Thursday, 17 November 2016

"Rock Workshop" by ROCK WORKSHOP [feat Alex Harvey, Alan Greed and Bob Downes] (2002 Angel Air 'Expanded Edition' CD Remaster) - A Review by Mark Barry...

"...Theme For Freedom..."

Lead Guitarist and principal songwriter RAY RUSSELL with the long forgotten band ROCK WORKSHOP had been gigging with Georgie Fame when he met ALEX HARVEY (later of The Sensational Alex Harvey Band) with his brother Lesley Harvey (lead guitarist with Stone The Crows) who were both playing in the musical "Hair".

Out of this came the collaborative free-basing band 'Rock Workshop' - a very Chicago/Blood Sweat & Tears first-album brass-driven 11-man fusion outfit (which a touch of Alexis Korner's C.C.S. thrown in) who managed two albums on CBS Records in 1970 and 1971. Both of these platters sank without a trace and have been very hard to find every since. Harvey would of course sign to Vertigo Records and start a run of highly successful albums and chart action (later LPs on Mooncrest). 

The band's second lead vocalist was ALAN GREED. Greed had been with Harsh Reality who had a lone Prog Rock album called "Heaven And Hell" released in 1969 on Philips SBL 7891. After Rock workshop failed - Greed went on to be with the band The Running Man who managed one self-titled LP on RCA's Progressive Rock Neon label (NE 11). The other notable in Rock Workshop was flutist BOB DOWNES - a Fusion heavyweight whose cult status amongst collectors and aficionados has long since been the very stuff of collectability.   

However - this 'Angel Air Records' CD Reissue and Remaster is not without its problems as other reviewers have noted - but I'd argue that it’s still worth checking out. Here are the wigged-out details...

UK released October 2002 - "Rock Workshop" by ROCK WORKSHOP on Angel Air SJPCD132 (Barcode 5055011701328) is an 'Expanded Edition' CD Reissue and Remaster with Six Bonus Tracks that pans out as follows (71:16 minutes):

1. Ice Cold 
2. Wade In The Water 
3. Hole In Her Stocking 
4. He Looks At Me/Mooncross Groove 
5. Spine Cop 
6. Born In The City 
7. Theme For Freedom 
8. You To Lose 

9. Spine Cop (Alternate Version)
10. Hole In Her Stocking (Alternate Version)
11. Born In The City (Alternate Version)
12. You To Lose (Alternate Version)
13. Primrose Hill 
14. Return To The Goddess 

For some reason that's never explained - the original British LP's track list has been messed around with for this CD Reissue. Released June 1970 on CBS Records S 64075 (No US issue) - it should have been configured as follows: 

Side 1:
1. You To Lose (Ray Russell/R Cameron song) 
2. Wade In The Water (Ramsey Lewis cover - arranged Ray Russell)
3. Primrose Hill (Them For Jake) (Ray Russell/R Shepherd song)
4. Theme For Freedom (Ray Russell song)
Side 2: 
1. Spine (Ray Russell song)
2. Ice Cold (Ray Russell/R Shepherd song)
3. Hole In Her Stocking (Ray Russell/Alex Harvey song)
4. He Looks At Me (Ray Russell song)
5. Mooncross Grove (Ray Russell song)

RAY RUSSELL - Lead Guitar 
BUD PARKES - Trumpet 
HARRY BECKETT - Trumpet/Flugelhorn
TONY ROBERTS - Tenor, Concert Flute and Alto Flute
BOB DOWNES - Tenor, Concert Flute and Alto Flute
BRIAN MILLER - Keyboards 
ROBIN JONES - Drums or Congas/LA
All arrangements by Ray Russell - Electronic Music by Laurie Baker

But as you can see the CD's track list is rejiggered. The other problem is that the material is licensed from former band member Ray Russell (Remastered by Rik Walton) but it doesn't say what was used or how it was remastered. Harvey's vocals are distant in the mix while Russell's wild guitar playing is often amplified and to the fore. The Rich Wilson liner notes (June 2002) feature a good interview with founder member Ray Russell who laments the band's lack of gigs and promotion by the label (Harvey left after the first LP). There are blurry pictures of the eleven-strong group and the pages are done in the same 'shed' artwork of the album sleeve - but they're also sorely lacking. They don't mention the second LP "The Very Last Time" on CBS Records S 64394 nor show its gatefold sleeve - no catalogue numbers - no explanations of the Previously Unreleased Alternate Takes or even that "Primrose Hill" appeared on the 1971 double-album sampler "Rock Buster". It could have been a lot better. But I still dig the music...

The Side 1 opener "You To Lose" is a near seven-minute 3-parter (Overture, Breakout and Main Theme – Finale) that comes at you with a manic guitar solo first but then settles down into a great funky-rock groove that finally fizzles out with mad synth sounds (tasty). Their one-hundred miles an hour fuzzed-up guitar treatment of the Jazz Traditional "Wade In The Water" (famously associated with Ramsey Lewis) is the kind of freak-out Zappaphiles adore – Alex Harvey snarling like a loon as the brass tries to keep up with Russell letting rip on the axe. Alan Greed's vocals are a highlight on the brilliant "Primrose Hill" - a great song that deserved a better production. Other cool tracks include the seven-minute "Theme For Freedom" - a very Blood, Sweat & Tears affair with wilder guitar and horn playing (hell it even has a drum solo). The previously unreleased instrumental “Return To Goddess” will please fans of freak out guitar and brass...rave on boys...

Sure the Rock Workshop audio feels compromised and the presentation could have been better - but there's enough on here for punters to consider revisiting this forgotten wigout...give it a whirl... 

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