our frisky shipbuilder approach a castle half-hidden in a pine forest and have a wee chat with a mythical beast about constructing a boat strong enough to withstand the roughest seas. And then the uppity git only falls in love with the Lady of the Castle (much to the chagrin of the Great White Lord) and they have naughty non-nuptials in the hull of the big ship (you know, like a typical Saturday night in Margate).

Musically we are in a sort of Fairport Convention "Liege And Lief" vs. Traffic and their "John Barleycorn Must Die" LPs type of territory – only with longer songs. Side 1 opens and is all thin whistles and shimmering guitars as Pegg sings the night was cold and the night was still. The shipbuilder carries his hammer and saw as the guitars go all Prog – quite – back to Prog – and so on. The lyrics are reproduced in the booklet so you can keep up with the story – the Lady of the Castle down in the boatyard noticing the shipbuilder – the Lord upstairs loving his gold more than her. Roundabouts 8:22 minutes, a particularly pretty passage of acoustic and piano called Hymn Of The Trees comes sailing in and then in its final phase – gorgeous acoustic and violin from Steve Simpson. Side 2 opens with rolling acoustic notes and piano tinkles that become ominous two minutes in as the storm rages in Prog stylee around them. Things calm and about 5:35 minutes – the bass and piano suddenly get upbeat to indicate that the tempest is over – segueing into "The Raggle-Taggle Gypsies" – a Traditional Irish Folk superstars Planxty had featured on their 1972 self-titled Polydor Records debut. And on it goes to scattered shavings and the shipbuilder a stowaway on the white Lord’s ship. In the end the album’s awkward mixture of Folk and Prog will either thrill or bore you, but it still stands up for me as a worthy adventure.

With Pegg on just Vocals and Acoustic Guitar, his last concept album of the period "Ancient Maps" saw Graham Field (ex Rare Earth and part of his own band Fields) take the Production reins of a huge cast of outside musicians brought in to create the soundscape across its fourteen songs (they are listed on Page 13 – Graham Field also plays Harpsichord on some cuts). Once again Pegg returned to the sounds of olde – Elizabethan rhythms meshing with Prog Rock flourishes and every tune weighed down with heaps of lyrics. Some like "The Map" is a short interlude with echoed Monk-like sung-lyrics while "The Woman On The Road" and "Darkrider's Song" features brass and tales of the Dark Rider in the woods. I must admit that of all four albums, door number four is my least favourite because I think those instruments and the poorman's Jethro Tull feel to the music puts me off on two counts. Side 2 has much of the same and again, I find most of it hard work and very dated now (others may be enthralled).

Another reviewer has problems with the presentation and audio - I've neither. But by the time I'm at album number four I'm not moved - I'm more tested and that's just down to personal taste. For me this is a superb reissue of very rare and rarified material. As the Castle Music/Sanctuary 2CD reissue is pushing too much money by far, I'd say if you've any interest in Bob Pegg and his folky cohorts - then plumb for this sweet alternative...

Thursday, 2 July 2020

"Dragon Fly" by JEFFERSON STARSHIP – October 1974 US LP and December 1974 UK LP on Grunt Records – featuring Grace Slick Paul Kantner, David Freiberg, Craig Chaquico, Papa John Creach, Pete Sears, John Barbata, with guest Marty Balin on "Caroline" (January 1997 US BMG Entertainment/RCA CD Reissue – Mike Hartry and Bill Lacey Remaster) - A Review by Mark Barry...

"...Ride The Tiger..."

By end of 1973 and well into 1974, the JEFFERSON AIRPLANE of 1966 to 1972 was all but defunct as far as record buyers were concerned. The cleverly packaged "Long John Silver" album of July 1972 and its subsequent 'Silver' tour of August/September 1972 put out as the "Thirty Seconds Over Winterland" Live LP in April 1973 were lukewarmly received with Winterland not charting at all in England. Both had clearly signalled a downward slide in songwriting kudos matched by dwindling sales and original leading lights Marty Balin and Jorma Kaukonen jumped ship.

But the tour had brought on-board 19-year lead axe whizz-kid Craig Chaquico and suddenly the juices started to flow again as they prepared their next album in the summer of 1974 (July to be exact). It was time for a change. Jefferson Airplane (the name) – apparently owned by the original five members of the band – couldn't be used. So Kantner and Slick decided on an old-but-new beginning as JEFFERSON STARSHIP. In fact if you look at the front cover artwork of the original vinyl LP - the album is actually credited on the sleeve to a trio 'Grace Slick JEFFERSON STARSHIP Paul Kantner' and then the name "Dragon Fly" below the fab Peter Lloyd illustration.

