Tuesday, 16 February 2016

"Crossroads Of Time" by EYES OF BLUES (2015 Esoteric Recordings 'Expanded' CD Remaster) - A Review by Mark Barry...

"…Ain't Gonna Fight No More…"

Welsh cult band EYES OF BLUE released only two albums at the extreme ends of 1969 – "Crossroads Of Time" in January and "In Fields Of Ardath" in December. Yet this legendary pairing of Mercury Records Psych LP classics have incredibly stayed off the official CD reissue schedules-list for three whole decades and more. That is until now.

At last in late 2015 - along comes Mark Powell’s Esoteric Recordings (part of Cherry Red of the UK) who have reissued both complete with new liner notes, collaborations from the remaining members of the band and rare bonus tracks (non-album single sides). And typically Esoteric have done a bang-up job for both. With the pair regularly clocking in at £250+ for vinyl rarities that few who love the genre get access to - both of these first-time-on-cd expanded reissues are welcome news for collectors and the curious alike. Here are the visionary details…

UK released 27 November 2015 (December 2015 in the USA) – "Crossroads Of Time" by EYES OF BLUE on Esoteric Recordings ECLEC 2522 (Barcode 5013929462243) is a CD Reissue/Remaster of their debut album with one bonus track and plays out as follows (45:50 minutes):

1. Crossroads Of Time
2. Never Care
3. I’ll Be Your Friend
4. 7 + 7 Is
5. Prodigal Son
6. Largo [Side 2]
7. Love Is The Law
8. Yesterday
9. I Wonder Why
10. World Of Emotion
11. Inspiration For A New Day
Tracks 1 to 11 are their debut album "Crossroads Of Time" – released January 1969 in the UK on Mercury Records 20134 SMCL and in the USA on Mercury Records SR 61184 (both Stereo).

12. Q III (Mono). Non-Album B-side of “Apache ‘69” – an updated version of the 1960's Shadows hit "Apache" originally written by Jerry Lordan years earlier. The 1969 7" single was released in the UK on Mercury MF 1080 and in the USA as Mercury 72911. However - the US 45 credited the band as EYES OF BLUE - but the UK issued it used the moniker THE IMPOSTERS. Both songs were non-album at the time and "Apache '69" (the A-side) is a bonus track on the "In Fields Of Ardath" CD reissue (Esoteric Recordings ECLEC 2523).

EYES OF BLUE was a 6-piece and featured Gary Pickford-Hopkins and Wyndham Rees (Vocals), Phil Ryan (Keyboards), Ray "Taff" Williams (Guitars), Ritchie Francis (Bass) and John Weathers (Drums). Tracks 2, 3, 5, 9, 10 and 11 written by Ritchie Francis – Tracks 1 and 7 written by Graham Bond (credited originally as Diane Stewart (his wife) for contractual reasons) – Tracks 4, 6 and 8 are Love, Handel and Beatles covers respectively. The album was produced by LOU REIZNER and featured 1969 liner notes from Graham Bond – also reproduced in the booklet.

The 16-page booklet features new liner notes by noted musicologist MALCOLM DOME with a history of both The Mustangs and The Smokestacks (two bands that gave rise to EOB), interviews with former band members Weathers and principal songwriter Francis on the formation of the band, the making of the album and the disappointing 'no sales' aftermath. There are fabulous colour photos of the six-piece group (and an early shot of The Mustangs), trade adverts for gigs, rare foreign picture sleeves - the usual spread of period memorabilia. BEN WISEMAN – a name that’s graced oodles of these classy reissues – has handled the exclusively licensed Remaster. Recorded in only 5-days - we're not talking audiophile here - but we are talking raw power. The audio on songs like Graham Bond's "Crossroads Of Time" and the funky "I Wonder Why" is clean, ballsy and full of Psych raunch. This is a great sounding CD reissue...

The first of two Graham Bond's song contributions opens proceedings – the title track "Crossroads Of Time" (he doesn't play on the song) and is quickly followed by the very Prog "Never Care" – big guitars and even bigger vocal ideas (lyrics from the song title this review). Clearly bands like Love, Jefferson Airplane, Moby Grape and The Doors have been influencing our boys as we hear the Bluesy but evolving Prog rhythms of “I'll Be Your Friend". Their cover of Love's manic "7 + 7 Is" is similar in feel to the original - coming on like tripped-out Buddy Holly with the vocals flanged for extra wild effect – the drums rattling the right speakers while the keys concentrate on the left (great guitar solo towards it conclusion too).

But things really do start to rock up when we reach the wicked Prog Boogie of "Prodigal Son" – the guitar let rip – like Taste on a good day. "Largo" is a Handel piece given a Mellotron and layered vocal treatment for its classical pain – and it works (some European territories gave it a 7" single release – complete with picture sleeve and their cover of The Beatles "Yesterday" on the flip). "Love Is The Law" is the second Graham Bond song – more plaintive than the first – a clever mid-tempo groove steeped in Mellotron and soloing keyboards which sounds very Moody Blues as the lyrics wax lyrical about a "wounded world" and "liking the sun". Perhaps the weirdest and most adventurous song on the album is their wildly inventive cover of "Yesterday" where Eyes Of Blue Mellotron up the melody and add brilliantly arranged counterpoint vocals (Psych fans will love it – Fab Four purists will probably need to lie down). I can't help thinking that the funky and (dare we say it) commercially catchy "I Wonder Why" would have made for a great leadoff 7" single from a hard-to-categorize LP - but someone didn't hear it that way at the time. The album ends on a double whammy of almost Pop rockers that somehow sounds like Robin Trower got a hold of Procol Harum's Prog leanings and said 'time to rock out boys' - "World Of Emotion" and "Inspiration For A New Day".

Psych fans will love the inclusion of the Guitar and Keyboard rocking instrumental "Q III" – their rare B-side from 1969 in Mono (the band credited as THE IMPOSTERS in the UK). They will then quickly work out that its equally hard-to-find cover version A-side "Apache '69" is the bonus track on the second CD – "In Fields Of Ardath" - also released by Esoteric Recordings 27 Nov 2015...

Difficult but brilliant - off its time and yet ahead of it - Eyes Of Blue have carved a semi mythical name in the pantheons of Psych and Prog lovers - and on the evidence of this superb but criminally forgotten debut - it's easy to hear why...

This review is part of my SOUNDS GOOD Music Book Series. One of those titles is COOL 1960s MUSIC - an E-Book with over 200 entries and 2000 e-Pages - purchase on Amazon and search any artist or song (click the link below). Huge amounts of info taken directly from the discs (no cut and paste crap). 

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