Sunday, 1 January 2017

"A Song For Me/Anyway..." by FAMILY (2009 Beat Goes On 2CD Reissue with Bonus Tracks - Andrew Thompson Remasters) - A Review by Mark Barry...

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"...Strange Looking Band Were We..."

By the time Leicester's FAMILY had reached album number 3 "A Song For Me" (recorded late 1969, released January 1970) - they'd lost two original band members and replaced them with two new leading lights. Rick Grech had jumped ship for the short-lived Clapton-Winwood-Bruce project BLIND FAITH - replaced by Bass and Violin player John Weider (ex Eric Burdon and The Animals) - while original Saxophonist Jim King moved over to the equally short-lived RING OF TRUTH only to be replaced by Keyboard whizz John 'Poli' Palmer (ex Eclection). Grech does get a songwriting co-credit though for "Wheels" on the "A Song For Me" LP.

Commercially Family had done well with their first two albums - "Music In A Doll’s House" from July 1968 charted at No. 35 while their 2nd album "Family Entertainment" from March 1969 broke the Top Ten and hit No. 6. Despite their not-for-everyone music - Family retained their Prog leanings mixed with Rock Tunes and for many fans it was this 3rd album line-up that dominated the Seventies with album-after-album of originality and musical adventure. It helped too that they were fronted at all times by the truly extraordinary pipes of Roger Chapman - a man who like Tom Waits - gargled gravel for breakfast and gurgled engine oil for lunch (think a more strangulated version of Joe Cocker meets a Helium-induced Tiny Tim).

Which brings us to this rather brill twofer CD Reissue from England's Beat Goes On done in conjunction with the band in 2009. It gathers together two huge fan faves - their 3rd and fourth vinyl platters both from the decade's debut year – 1970. And it’s not just the liner notes that feature band contributions – this reissue throws in two rare Single Sides and seven Previously Unreleased Versions as Bonus Tracks. Here are the Mortars and Explosive Projectiles...

UK released February 2009 - "A Song For Me/Anyway..." by FAMILY on Beat Goes On BGOCD 854 (Barcode 5017261208545) offers 2 albums from 1970 Remastered onto 2CDs with nine Bonus Tracks and plays out as follows:

Disc 1 "A Song For Me" (66:57 minutes):
1. Drowned In Wine
2. Some Poor Soul
3. Love Is A Sleeper
4. Stop For The Traffic - Through The Heart Of Me
5. Wheels
6. Song For Sinking Lovers [Side 2]
7. Hey - Let It Rock
8. The Cat And The Rat
9. 93's OK J
10. A Song For Me
Tracks 1 to 10 are their 3rd studio album "A Song For Me" - released January 1970 in the UK on Reprise Records RSLP 9001 and February 1970 in the USA on Reprise RS 6384 with a different track line-up that used a UK single to open the LP. To sequence the US original LP from this CD use:
Side 1: No Mule's Fool/Drowned In Wine/Love Is A Sleeper/Some Poor Soul/Wheels
Side 2: Hey - Let It Rock/Stop For The Traffic - Through The Heart Of Me/Song For Sinking Lovers/93's OK J/A Song For Me

11. No Mule's Fule
12. Good Friend Of Mine
Tracks 11 and 12 are the non-UK album A&B-sides to a UK 7" single released July 1970 on Reprise RS 29001.
Also issued as a 45 in the USA on Reprise 0881
13. Drowned In Wine (Live)
14. The Cat And The Rat (Live)
15. Wheels (Live)
16. A Song For Me (Live)
Tracks 13 to 16 are Alternate Takes done live in the studio

Disc 2 "Anyway..." (60:22 minutes):
1. Good News - Bad News
2. Willow Tree
3. Holding The Compass
4. Strange Band
5. Part Of The Land [Side 2]
6. Anyway
7. Normans
8. Lives And Ladies
Tracks 1 to 8 are their 4th album "Anyway..." - released November 1970 in the UK on Reprise Records RSX 9005. It was belatedly released late February 1973 in the USA on United Artists UAS 5527. Side 1 is live recorded at the Fairfield Halls in Croydon (Tracks 1 to 4) - whilst Side 2 is Studio recorded at Olympic Sound Studios (Tracks 5 to 8). The album peaked at No. 7 on the UK LP charts.

9. Strange Band (Alternative Live Version)
10. Part Of The Land (Live)
11. Lives And Ladies (Live)

The card slipcase gives these BGO reissues a classy feel - but the wonderful artwork of both LPs is of course lost on the CD booklet. "A Song For Me" came in a gatefold sleeve with a rare lyrics insert and "Anway..." famously featured a stippled plastic outer with an envelope flip at the top and card insert inside (Leonardo Da Vinci's pencil drawing of "Mortars And Projectiles"). The lyrics for both LPs turn up in the last of the 28-page booklet after MICHAEL HEATLEY liner notes and in-depth recollections with the band and writer PETE FEENSTRA. But the big news is a 2009 Remaster by ANDREW THOMPSON. I had the Castle Communications CD reissue from 1993 for ages to have the music for "A Song For Me" - but this version is much better. And there's amazing clarity on the live side of "Anyway..." - even on the beautiful and quiet "Willow Tree". A nice job done...