Also just to show that all was not wildly different, the back sleeve photo'd all of the new band and also showed that they'd even roped in former bandman Marty Balin as a third vocalist on "Caroline" - something the FM radio stations made a big play about at the time. The seven and half minute Rock-Prog epic was Kantner and Balin's first songwriting co-credit since the "Volunteers" LP five years back – and with the three vocalists on the one song – it felt like the old Plane crew was back in better clothing - causing huge buzz about the album. Starship had also gotten Bob Hunter of Grateful Dead fame to do the lyrics to Side 2's "Come To Life". So a few draws for fans on all fronts.

Released Stateside in October 1974 (December 1974 in the UK) on their own Grunt Records BFL1-0717 (via RCA) - the eight-tracker LP and its fantastic leadoff hit single "Ride The Tiger" (featuring incendiary fretwork from Craig Chaquico) made them stars all over again (it peaked at No. 11 in the US LP charts). Which brings us to a rather odd situation on 'digital'...

The American CD I own is the 28 January 1997 variant on BMG/RCA 66879-2 (Barcode 078636687926) with an 8-page booklet (DAVID COHEN liner notes) - itself reissued with a different catalogue number and lesser artwork by US Sony BMG Music Entertainment in June 2007 on Sony A 710529 (Barcode 886971052923). There has been a Japanese Paper Sleeve reissue in January 2008 subsequently - but naught since. In fact, neither the 2007 US variant nor the 2008 Japanese issue offers a remaster credit of any kind - so I'm 'presuming' each used the 1997 transfer. But from scathing reviews of 2007 issues especially (complaints about its dull sound) - I'm not so sure.

I mention all of this because in July 2020 (and for such a huge album in their catalogue) - it appears that the American CD on RCA 66879-2 from 28 January 1997 is the only actual 'Digital Remaster' of the album available anywhere – transfers carried out by MIKE HARTRY and Audio restoration by BILL LACEY (42:43 minutes total playing time). But it's been deleted years and here in the UK has acquired a rather nasty price tag of fifty quid or more from online sites (same in the USA, over eighty bucks in places). So it appears that until another fuller and fatter variant appears in Deluxe Edition form – this old 1997 American sucker is what you got. To the music...

1. Ride The Tiger (Paul Kantner/Grace Slick/Byong Yu song) [Side 1]
2. That's For Sure (Craig Chaquico/Jerry Gallup song)
3. Be Young You (Grace Slick song)
4. Caroline (Marty Balin/Paul Kantner song)

5. Devils Den (Grace Slick/Papa John Creach song) [Side 2]
6. Come To Life (David Freiberg, Stephen Schuster and Bob Hunter song)
3. All Fly Away (Tom Pacheco song)
4. Hyperdrive (Grace Slick and Pete Sears song)

The album opens on a winner - lyrics about men in the orient singing to the sky - Zen archer philosophy nonsense and a great chugging riff that propels the 5:09 minutes of "Ride The Tiger" along with aplomb. But as it progresses it’s the racing up and down the fretboard guitar playing of Craig Chaquico that amazes. I can vividly remember Bob Harris on England's "Old Grey Whistle Test" debuting the track and pointing this out - even now it still seems Santana-like brilliant. After the full-on Seventies Rawk of Tiger, the pretty piano entry passage of "That's For Sure" comes as a welcome breeze - ' came into this life and you have a right to exist...' being the central theme. What the Remaster brings out is the fab interplay between the vocals, guitars and Creach's subtle violin fills. While the LP's opener is an obvious and genuinely exciting moment, "That's For Sure" is the song that made me feel the band was 'back' - brilliant arrangements and delivery. Recorded in 8 July 1974, Grace Slick wails about the tongues of men - some made of wood and silence - some chasing gold while children starve in her typically loaded diatribe "Be Young You". There then comes the epic "Caroline" - seven and half minutes of the old guard singing about making love, changes people are going through. It helps that "Caroline" has great musical ideas going on throughout (brilliantly musical guitar interludes) - and love-song lyrics that feel thought out rather just functional.

