Friday, 15 August 2008

"Walrus" by WALRUS. Their 1970 Deram Label LP Rarity Is Re-Issued On CD In 2008 By Esoteric Recordings With Superb Results.

"Walrus" by Walrus was released in late 1970 on the Deram label in the UK. Their lone album - like so many LPs on Deram (Decca's progressive rock label imprint) sold precious little at the time, but in hindsight has become something of a sought-after rarity. I've seen it command sums way into three figures - much more than its guide price - the singles are impossibly rare and hard to get too - so this superb Esoteric Recordings remaster is a welcome reissue.

Here's the breakdown (44:20 minutes):

Tracks 1 to 7 make up the album "Walrus", issued December 1970 on Deram SML 1072 in the UK only (there is another Walrus by Walrus in the USA, but it's not the same band)

Track 8 is a bonus track - "Never Let My Body Touch The Ground". It's a non-album A-side issued on Deram DM 323 in January 1971 with "Why" as its 7" B-side (Track 3 off the album)

The 1st and only other single issued around the album was "Who Can I Trust" b/w "Tomorrow Never Comes" (Tracks 1 and 7 on the LP); it was issued the same month as the album, December 1970 on Deram DM 308

The 8-man band consisted of:
STEVE HAWTHORN on Bass Guitar (founder member)
JOHN SCATES on Lead & Rhythm Guitar
BARRY PARFITT on Piano and Organ
DON RICHARDS on Trumpet, ROY VACE on Tenor Sax and BILL HOAD on Alto & Baritone Saxophones and Flutes

Most progressive rock actually bores me rigid, but this album is different. An Irish collector friend of mine who actively seeks out rock bands with a soulful/funky tint put me onto it - or more specifically the single he owned, which was "Who Can I Trust". It's a cracking good rock tune with a funky almost brassy edge to it. If I was to describe Walrus musically, think BLOOD, SWEAT and TEARS meets CHICAGO meets SPIRIT meets the rocking side of BLODWYN PIG and especially the Blods 1969 Island masterpiece "Ahead Rings Out". If anything, given the quality and reasonably commercial nature of the singles, it's odd that they never did the business chart wise.

The booklet reproduces the front and rear sleeve and there's informative sleeve notes by MARK POWELL. The remastering by PASCHAL BYRNE at the Audio Archiving Company from the original Deram analogue master tapes is FANTASTIC - great drums, muscular brass center stage, rocking guitars in the left with piano and organ on the right - clear vocals - all of it - really good.

The tunes are sometimes a little over complicated for their own good and the lyrics to "Why" are cringingly awful hippy lore, but I just love the B, S & T feel on almost all of the tracks which they combine with that Mick Abrahams/Blodwyn Pig background of sound. A particular highlight is "Coloured Rain", a seven-minute TRAFFIC cover version done instrumental style - it's had customers coming to the counter asking "whose this?"

Recommended - and a very cool re-issue by Cherry Red's Esoteric label.

If you like your rock on the jazzy/funky side, see also my review for "Ahead Rings Out" by Blodwyn Pig.

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