FAMILY music is a Bovril thing - you either love it or loathe it. And from the opening 20-seconds of "Drowned In Wine" - you're under no illusions that this British Group likes it Prog syncopations. Personally I've always thought them capable of magic and the Acoustic Mellow of "Some Poor Soul” is typically unnerving in its sheer prettiness and musicality (the Remaster sounds gorgeous). We're back to Man-like guitar-boogie for "Love Is A Sleeper" - a fantastically put together rocker that brims with energy and imagination despite the overload of instruments. We get Brinsley Schwarz country-jaunty with "Stop For The Traffic - Through The Heart Of Me" while Side 1 ends on the brilliance of "Wheels" - those pinging Acoustic notes and flute flourishes filling your speakers with warmth and musical melody similar to Genesis' "Trespass" from that same year.

Weider's Violin playing and sheer musicality adds so much to Side 2's "Song For Sinking Lovers" with Chapman's vocals spine-tingling as ever. "Hey - Let It Rock" turns out to be a beautifully constructed Acoustic Guitar and Flute string-flicker and not a raging electric guitar storm as the title seems to indicate. A massive organ via Curved Air opens the rocking finisher "A Song For Me" - another great Family song with a funky feel and a screaming Chapman vocal as Guitar and Piano/Organ do battle (what a way to finish the LP). I like "No Mule's Fool" and "Good Friend Of Mine" but I must admit I can hear why they were relegated to 7" single status in the UK - there's better album cuts like "The Cat And The Rat". The bonus track credits of 'live' versions of four album cuts are studio run-throughs without the recording polish of the finished cuts. But of them "Wheels" and the full-on Zappa-type whig out on "A Song For Me" are the winners. Overall - and I can't stress this enough - I'd forgotten how much I loved this album - and the Remaster has made me weak at the knees all over again...

The album "Anyway..." certainly looked the part when it arrived at the end of 1970 - the beautiful artwork alone enough to make you want to buy the LP. But one side live and one side studio (mostly new songs) only seemed to irritate people (a shame because I think it's a bit of an unsung masterpiece). Quite apart from the musicality in "Good News - Bad News" - the remaster has made it rock like a monster while you can only describe "Willow Tree" as beautiful - delicate despite being in front of a crowd. The Byrds jangle of "Holding The Compass" should have been redone in the studio because I thought it would have made a cracking single in studio form. As it is – I love the Richard Thompson flicks on Whitney’s amplified Acoustic Guitar that give it such a cool feel – Chapman’s voice held back one moment – let rip the next (the audience explosion of appreciation at the end is real too). Side 2's studio opener "Part Of The Land" is brilliant - all jerky like Talking Heads - it jutts and butts in a Funky Ass way that works - like King Crimson channelling James Brown. "Anyway" is wonderful and only confirms what I feel about Side 1's goodies - what a record it would have been if it had all been studio bound. The deceptively sweet instrumental "Normans" makes use of the Weider violin again (great counter with Chapman's vocals towards the end) and the LP ends on the near seven minutes of the piano plaintive "Lives And Ladies" - more sophisticated Rock worthy of your readies.

I suppose FAMILY will always be an acquired taste - never as immediate as other bands - but I love this reissue - as stone five-star as it gets. Even though it's deleted - I urge you to seek it out...

Titles in the Beat Goes On CD Reissue Series covering Family, Roger Chapman and Streetwalkers:
1. FAMILY – A Song For Me/Anyway... (2009 2CD Set - BGOCD 854 - Barcode 5017261208545)
2. FAMILY – Fearless (+ Bonus Tracks)/Family Live (2009 2CD Set - BGOCD 855 – Barcode 5017261208552)
3. FAMILY – Bandstand/It's Only A Movie (2009 2CD Set – BGOCD 856 – Barcode 5017261208569)
4. ROGER CHAPMAN and THE SHORTLIST – Chappo/Live In Hamburg (2004 2LPs on 1CD – BGOCD 824 – Barcode 5017261208248)
5. STREETWALKERS [feat Roger Chapman and Charlie Whitney of Family] – Downtown Flyers (2004 CD - BGOCD 542 – Barcode 5017261205421)
6. STREETWALKERS – Live (2004 CD - BGOCD606 – Barcode 5017261206060)
7. STREETWALKERS – Red Card/Vicious But Fair (2005 – 2LPs on 1CD – BGOCD669 – Barcode 5017261206695)

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