Side 2 opens with Grace alive and spitting - waxing satirical about the American Dream and pawns and people scared to talk back on "Devils Den". It's a sexy piano-Rock little number with near-perfect contributions from the violin bow of Papa John Creach as it boogies along. Cohen is right in his liner notes to point out similarities between "Come To Life" and the bass riff in The Four Tops "I Can't Help Myself" - the song's almost upbeat Pop-Funk feeling like the Starship is going to go Disco at any moment (or at least their variant of Rock-Soul). Five and half minutes of “All Fly Away" fades in slowly on lovely piano notes and a shimmering violin - moonlight above the Rio Grand - drifting into dreams - climb through time tomorrow - nice Remaster too. "Dragon Fly" ends on the epic near eight-minutes of "Hyperdrive" - Grace Slick impassioning lyrics about walls, traps and circles that go nowhere – about finding a place where you can go to be free. It's also probably the album's most Prog tune.

Jefferson Starship would trump "Dragon Fly" with "Red Octopus" the following year - a US No. 1 LP in July 1975. But until someone gets a grip on the 'Grunt Years' as a Box Set or Deluxe Editions of the individual albums - this deleted but cool 1997 CD reissue/remaster of "Dragon Fly" from 1974 will have to be your (pricey) port of call for their tiger-ride...

Wednesday, 1 July 2020

"Since Beginning: The Albums 1974-1976" by BAKER GURVITZ ARMY – Including Their Albums "The Baker Gurvitz Army" (1975 Debut, Recorded 1974), "Elysian Encounter" (1975) and "Hearts On Fire" (1976) – featuring Ginger Baker (ex Cream) and Adrian and Paul Gurvitz (ex Gun and Three Man Army) with guest Vocalists Snips, Madeline Bell, Ann O’Dell (of Blue Mink and Chopyn), Liza Strike and Barry St. John (April 2019 UK Esoteric Recordings 3CD Clamshell Box Set with Three Albums and Four Bonus Tracks – Mark Powell Remasters) - A Review by Mark Barry...

"...Mad Jack and Space Machine..."

The BAKER GURVITZ ARMY was a strange one - started out well but tapered off quickly and then died fast.

Cream's mouthy drummer Ginger Baker and his collaboration with brothers Adrian and Paul Gurvitz (ex Gun and Three Man Army, Guitar, Bass and Principal Vocals) set Prog Rock pulses racing with their rather good self-titled UK debut album (recorded in 1974) on Vertigo Records. Eventually released in January 1975 - "The Baker Gurvitz Army" even charted in February 1975 in Blighty and went up to No. 22 (a more modest No 140 in the USA on Janus Records).

But as is aurally evidenced by this cute 2019 Mini Clamshell Box Set from those decent chappies over at Esoteric Recordings UK (it gathers all three of their albums together in one place and adds on four live bonus tracks, card sleeves with a foldout photographs/details poster) - the music took something of a steady nosedive with album's two and three from September 1975 and May 1976 - as did any further bothering of the British LP charts until their demise in late 1976. Still, there is stuff here to love. Back to memory lane...

UK released 26 April 2019 - "Since Beginning: The Albums 1974-1976" by BAKER GURVITZ ARMY on Esoteric Recordings ECLEC 32669 (Barcode 5013929476943) is a 3CD Mini Clamshell Box Set of Remasters that plays out as follows:

CD One (51:50 minutes):
1. Help Me [Side 1]
2. Love Is
3. Memory Lane
4. Inside Of Me
5. I Wanna Live Again
6. Mad Jack [Side 2]
7. 4 Phil
8. Since Beginning
Tracks 1 to 8 are their debut album "The Baker Gurvitz Army" - released January 1975 in the UK on Vertigo 9103 201 and January 1975 in the USA on Janus JXS 7015. Produced by GINGER BAKER with PAUL and ADRIAN GURVITZ - it peaked at No. 22 in the UK and No. 140 in the USA (February 1975). Adrian and Paul Gurvitz on Vocals (Ginger Baker on "Mad Jack") with Backing Vocals by Barry St. John, Liza Strike, Madeline Bell and Rosetta Hightower on "I Wanna Live Again".

BONUS TRACK (Previously Unreleased):
9. Memory Lane (Live)

CD Two (53:41 minutes):
1. People [Side 1]
2. The Key
3. Time
4. The Gambler
5. The Dreamer [Side 2]
6. Remember
7. The Artist
8. The Hustler
Tracks 1 to 8 are their second studio album "Elysian Encounter" - released September 1975 in the UK on Mountain Records TOPS 101 and November 1975 in the USA on Atco Records SD 36-123. Produced by GINGER BAKER with ADRIAN and PAUL GURVITZ - it peaked at No. 185 in the USA but didn't chart in the UK. Steve Parsons (credited as Mr. Snips or just Snips) on Lead Vocals with Adrian Gurvitz Lead Vocals on "Remember" and "Time" (Snips is also Lead Vocals on the bonus live cut of "Memory Lane" on CD1).

BONUS TRACKS (Previously Unreleased):
9. People (Live)
10. Freedom (Live)

CD Three (43:48 minutes):
1. Hearts On Fire [Side 1]
2. Neon Lights
3. Smiling
4. Tracks Of My Life
5. Flying In And Out Of Stardom
6. Dancing The Night Away [Side 2]
7. My Mind Is Healing
8. Thirsty For The Blues
9. Night People
10. Mystery
Tracks 1 to 10 are their third and final studio album "Hearts On Fire" - released May 1976 in the UK on Mountain Records TOPS 111 and June 1976 in the USA on Atco Records SD 36-137 - didn't chart in either country. Guests include Ann O'Dell (ex Blue Mink and Chopyn) laying Hammond Organ on "Smiling" and "My Mind Is Healing" and Piano on "Tracks Of My Life", Brian Chatton (ex Jackson Heights) plays Clavinet on "Smiling" and Ken Freeman plays Synth on "Neon Lights" and "Dancing The Night Away"

BONUS TRACK (Previously Unreleased):
11. Wotever It Is (Live)

While the clamshell box is nice to look at and hold, fans will probably find the six-leaf foldout poster not enough in terms of actual info. The tracks lists and musician credits (guest stuff too) is all here abutted by four rare European picture sleeves of singles on the credits side of the poster. The other side offers a collage of live photos of the band meshed into the debut album's great artwork. But there are no liner notes, no history and apart from Mark Powell's 'master preparation' - not even a Remaster credit. The card sleeves are cute with "Elysian Encounter" awarded a gatefold sleeve like its 1975 vinyl original on Mountain Records. This is one of those occasions when an interview/liner notes would have not gone amiss. The Audio is great throughout as they are on these Cherry Red reissues.

After the debut album's late January 1975 release and its chart placing in February, Vertigo figured a single might help. So they threw out Side 1's big drums and synth rolling "Help Me" b/w "I Wanna Live Again" as a 45 in early March 1975 - but Vertigo 6078 211 didn't do any business and was the only 7" single flourish from the album. The playing on the tight "Love Is" is amazing as is the Production values - orchestration by John Bell and Martyn Ford giving the short Proggy instrumental an epic feel - rather like some chop-show theme. The near five minutes of "Memory Lane" features Adrian's geetar skills even though you wish it left out his hammy echoed vocals. "Inside Of Me" and its five and half minutes is probably one of the LP's better cuts - a mixture of doubled-up slide guitar, amplified drum rolls and building Prog flourishes (love it). They end Side 1 with "I Wanna Live Again" - a bizarre mixture of sickly sweet pleading with great harmony vocals from Barry St. John, Madeline Bell, Liza Strike and Rosetta Hightower and strings. You loves it or hates it - personally I think it’s a melodrama too far.

Side 2 goes back to business with nearly eight minutes of "Mad Jack" where Baker tells us what we're about to hear is a true story before Gurvitz takes over singing. There's great playing and ideas sans The Sensational Alex Harvey Band but soon it overstays its welcome. Some lazily tasteful Peter Green-type Blues guitar opens "4 Phil" and it pretty much stays that way throughout - another one of this patchy LP's better moments.  We close with nearly eight minutes of floating Prog Rock "Since Beginning" where they sound closer to Gentle Giant and Yes than they've done on the rest of the LP. The Previously Unreleased live version of "Memory Lane" clocks in at a whopping 10:20 minutes and there's no doubt that the riffage sounds exciting and the band alive (well recorded too).

I remember "Elysian Encounter" so looking the part with its gorgeous gatefold sleeve art courtesy of Petagno - but material like "Elysian Encounter" and "The Hustler" felt old and tired by 1976. The last album hardly registered with me, and re-hearing stuff like "Tracks Of My Life" only makes me think of the kind of stodgy Rock riffage that Punk was just about to blow away and ridicule from a height. Didn't help either that in 1976, "Hearts On Fire" had that awful mid 70ts artwork and cheesy title too. 

BAKER and GURVITZ fans will probably already own "Since Beginning: The Albums 1974-1976" and welcome the threesome of albums in one place with those excellently recorded live additions as bonuses. Others would be advised to nab a listen to the debut first (get a lay of the Prog Rock land so to speak) and thereafter decide if they want more, albeit in a lesser vein as it progresses...

INDEX - Entries and Artist Posts in Alphabetical Order